Time to address the elephant in the room. Why should you buy your glasses from a registered Optician when you can buy glasses on line for less?
Where to start? Let’s go through the list.
Fit, prescription, those pesky measurements, adjustment, repair, quality, performance, style and your community.
Not everyone has the same face, life would be pretty boring if everyone was exactly the same. Different frames come in different sizes. Everyone’s nose is a little different as well and different frame bridges are better suited to different noses. I have had a frame look great on a customer but I have told them not to purchase it because the fit of the frame on their nose was not right and would most likely be uncomfortable after a couple hours, or leave marks. Opticians are trained on what to look for when fitting a person for eyeglasses. I’m not quite sure how you can buy something with only seeing a picture of it and not trying it on before hand. Even the measurements on a frame only go so far. I’m sure most of you have had a medium shirt from one store fit differently than a medium shirt from another store or a size 16 from one company fit differently than a size 16 from another company. Glasses are the same way. One pair of glasses may say 52-18 on the side which means the lens size is 52mm and the bridge size is 18 mm. It may fit you great, but the next frame you try on with the same measurements does not fit the same way.
Also, if a pair of frames fits you differently from the average person, adjustments may need to be made to your actual prescription. How can someone sitting in a factory in China know what adjustments need to be made to your prescription without seeing the glasses on your face?
I have been fitting, and dispensing eyeglasses for over 25 years. These are true stories. I had a gentleman come in with these glasses his girlfriend insist he buy on line. The prescription was not even close to what his prescription from his doctor read. He was (not surprisingly) getting head aches when he wore them. He is far from the only person who has gotten the wrong prescription with glasses they ordered on line. I’m not saying they are all wrong when ordered on line, but how do you know? What do you do if you suspect they are wrong? Now, if you have a minimal prescription your on line supplier can be way off and they still might work for you. But if you have any sort of substantial prescription (anything over 1.00 diopter) they have to be correct or you are going to notice. Very strong prescriptions need to be adjusted as well. Depending on how a frame sits on your face, the prescription a Doctor gives you for glasses may need to be adjusted. This is something only an Optician can do when they see your prescription and they measure how the frame is sitting on your face. Yes, I know there are people out there who are quite content with the glasses they have purchased on line, but are they correct? A Doctor has prescribed a particular prescription for you for a reason, if you buy/wear the wrong prescription, it may lead to things like head aches and eye strain which may make your eyes change faster than they normally would. You often see those ads on line for cheap prescription drugs from questionable foreign countries. When you pay your pharmacy $50 for a pill but you can buy them on line for $5 a pill, are you sure you’re really getting the right medication? Yes there are legitimate on line pharmacies which will get you the right drug, but there are also many shady pharmacies on line which will get you a sugar pill made to look like the drug you want.
Those Pesky Measurements
Most sites will tell you that you need your PD to get your glasses made. Here in Alberta, a PD is not part of your eye exam and you most likely will need to pay someone separately to get your PD taken. PD stand for Pupillary Distance. Basic explanation is the distance from the center of one pupil to the center of your other pupil when looking at a specific distance. That last part is important. If you are looking at something close to you, reading for example, your eyes actually converge a little. So if you were getting reading glasses, your reading PD is different from when you are getting distance glasses. A lot of people have slightly uneven PD’s as well. So even though a total PD might be 64, it might be 30 in the right, and 34 in the left. If you just took the 64 and split it in half it means each of your eyes would be off by 2mm which doesn’t sound like much, but if you have a slightly stronger prescription, 2 mm can cause a lot of problems. When I fit single vision glasses, I actually take between 4 and 6 measurements, depending on the strength of the prescription. I want you to see well out of the glasses I make for you. I want you to see with the prescription your Doctor has prescribed for you. PD is only 2 of those measurements. I also look at OC height with every pair that I sell. OC height is Optical Centre height, which means the distance from the bottom of the frame to your pupil. If your eyes sit closer to the top of the frame than the bottom, but the lab puts your prescription dead center, you are not looking through the proper prescription. If your prescription warrants it, I also take your vertex distance. When a doctor assesses your prescription, they do it at a certain distance from your eyes. If the glasses you purchase sit further or closer to your eyes than the distance the Doctor used, changes need to be made to your prescription. This is why people who have stronger prescriptions have different eyeglass prescriptions than contact lens prescriptions. Because a contact lens sits right on your eye, the prescription needs to be adjusted for this. My warning to you is that if your doctor prescribes you a -6.00 eyeglass prescription, do NOT buy a -6.00 contact lens, it will be too strong. So, this measurement is also something that needs to be done in person. So how can someone order glasses on line and expect the right product when all they ask for is the PD?
For us older people who need bifocals or progressives, even more measurements are required. The new digital progressives are amazing lenses but I can tell you that if they are even a little off, they will give the wearer problems. I find that this is part of why so many people dislike progressives. The newer progressives that have been available for the last few years are leaps and bounds better than the old school progressives. I find that with the new digital progressives, the chance of successfully adapting to them is extremely high as long as they are fit properly and the wearer is properly instructed before hand. The reason I think we still hear of people having negative experiences with progressives is the fact that they are probably getting them on line and they are not fit properly and they are probably still old technology lenses. Please, do NOT purchase progressives on line, they are probably not very good lenses and will give you an undeserved opinion on progressives in general. All progressive lenses are NOT the same.
Unlike a pair of shoes that either fit or don’t fit, most eyeglasses need to be adjusted to fit properly. In my optical I have tools, which have cost me well over a thousand dollars, which I use to fit and adjust eyeglasses so that they fit comfortably on a person. Adjustments are done at no charge for any of my clients who have purchased their glasses from us. I have also helped the odd out of town visitor that needed a slight adjustment or repair as well. However, if you purchased your eyeglasses on line, I do not do no cost adjustments. If you go and buy a new Honda car do you take it to the Ford dealership when your engine starts making a funny sound? No, you take it back to where you purchased it from. I believe the same should be true for eyeglasses.
I also know the frames that I offer in my optical, I know what materials they are made of and how they need to be adjusted. Certain materials are not good with heat, and some need to be heated up to be adjusted. If you bring me a frame I don’t know, it is sometimes hard to tell how it should be handled. I also find that a lot of on line frames are made with very poor quality materials and will not hold their adjustment well and will even sometimes break when adjusted.
If you have worn eyeglasses for a few years, you know that sometimes, certain frames you buy require more adjustments than others. Sometimes it can take a few adjustments before frames fit just right. Who is going to adjust the eyeglasses for you when you buy them on line?
A standard eyeglass frame can have anywhere from 2 to 14 tiny screws holding them together. Metal frames also have nosepads which overtime can absorb body moisture and deteriorate. What happens when you are rough housing with your kids and get bopped in the side of your face by mistake? Now your glasses are crooked, where do you take them? Our optical, as with most, will do minor repairs, nosepad replacements, or adjustments at no charge for eyeglasses purchased from them. Glasses are something most people wear every day, you’re going to need maintenance at some point.
Not sure if you’ve read my previous blogs or not, but there is a huge variety in the quality level of frames. There are some really cheap frames out there, not just price, but quality. Once you’ve been around eyeglass frames for a while, you start to learn quite quickly. Without being actually able to touch the frame you are choosing, how do you know if it is any good? A flimsy frame will not be very comfortable and will not last very long. It may look like a specific designer frame you are looking for, but might just be a cheap knock off which did not go through the quality checks that an original would have gone through. And there is the quality of the lenses beyond the prescription. What type of coatings does the lens have? 25 years ago when I first started in the Optical industry, lens coatings were in their infancy. Anti glare and anti scratch were new ideas but were often poorly executed. Anti glare would sometimes peel off a lens and anti scratch was a liquid that was sometimes painted onto a lens right at the optical and then baked in a small oven. No doubt this technology is quite cheap today and may or may not be what is used on some of the cheap lenses around today. A good quality coating is done in a high tech lab which operates in a dust free environment.
If the lenses are not made properly, you will not have the clarity you should have. A poorly made frame will also not perform well. It may require constant adjustments or it may fall apart all together. You are wearing your eyeglasses every day, you want something that will hold up to daily use.
Some of the on line sites do sell big designer frame lines. However, most designers generally don’t want to be associated with lower end retailers so they won’t sell directly to some of the on line sites. However what they will do is sell off all of their old stock at a discounted price. This way some of the on line retailers can still offer big names, but the styles may be a few years old already. I guess if you’re not that concerned with wearing something current and fashionable today, this might be an option.
Some on line retailers produce their own frames which are knock offs of some of the recent popular designs. These are usually produced at a quick rate in Chinese factories. Quality can be questionable some times, depending on which factory it was produced in. The styles produced tend to be watered down versions of what is popular.
Regardless of where you are from, you should buy local and support your community. Your neighbours take a risk and open up a business to help improve your community, why not support them? This way the money stays in your community and you are giving local people jobs. When you order on line, some CEO gets to buy another house or car, when you buy local you’re helping your neighbour put food on the table or buy their kid a new pair of skates.
I know that I am biased with this topic because I am in the industry. I actually do buy some things on line as well but when it comes to important things, I do not buy on line, I try to buy local whenever I can. I believe that if I was not in the optical industry, I would still be buying my glasses locally. When I shop on line, it’s for things I can’t get locally. Please support your community and shop locally.