I was surprised to realize recently that I’ve had my current pair of glasses for over three years now. My prescription hasn’t changed much according to my last few exams, and taking the time required to find a new pair of frames has inevitably never happened. However, after constant use 16-18 hours per day, 365 days per year, my lenses were started to get significantly scratched, and after my last exam a few months ago I decided that I’d go ahead and pick something out and have a new pair made.

I’ve been wearing glasses since 4th grade, and I’ve had quite a few pairs since then! I’ve experimented with some different styles through the years and it’s kind of fun to try something new. Of course, through the years I’ve also has to pay for glasses, and, baby, they aren’t cheap. I’ve experimented with various optical establishments, too, trying to find a reasonable solution. It’s astounding how pricey frames and decent lenses are (and I just get middle-of-the-road stuff), even at “discount” places. But since I wear them constantly for two or more years, I’ve felt it averaged out over time and was worth the investment.

This time, after seeing dollar signs while pricing frames and lenses at a local shop, I was incredibly motivated to figure out some other option. I’d heard people talk about purchasing glasses online with great success; the savings are substantial, and most people seem satisfied with the quality of the product and the customization of the lenses. So, like any reasonable 21st century girl, I began to research it online.

People seem to fall into two distinct camps about this subject. The first group, in which I was more or less standing previously, was that you absolutely couldn’t purchase a pair of glasses online. First, you can’t try them on, nor can you have them adjusted to you if there is a fit problem. Plus, you cannot trust the reliability of some person somewhere out there hacking away at optical materials producing sub-quality lenses that might detrimentally affect your vision. The second group, however, claims that this apparent need for someone local and the delusion that you can’t possibly buy glasses online has artificially driven up the price charged by local shops to, if you will, a captive audience. They aver that one can get the same quality frames and lenses online without the need for artificial inflation. There are even sites that will send you frames to try on at home before ordering. Plus, if you know the size of your current frames (usually three numbers stamped on the temple), you can see how the size of those online compare to yours; most sites give thorough measurements of every dimension of the frames.

So, as long as you have a current optical prescription, you should be completely able to order online. I was a little skeptical at first, of course, but open to the idea. After hearing glowing reports all over the internet (with a few negatives, of course), I decided that I’d go ahead and try it. For less than the price of just frames at a local shop, I could get those same frames plus pretty nice lenses with all the trappings online. It seemed like a minimal investment on a gamble.

As far as the options available online, there are two distinct alternatives. One is purchasing normal frames from normal optical places that sell the same stuff you get locally at a discount through websites. The other alternative is to buy cheap, no-name-brand generic (but allegedly the same quality) lenses and frames for rock bottom prices. We’re talking $35 frames and lenses, if you get the cheapest ones. Since I had already picked out a couple of “designer” frames I like in a store and knew they fit and looked good on me, I decided to go with option number one. So last Friday I finally decided on a website with good reviews (www.glasses.com, if you are curious) and placed my order. I took a cellphone picture of my prescription and emailed it do them, and my order was anticipated in about two weeks.

To my utter shock, my glasses were in my mailbox on the next Thursday afternoon, less than one week from ordering. They were the same frames I picked out in the store (not knock-offs) and the lenses were clean and sharp-looking. The prescription appears to be right, although I always have a little bit of adjustment time due to the correction for my astigmatism. Sometimes when I turn my head quickly, the floor appears to do quite funny things…  However, I’ve had this same experience before, so I’m going to give it a few days before claiming there’s a real issue.

Overall, I would say my experience has been quite satisfactory, enough so that I’d definitely try it again. In the past few years I’ve started keeping a pair of Rx sunglasses also, so have just about decided to have those done up, too. I also found another pair of funky frames that I was very drawn to in person, and while I deemed them a little too impractical and the wrong color palette for my typical dress, it’s incredibly tempting to get them as a second pair. However, I’m not a two-pair-of-glasses kind of girl, so I’ll still probably have to pass on that, even at the super great deal. 🙂

So, if you’re looking for frames and have sticker shock when you walk into the optometrist’s, then I’d highly suggest giving it a try.