Help Me See the Answer


Scott McGrew

Here’s a mystery maybe one of our viewers/readers can explain to me. I just got back from taking my 12 year old to the optometrist. His eyes haven’t changed since the last visit, so his glasses don’t need updating. But the staff was very interested in making sure he got some new glasses. We have both his regular glasses and a backup pair, so I was uncertain what the point was of having yet a third pair. The fella only has the two eyes in his head.

At any rate, here’s my question: why do glasses frames (not including the actual lenses, mind you) cost $150.00? We’re talking about an ounce or two of metal or plastic. And a pair of sunglasses at the drug store might cost $15.00 or a tenth of the price. And those have lenses – not prescription lenses, of course — but you see my point?

Sure, $15.00 sunglasses are pretty cheap. But are regular frames 10 times higher quality? Again, when we’re talking about an ounce or so of metal wire? And folks wonder why our health care costs are going up.

I do think the world of glasses is ripe for a sort of “Walmartization.” While the actual exam to investigate the health of your eyes is critical, and of course must be done by a qualified doctor, everything else seems rather pedestrian. If you’ve been to the eye doctor lately, you know the vision part of your eye exam (where they determine if your prescription needs to be adjusted) is done entirely by computer.

Already most people who want to save a few bucks on contact lenses then take that prescription elsewhere – there are several Internet sites that will sell you brand name contacts at cut rate prices. Seems to me you could do something similar with eyeglasses, particularly if you wanted to keep your current frames. Order the lenses only — and then pop the new lenses in the old frames.

Send me a comment if you think I’m wrong. Or if you can help me answer the “why do frames without lenses cost 10 times more than frames with sunglass lenses” mystery.

Scott McGrew
NBC11 Business & Tech Reporter


2 Responses to “Help Me See the Answer”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I think you’ll find that the $150-$300 range of frames all come with a designer label. The cheap frames at WalMart are going to be functional, even structurally sound, but designed by an art school drop-out. You’re also paying for higher quality metals, alloys, and/or hinges with advanced spring action, not your average door hinge. Is it all worth it? I don’t care about fashion, but the spring hinges have made the temples on my frames last ten years longer than my previous pair. Maybe that’s worth an extra $50 to me.

  2. E A Lee Says:

    Dear Mr McGrew — I think you’re right on the mark here. Retail optometrist shops do charge a lot for frames. I have a high school
    friend – now optometrist – who I go to for my glasses.

    For my prescription sunglasses, I knew exacty what I wanted. (Classic Ray Ban aviator in black.) I called his office and got a price. I went online and got it for 30% (yes, thirty percent) of my high school friend’s price to me! He told me he couldn’t even buy the lens at double the online price himself. (Of course, the online site I went to buys in volume, I’m sure, and my high school friend, I believe, buys from his eyeglass frame salesperson.)

    So I brought the frames in for him to put my newly-prescribed lens into. After all, I value his care and knowledge about eye prescriptions and eye care.

    All well, and good. When I got his bill, he gave me a 20% discount for being a friend…and charged me $10.00 for inserting his prescribed lens into a frame I did not buy from him. Um, how about not giving me the friend’s discount but also NOT hitting me with this tacky charge?

    Have to say, I don’t think I’ll be going back to him again.

    I sympathize with small optometrists who can’t get the same prices because they don’t buy in volume but it sure seems to me they could buy online for special orders the same way I did. Why did my high school friend HAVE to buy only from his eyeglass frame salesperson?

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