Where you choose to buy your glasses makes a difference, both in your wallet and in the local and global economy. Sometimes it’s easiest to use cost as the main differentiating factor. Healthcare is expensive, after all, so save where you can, right? Well, it turns out it’s not quite that simple.
There are many variables that determine the price of lenses and frames. From customer service to social impact, there are key differences between a corporate eyeglass retailer like Warby Parker and a locally-owned optometry office. We decided to take a closer look at these differences and lay out the pros and cons of each to help you decide where to purchase your next pair of glasses.
Local Optometry Office Pros
Supporting the local economy
By supporting your local optometrist you’re also supporting your local economy. Plaza Lane proudly employs local residents, ensuring that every dollar spent at our office is invested back into our community. We are also members of the Downtown Association and ThinkLocalFirst and have hosted several networking mixers for our community.
We strongly believe in keeping our dollars local (this includes choosing local businesses for all our team outings, like our friends at Kayak Connection) and promoting a vibrant and diverse downtown community for all our neighbors.
Local and global social impact
What few people know is that most local optometry offices dedicate volunteer hours and work hours to providing free or low-cost vision services to people in need. Here at Plaza Lane, our doctors partner with the Western Service Workers Association to provide free eye care and glasses to local workers. Our doctors volunteer their time at local health fairs where they provide free eye exams for people in need. They also actively advocate for everyone’s right to increased access to eye care.
Our office also collects gently used glasses for donations to our local Lyon’s Club chapter. Last but not least, we choose to support many of our local nonprofits through monetary, product, and service donations throughout the year.
Through international service work, our locally-owned practice has a global impact as well. Dr. Buell has done service work in remote areas of Mexico with Lions Club International and The Flying Samaritans. Dr. Simmons has spent time in Jamaica through the Alliance of Jamaican and American Humanitarians (AOJAH). This service work included providing eye exams, prescription glasses, and glaucoma medication.
“Seeing the look on a person’s face when they try on their first pair of glasses and can now see the world clearly for the first time, gave me great joy,” Dr. Simmons recalls.
In-person expert service
Working with an optician in-person takes all the guesswork out of finding the perfect fit. Opticians are professionally trained to help you choose the best frame not only for your face shape but also for your prescription. They will accurately measure your PD(the distance between the centers of your pupils) and the segment height for a progressive lens.
They will also ensure the frame’s arms are neither too short nor too long and will double-check the fit of the bridge so your glasses stay comfortably in place. Last but not least, an optician will guide you to choose the best lens option for your prescription and lifestyle. It’s like having your own personal stylist. Optical styling, however, affects not only your overall look but your vision as well.
More frame options
Whether you have an especially narrow PD or a wide bridge, your local optometry office will either have a frame that fits or they can order you the perfect size. No more pushing your glasses up your nose, dealing with uncomfortable pinching behind the ears, or looking like you’re wearing your older brother’s oversized glasses.
You can also usually choose from a variety of higher-end, handmade boutique frames that are wearable works of art. (Plaza Lane carries several privately owned frame lines handmade in Japan, Belgium, Italy, and France.) These frames look and feel great and are made to last. You also have your choice of popular big-name brands like Ray Ban, Paul Smith, and Coach. Plus, many offices hold annual frame shows that give you a first look at the newest styles from your favorite brands and, of course, special discounts!
Top quality lenses
Most local optometry offices pride themselves on offering high-quality lenses for optimal visual acuity. We use ZEISS lenses, known for their superior clarity and durability. These lenses give you the thinnest lens possible without peripheral distortion or a prolonged adaptation period.
It’s important to know that not all lenses are made equal. Higher quality lenses provide better visual acuity than cheaper lenses. You can think of it like an old analog TV versus a new HD TV—in terms of viewing experience, you’d always choose the HD TV over the analog, right? This applies to anti-reflective coating, transition, and polarized lenses as well. (For more detail about different types of lenses, check out this post.)
Most vision insurance accepted
The trained staff at your local optometry office will bill your vision insurance for you, saving you the time and effort required to get a reimbursement. For most insurance policies, they can also review your coverage online and let you know up-front how much everything from the exam to your new glasses will cost.
Free follow-up service
When you purchase glasses from your local optometry office, the optician(s) and/or the optometrist will make sure your new frames are adjusted properly for maximum comfort and optimal vision. If your new lenses make your vision blurry or distorted, even after taking the suggested time to adapt to your new prescription, we will remake the lenses at no charge within a reasonable time frame (typically 1-2 months from the date of purchase).
2-yr warranty on most glasses
All Luxottica frames (the dominant manufacturer and distributor of frame brands) include a 2-year warranty from the date of purchase for manufacturing defects. If your frame gets bent out of shape from normal wear and tear or loses a screw or nose pad, your local optometry office will fix any frames purchased at that office at no charge.
Local Optometry Office Cons
While it may be more expensive to purchase your glasses from a local optometry office (especially if you don’t have vision insurance), you’re paying for quality. Not all lenses are made equal and offices like Plaza Lane proudly provide high-quality ZEISS lenses for optimal visual acuity, as explained above. (If we’re willing to spend several hundred to over a thousand dollars on the newest HD TV, shouldn’t we make sure that our eyewear also provides the best possible viewing experience?)
You also have more options with a local optometry office. At Plaza Lane you can choose your lens material and select from a wide range of frame brands, all with the expert guidance of an eye care professional. The costs of these products are clearly stated up-front, including which options are covered by insurance.
Can’t shop from home
A local optometry office will require you to come in person to try on frames and consult an expert optician regarding fit and lens options. This is because we strongly believe in the value of working with an eye care professional when picking out a frame. When a professional takes your measurements and checks the fit of your frames in-person, the resulting glasses will be more comfortable and provide optimal vision.
There’s not an app for that
While your local optometry office may not have their own app, many, like Plaza Lane, do offer text alert options for your appointment and eyewear pick-up reminders. We also believe that our exceptional in-person service more than makes up for our lack of online options.
Warby Parker Pros
Starting at $95 for a pair of frames and prescription lenses, many people choose Warby Parker based mostly on price. Prices do go up, however, to over $400 for some prescription sunglasses.
Few of us can resist the allure of online shopping from the comfort of our couch. Warby Parker lets their customers order up to five frames at a time and try them for up to five days. You simply ship back the frames you don’t want within five days to avoid any charges. (Unfortunately, this same convenience factor quickly becomes an inconvenience if you end up choosing a frame that fits poorly and/or doesn’t support your prescription. This is why working with an eye care professional in-person is usually worth the extra effort up-front, especially for more complex prescriptions.)
Perhaps the real secret behind Warby Parker’s success is their buy a pair, give a pair program. Every time someone buys a pair of Warby Parker glasses the company donates a pair to a person in need. This is a big selling point for the company considering 73 percent of millennials prefer to spend their money with companies that have a positive social and environmental impact.
Warby Parker also attracts millennial consumers with their tech-friendly services, from an online frame-style quiz to a shopping app.
Warby Parker Cons
Prices may not be what they seem
Prices go up if you have a more complex prescription and with all the add-ons, your total cost can reach upwards of $400. Progressive lenses add $200, high-index $30-$130 depending on the thickness, and ‘light responsive’ or transition lenses are an extra $100.
In order to keep prices down, Warby Parker sells only Warby Parker-brand frames and each frame style comes in just one size. (Other frame brands often have multiple sizes for each style.) They also only offer one option for each of their lens coatings or add-ons, such as anti-reflective coating and polarization.
These choices in lens material and coatings are often not as high-quality as the options provided by your local optometrist.
Billing your vision insurance is on you
While it’s true some insurance companies will reimburse you for a Warby Parker eye exam and pair of prescription glasses, no insurance companies will cover their services outright. This means you have to pay up-front for all services and then deal with the reimbursement process through your insurance company on your own.
No follow-up service
There’s always a risk when ordering prescription glasses through an online retailer. The frames may not fit properly at first and require an adjustment. You may not even see clearly through your new lenses. While Warby Parker does offer a 30-day no-questions-asked return or exchange policy, this doesn’t guarantee that the issue will be resolved with a new pair. Mistakes are made and sometimes a prescription isn’t quite right, resulting in distortion, blurry vision, or eye strain and fatigue. Without an optometrist available to diagnose the issue, it can be difficult to impossible to make a new pair of glasses that provide optimal vision and comfort.
Warby Parker’s frame warranty is 30 days from the date of purchase compared to 2 years for most other name-brand frames.
Who would you choose?
Now that you know the pros and cons of Warby Parker versus your local optometry office, who would you choose? We strongly encourage everyone to do their own research and price comparisons when making this important choice, but we hope the above information helps you better understand the different business models of each.
Please do consider when choosing where to go for vision services that no matter what type of prescription you have, it’s important to have a regular comprehensive eye exam. A comprehensive eye exam includes standard health tests such as a blood pressure check, visual field test, glaucoma screening, and retinal imaging and/or dilation. This type of exam must be provided in-person by a licensed eye care professional.
Your sight affects everything from productivity at work and in school to social interactions and how you perceive the world around you. With this in mind, remember when you purchase a new pair of glasses that you’re investing in your vision.
Several hundred dollars may seem like a lot to spend on a pair of glasses, but glasses are both a fashion statement and a necessary health device. Your eyewear should help you to see and look your best and you should feel good about where you’re investing your dollars.
Have further questions about any of the services or products a local optometry office like Plaza Lane provides? Send us an email or give us a call at 831-429-2020.