On my recent trip to Europe, I noticed a significant change in my sight ability. I’m not sure if it was the lack of rest, the new environment, the size and shape of the foreign signage, or just the overcast and foggy weather, but I could not read any street signs. Talk about maddening! After a recent eye exam, I was diagnosed with a nearsighted stigmatism. This means I get to add a fun and fancy new accessory to my wardrobe. After sitting down with optical professionals at America’s Best, armed with a $130 credit towards my new glasses, I was stunned to find that for a basic pair of plastic frames I needed to pay an additional $150.
These frames weren’t a brand name like #Gucci, #Prada, or #Guess. They were just some basic run-of-the-mill frame. Thinking this was a pretty steep price, I decided to do some digging.
What if I told you that at least 80% of the eye care industry was owned and operated by the same organization? It’s true. From LensCrafters to Sunglass Hut, the eyewear industry is primarily run by Luxottica, an international company in Italy with over 85,000 employees worldwide, owner of 40+ retail brands and over 9,000 stores across the world. Due to their large market share, Luxottica and all its subsidiary brands can charge you almost anything they want for a pair of glasses.
This price-fixing across the optical care market has led to a number of new innovative and online retailers, and they have totally disrupted the market for both style and pricing. I ended up getting three pairs of glasses for $168, which I felt was a much better deal than my previous offer of essentially one pair for $280. So, here’s who I tried and reviewed.
Warby Parker was founded just after the financial crisis in 2010 by three college friends with the simple goal of making eyewear more accessible (#cheap) for the everyday buyer, especially college students, who tend to lose or break their eyewear more regularly. You can hear more about their journey on the podcast How I Build This with Guy Raz.
WP has a simple pricing model in that all glasses with lenses included are just $95 as a base and can increase depending on the special features you include like transitions, bifocals, etc. They have an easy-to-use at-home method where you can try on the glasses first. They will send you up to six pairs of frames (no cost to you for shipping) so you can try them on at home or test drive them during the week at work like I did. Once the five days is up, you send the frames back and place your order.
I wore the Warby frames every day of the week to see which frames naturally got the most compliments, which was fun. Although I didn’t end up ordering from them, I do have a frame style I really like and will likely use my eyeglasses credit on it next year.
Zenni Optical came to my attention after sharing with a few friends that I was looking for glasses. They suggested I check them out because of their insane pricing model. You can basically get a pair of glasses with decent lenses for under $30!
Zenni Optical was started in 2003 by a couple of scientists who believed everyone should look good while wearing an affordable pair of glasses. Fast forward 16 years — they are now an online optical retailer which has cut costs associated with production significantly. They have a really cool visual try-on feature where you can see yourself and your face in a pair of glasses online, which is pretty fun.
I fell in love with two pairs of glasses from Zenni and decided to purchase them both because of the price. After ordering on Saturday, it took about five days for my glasses to arrive in basic USPS packaging and a super cute case with a wipe you can see above.
Zeelool is fairly new to the game, only having been incorporated in 2017. They offer a number of unique styles and options for glasses and fast delivery. Their try-on feature involves uploading a picture of yourself and the site superimposes various frames, of your choice, on your face. This was pretty fun because I could basically try on anything.
While I have seen video reviews and read a number of reviews for Zeelool, the common thread mentioned was about deliveries arriving late or not at all. I believe this is because orders may be coming from Hong Kong, where the company is located. Although the prices were well below reasonable, I decided to pass on Zeelool.
Vint & York was founded in 2012 by Larisa Ginzburg. They specialize in vintage-inspired and retro eyeglasses and sunglasses. One of the coolest parts for me is that Oprah even owns a few pairs. By far my favorite, Vint & York depends on you to know your style, meaning there are no try-on features available. But, they do offer exceptional quality and pricing. Their delivery and packaging were a true experience that gave me all the feels.
All in all, I hope you give a few of these places a try when it’s time to update your optical prescription. These options almost make it easy to do without vision insurance entirely, unless you have a major condition.
Let us know if you’ve had any experiences ordering glasses online. How did it go?