When I'd picked a pair, the saleswoman began the hard sell: If I cared about my appearance, she warned, I'd pay for thin, high index lenses made out of the latest NASA-approved polymers. And did I ever drive at night? If so, I really ought to consider getting an anti reflective coating.By the time she'd run through all the options, I was looking at spending close to $600. This is how it goes when you buy glasses. I'd made the mistake of visiting a swank designer place, but even at the ubiquitous one-hour chain shops, shopping for eyewear is like buying a used car. The prices are kept deliberately obscure; the options are various and extravagant; and by the time you're done with the whole process, you feel drained and fleeced.
This time, I wasn't going to fall for it. I'd been seeing an online shop on FB—prescription eyeglass shop that claim to offer well-made glasses at extremely low prices. Of course, I was skeptical; though I buy tons of stuff online, glasses seemed too personal to choose based on a picture alone. But with a potential $600 bill staring me in the face, I decided to give it a shot—and I've emerged a believer. Within a couple of days, I'd purchased one pair of glasses for $100 and another for $50. The $50 pair, which I got is a real miracle: They look just as good as any glasses I've seen at my optometrist's office, and they came with free blue coating—all for one-twelfth the price of the glasses I'd been offered in the fancy eyewear store.
Why are eyeglasses so cheap online? When you buy eyeglasses at an optometrist's office, you're paying mainly for rent, labor, marketing, designer licensing fees, and a huge markup. Online retailers cut out all these costs by contracting directly with frame and lens manufacturers overseas. When you place an order, lenses that fit your prescription are cut and molded into your frame, then shipped directly to you. The price competition between online retailers keeps markups low, too. Indeed, unlike offline shops, the online eyeglass stores keep lowering their prices.
Optometry is one of those quintessentially physical, service-oriented industries that once seemed naturally immune to Web commerce. Sure, you'd buy books, airline tickets, and computers online, but buying something that you've got to hold, feel, and try out first—cars, clothes, furniture—has always seemed strange. But the rise of online eyeglass shops points to a larger trend. As we get increasingly comfortable with the Internet, we're turning to the Web for riskier purchases. The online shoe business, for instance, is booming. The Web's advantages here are clear. Online shoe shops offer much greater selection than your local retailer, and they let you search through their merchandise more precisely.
The same is true for glasses. Online shops offer huge selection, a better way to browse (by style or size, which is better than relying on some salesperson's recommendations), and unbeatable prices. It's a winning formula.
If you're willing to soldier through all of this, the payoff is grand. When the glasses arrive, you're elated that you pulled it off, that you've got something so expensive for next to nothing. It's a familiar Internet sensation, reminiscent of the first time you placed a classified ad for free or downloaded an obscure song on Napster—the thrill of pulling something over on an entrenched cartel. Do I sound a bit evangelical? That's the other effect: When you've just bought glasses for $50, you yearn to tell everyone you know.
Thanks to the Web, I've no longer got a reason to stumble around blindly.
Heads up for FIRST ETEWEAR CENTRE.