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Are You Buying Glasses Online?

Good Idea Or Ripoff?

The technology is here.
You can get glasses from a printer...

But who will check them out?
Who will customize and repair them?


Now, you get FREE lifetime adjustments at your Practitioner's office.
But, if you buy prescription glasses from an online merchant...

a) How can you be sure any online glasses are correct?
b) Should you take them in to your doctor's office?
c) Where can you get them fitted comfortably?
d) Will you have to pay to get them fitted?
e) What about any simple frame repairs?
f) Do you really save time and money?
g) What if you have a problem?
h) Where do you go, then?

"Opticianry is defined by how well the eyewear makes contact with the patient.
Eyeglass consumers need and deserve the following:
a) Optician-assisted, in-depth lifestyle interview;
b) Optician-assisted, design and selection;
c) Handcrafted, form-fitting eyewear;
d) Free lifetime adjustments and
minor repair services, none of
which are available online."

"More than half of all people in the United States use some type of lens
to correct their vision. How many of these have been able to acquire
handcrafted, form-fitted eyewear?" -- OpticiansForChange.com


As a consumer, if I know I can't get my eyewear form-fitted at
a brick and mortar dispensary, and I know if I buy online it's the
same issue, I'll probably choose getting it unfitted in my mailbox.

With regard to the latest technology in optical dispensing,
let us recall that Opticianry is ultimately defined by how well
the eyewear fits the Patient. So, the real issue for Opticians and
Consumers to consider is not whether prescription eyewear is
purchased in stores or online. The issue is the current deficiency
in the delivery of eyewear due to the absence of the craftsmanship
and skills required to dispense form-fitting eyewear to the Consumer.
The real challenge for any Optician is to take a symmetrically 4-point
squared device and handcraft it to fit an asymmetrically shaped face.

The answer is: hands-on training, hands-on training, hands-on training.
It's time for those Opticians who know, to teach those who do not know.

Following is based on an article in Eye Care Professional Magazine
April 2012 Edition, By Robert Flippin, LDO

I know that it is tempting and almost sounds too good to be true that you can purchase a pair of prescription eyewear from the comfort of your home, have them mailed to you, fit well, and all for about half the price that you would normally pay your local Optician, or Eye Doctor.

Wow, that sounds great, but have you ever wondered how it is possible that an online retailer can sell glasses so cheaply, or did you just assume that you have been grossly overcharged for all of these years? Let’s take a closer look, and compare the pros and cons of trusting your vision to the Internet.

You have just had your eyes examined and the Doctor has taken the time to write a prescription that is unique to you for the correction of your visual deficiencies. Instead of bringing that prescription in to have it filled by a Licensed Optician, you choose to visit an online retailer and get a deal on your new pair of glasses. The selections are great and you can even upload a photo of yourself to ‘virtually’ try on hundreds of pairs of glasses until you find that one pair that makes you look like a rock star. You select a pair of frames and move on to the next step, which is entering your prescription.

When you get the prescription entered you come to a required number that you don’t have on the form and that is one for your Pupillary Distance or PD. Not to worry though because the 'help box' tells you to call your Doctor or Optician and they will give you that information. If your Eye Care Professional refuses to provide you with that information the online retailer will instruct you to have a friend measure you, or have you attempt to measure your own PD with a ruler that you can easily print out. Problem solved, now on to the next step, which is choosing the proper lens design for your prescription and the treatments or enhancements to make them work even better.

Your prescription is written for bifocals so you can choose to have a line or no line at all. You choose the ones without the lines, the progressive lenses. Next you can choose from the thinner, lighter weight lenses or the thicker and heavier lenses. You choose the thinner option. Next you can get lenses with glare and reflections or without. You choose without and even pop for the better coating because you are saving so much money. Just one more option to go and you are all done. Do you want the lenses that adapt and automatically adjust to changing light conditions or the ones that stay clear? You choose the smart lenses that change, and checkout feeling great because you are going to get a pair of glasses that are fashionable, lightweight, and do so many cool things and all for so much less than the Optician would normally charge. Sounds great, right?

The more zones, the more you pay. But how many zones do you really need?

Contrary to online ads, not everyone needs a progressive lens.
An unbiased, one-on-one, comprehensive lifestyle interview
must occur in order to determine the patient's real needs.

Online merchants are unable to make this accessment.

When the glasses arrive you can hardly wait to try them on, so you run to the mirror, put them on, and they are crooked. You fiddle with them a bit, and also notice that they slide down on your nose, so you get on the computer and ask for help. No problem, the Internet merchant tells you, just have your local Optician adjust them for you.

Lots of prescription glasses are being purchased online, but is it really a great value?
What about Rx accuracy, FREE lifetime service on frame adjustments, and where do
consumers go to get their lenses replaced, frame realignments or routine repairs?

When you visit your Optician, they inquire as to where you bought your glasses, and then inform you that there will be a twenty-five dollar fee ($25.00) to adjust any glasses not purchased there, and furthermore, they will not be responsible if something were to break because they did not sell them to you. You are angry because they have never charged you before to adjust your glasses and you demand an explanation. The Optician patiently informs you that unlike most other items you purchase, the price you pay for glasses purchased from an Optician have a lifetime of service built into the cost.

Have you ever bought a set of tires for your car, and been able to return to the dealer as often as you wish for free alignments? No, but if you could, the tires would be more expensive because the dealer would have to factor in the additional service costs over the life of the tires, plus salaries, inventory and overhead, for all of the ‘free work’ they provide.

The Optician patiently adjusts your new glasses, and they feel better, but you notice that the earpieces come way around your ear, and almost look like earrings poking below your ear. The temples are too long, but how were you supposed to know they came in different lengths, or for that matter, what size you needed? You also realize that now that they are adjusted properly, your vision is not as good as you think it should be and you want to know why. The Optician agrees to verify the prescription and the fabrication standards of the glasses, and provide it in writing for ten dollars. You are outraged at the fee but agree, and the results of the analysis are as follows:

Your prescription lenses are slightly outside of acceptable power tolerances. The progressive lens that you chose is not placed at the proper height, and this is making your reading more difficult because the Internet merchant guessed at a fitting height for your lenses because you were not able to be measured properly, in person. The Pupillary Distance measurement, your PD, the online merchant asked you to acquire is NOT ACCURATE without using a specialized instrument your Optician uses to measure the CORNEAL REFLECTION of your pupils.

Eyewear Professional uses Pupillometer,
which accurately measures distance between
pupils, using light reflected from each cornea for
a precise fitting of progressive lenses especially.

Asymmetry between eyes are common

Dentists, Manicurists and Hairstylists make direct, tactile contact with the
consumer. Likewise, Opticians must make direct contact with the Patient.

Furthermore, your Optician would have fit you in a progressive lens design that is more suited for how you use your eyes by way of a Lifestyle Interview. The Internet merchant didn’t tell you that there are more than three hundred different lenses available, nor that your Optician is trained to match your needs with a custom lens design, did they? Lastly, when you return to your Doctor because you are not seeing well, the Doctor will have a hard time sorting out whether you, a) need a slight prescription change, or b) if you would see as they intended if the glasses were made properly to begin with. It now becomes a return-shipping and remake, or refund nightmare!

Your Internet merchant might remake your glasses, but based on what? You are still not available for a personal, handcrafted fitting, and you are going to be out more time and money in shipping charges, time, and frustration. Is it still such a great deal?


Consumers deserve a sufficiently handcrafted,
multi-dimensional, personalized frame fitting, e.g.,
gaps and spaces are removed from between the frame's
temples and the skull behind the ears, in order to enhance
comfort, stability, and long term wearability. Full contact, with
a light touch of the skull, NOT THE EARS, is the primary means
by which the frame should be held in place for long-term comfort.


BEFORE temple-end is in out-of-the-box condition,
i.e., it doesn't make contact with the Patient's skull,
whereas the AFTER temple has been form-fitted with
an added handcrafted mastoid dip and mastoid wrap.
It now fits the mastoid bone like a glove since it has been
shaped to make full, direct contact with this Patient's skull.
The customized temple-ends become invisible when worn
and the resultant fit avoids pressure and is extremely comfortable.
Note: This skill cannot be learned virtually, i.e., via lecture or online.
This skill is acquired only by handcrafting the eyewear using direct, face
to face, on the Patient, tactile, touch and feel contact with the Patient. The
availability, knowledge and skilled use of related handcrafting tools is essential.
Also, keep in mind that online merchants are incapable of providing this service.

Even in the best case scenario, you may have been able to see just fine, but probably not as well as if you had a personalized frame fitting. You will still need to see somebody for adjustments and repairs, which will cost you money, and if you need a slight prescription change, it could become a nightmarish scenario. Over the long term, you have saved little if anything, and you most likely will spend more, and never be quite as satisfied or well taken care of if you had only trusted your vision to your Licensed Optician. See Facial Asymmetry.

Online merchants are not Opticians.
Opticianry, like Dentistry, can only be practiced with hands-on-the-patient.

"How do Opticians get their groove back? Consumers need,
a) Optician-assisted in-depth lifestyle interview;
b) Optician-assisted design and selection;
c) Handcrafted, form-fitting eyewear;
and d) Free lifetime adjustments
and minor repair services, none
of which are available online."

Can you see the facial asymmetry in these photos?
How can an online merchant design lenses and-or fit frames for such cases?

Opticians ensure that patients are fit properly with the best designed lenses and frames for their individual needs. We verify that the lenses are made to the standard set forth by the laws that govern our license, and we personally stand behind the products and services we provide patients because we are Licensed Opticians, here, in person, to adjust, maintain and care for your visual needs, and to be a patient advocate between you and the Doctor of your choice.

If, however, you would rather have an online merchant be your advocate, possibly incur additional shipping charges, and never be quite sure of the accuracy of the products provided, please feel free.

And maybe, just maybe, if you push your face up tightly enough to your PC monitor they can bend the temples around your ears so they don’t hurt your head and ears quite as much! --

See Online Glasses Ripoff Reports. See Testimonials From Consumers. See Chicago Tribune's Look At Buying Glasses Online. See Online Glasses Not What Doctor Ordered. See Notice To Consumers Regarding Guidelines.

Why Are Glasses Sales Proliferating Online?

Question: What are the chances of today's prescription eyewear consumers getting a handcrafted, customized fitting of their prescription eyewear? If you answer this question correctly, you know why consumers are buying their prescription eyewear online.

As an example, here's a letter from a consumer after visiting OpticianryToday.com, one of our Web sites.

I was 9 (*cough, cough!* an eon ago!) - I can't remember actually being "fitted" with my glasses in years and years. Thank you for this reminder that it SHOULD be done this way. Perhaps if dispensaries had continued these practices I wouldn't have felt so aggrieved at continually and gasp-inducing rising prices of eyewear. To such an extent, in fact, that the last pairs of glasses I've gotten, I purchased online. (Hope you were sitting down for that! I wouldn't want to be the cause of a heart attack. :-) ) No, I didn't get fitted, obviously, but I got exactly the same product - AND service - I would have gotten at any local shop, for so much less money that I was able to buy three pairs of glasses for about a third of the price I'd have paid in person. Anyway, thanks for sharing this. --

So, this consumer's experience suggests the reason for the proliferation of online prescription eyewear sales is not so much about lower prices as it is about the absence of adequate, personalized, frame-in-place, hands-on-the-face, handcrafted services.

There are only three things the optical industry can offer the prescription eyewear consumer, SERVICE, QUALITY and PRICE. But most latter-years dispensaries currently ever offer ONLY TWO of these, simultaneously. Why can’t we offer SERVICE, i.e., 1) HANDS-ON 3-DIMENSION DISPENSING, 2) QUALITY PRODUCTS, and 3) FAIR PRICING, all three simultaneously, like we used to do? This leaves the online providers with only their cheaper prices with no custom fitting skills for that segment of the market, and leave the remaining market (we’re talking mostly about full-time-wear prescription-wearing consumers, not those looking for plano sunwear or readers) to Eyewear Professionals. A big challenge now, is that the industry has devolved to the point of being extremely short on Multi-Dimensional Dispensing Technicians. See 3DDispensing.com.

BTW: A colleague recently asked, "What does it say about the "soul" of our profession when the first "selling point" that comes out of a frame rep's mouth is, "Your cost is $9.95, but it's listed in Frame Facts for $79.95...so you can bill insurance higher?"

Coming from the old-fashioned world of Opticianry, it really saddens me that today is all about sales. Gone are the days of one-on-one frame-fitting, and guiding patients through the process. I have even come across people who never knew they were wearing progressives!! This is totally outrageous. They tell me they were only told they will be able to see up close with their new glasses, but it was never explained in any detail what they were getting. This has happened more than once.

I can see why the visitor to your site, OpticianryToday.com, felt no difference buying online rather than at a location. It angers me that the word "fitting" is not even recognizable to him. As Opticians, we need to man up and go back to basics before the Internet takes over what we alone are trained to do.

Thanks for the eye opening. I will take it as an encouragement to keep doing my old-fashioned fitting and dispensing, and hope it does make a difference. -- (See The real reason some folks buy their glasses online.)

NEWS FLASH! Old fashioned, tactile, in place, on-the-face, hands-on-the-patient dispensing of handcrafted, customized eyewear has declined to the extent that the Florida Board of Opticianry recently enacted a rule requiring all future applicants to undergo a minimum of 2 CE hours of experiential frame-fitting directly on a living subject. --

Why would you let an unlicensed plumber do your plumbing or an unlicensed electrician wire your home? I wouldn't. Same reason I wouldn't order glasses online. I can't fit my head into my computer for adjustments? Is my bridge the same size as that of another person? Ethnic groups have different needs. I know I do. We are all customized from the day we were born, so why shouldn't our eyewear be? If you do not interview, feel, touch, measure, fit the glasses before you take the measurements, as well as after, how do you know how to interpret the Rx and what the patient's needs are? How many times have you talked to your patients and asked them, "What do you want your glasses to do?" Can a computer talk back, discuss their problems, and come up with solutions? Sorry, I am from the old school of hands-on people! Get real! I love my job and no computer is going to replace me until I am ready to say goodbye! -- See Facial Asymmetry.

Everyone is worried about the economy and I understand all of that. But should we cut costs on something as important as our vision? Our eyes help us see, and who would not want the best vision possible? We only have one set of eyes and everyone needs to take care of them. Our daily existence depend on them. I think online shopping for glasses is ridiculous. After people get them online they want to take them and have them repaired and adjusted at a business where others are waiting to get their hands-on experience. I could write a book about all the experiences I have had working in all aspects of the Optical Industry. I am absolutely amazed. People have gotten to the point they shop for glasses like they are shopping for a shirt off the rack somewhere. They definitely are not helping the economy or themselves by purchasing online. I love the work I do and I enjoy it tremendously and I enjoy helping people see. As Opticians we need to help the consumer understand how important it is to get the correct and proper eyewear for their prescriptions. The industry has changed over the years and I am concerned about our profession. I can't understand why some states are not licensed to fit glasses, but require a license to do hair or nails. That's another story in itself. --

All I can say is, "I am so happy I am self employed and i can practice good ol' fashion Opticianry the way I was taught back in the 80's!"

Keeping that in mind, here's a conversation I had with a person at a networking meeting:

John: Hi, my name is John and I'm with _________________________.
Me: Hi, John, I'm _____________.
John: Who are you with?
Me: ____________ Optical, our business.
John: It's too bad I didn't meet you a month ago. I ordered my glasses online and got them about two weeks ago. They were cheap.
Me: And how's that working for you?
John: Biggest mistake I've ever made. These glasses are horrible. I can't see clearly and I don't know what the problem is. When I called them they said I need to "get used to them".
Me: Oh?
John: Can I have one of your cards, I need to order me a REAL pair of eyeglasses!

Case closed!

I have a similar conversation at least twice a month. There's a reason we are Opticians: You wouldn't let a truck loader fill your medical prescription, neither should you let someone you'll never meet do the same with your prescription eyewear. --

Buying online does not necessarily mean that a consumer will get their eyewear any less expensively, and when you add in the extras, shipping, etc., they often pay more. And the consumer does not get the professional fitting, eyeglass measurements, optics in the lenses that are called for, and more. And they are led to believe they are paying less. I think that all optical shops should now begin having an online business; to answer questions and sell accessories and continue with their walk-in optical. Some consumers are just not educated; when it comes to seeing a Licensed Optician. It is clearly a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, we are only given one pair of eyes and as Licensed Opticians we need to make the public aware. --

The bottom line is this. Opticians must use, sustain and improve good, old-fashioned, Discovery, Design and Delivery skills. Multi-dimensional dispensing, is the real key to restoring our market share. The reason the public remains uneducated about the 3-D's, especially the touch-and-feel aspects, is that we have gradually abandoned their application for the past 50 plus years to the point that many consumers now express shock that an Optician would touch their head and ears in order to handcraft their eyewear.

Many eyeglass consumers, even many long-time wearers, have become convinced that they have to endure wearing their prescription eyewear WITHOUT experiencing any handcrafting of their eyewear. What a revolting development! This occurs because WE have not been 'educating' the consumer with old-fashioned DISCOVERY, DESIGN and DELIVERY skills, i.e., multi-dimensional craftsmanship of their prescription eyewear for decades. See 3DDispensing.com.

I know... I know, I hear it all the time, "But WE HAVE BEEN providing handcrafted, humanized services!" Yes, some old-school Opticians still exist, but our number is now too small to where our handcrafting art has all but disappeared. The industry, especially corporate leaders, need to get young, latter-day Opticians back to old-fashioned 'touch-and-feel' dispensing. Without it, we cannot offer the consumer any good reasons to patronize brick and mortar dispensaries instead of Web-based, online eyeglass merchants. Right now, too many consumers get the same thing in their mail box that they get in too many brick and mortar dispensaries.

"Many of the Retail Optical Execs and Managers have no
experience in Opticianry or Ophthalmic Dispensing. In one
organization, only 1 of 43 Regional Managers is an Optician. In
contrast, the CEO of Walgreens Drugs is a Registered Pharmacist."

And, we must stop whining, expressing self-pity, and ignoring the reality of our 50 year plus history (it's not about price) of providing declining, or even non-existent handcrafted, prescription eyewear fitting services. In a word, we have to resurrect craftsmanship... We must give the consumer a valued reason to return to our brick and mortar dispensaries.

"Of over 67,000 Opticians designing, manufacturing
and dispensing eyewear, less than half have formal
certification or licensure." --
U.S. Department of Labor

Today's consumer does not now know what they're missing in terms of hands-on-the-patient craftsmanship because we have not been providing it. Or, we DO NOT KNOW HOW to provide it. In my view, the latter has become the unfortunate norm. See GlassesOnlineWarning.com. --

Recently, a woman came into my dispensary asking if we adjust glasses for free, which of course, we are happy to do. She then produced a brand new pair of glasses she had just received from an online merchant for me to fit for her. Immensely frustrating for me, someone who prides herself on "specializing" in custom fitting eyewear. My fifteen years of experience and expertise, culminating in spending fifteen minutes fitting someone else glasses. Apparently the Web site had recommended just "popping in" to any optical shop for a fitting. I wonder if we ought not to be charging a fee for such a service, or just hope that in that little bit of time we can make such a great impression on the person that they become a future customer? Seems a little tenuous to me. -- See more below.

I feel your pain. When you are adjusting her eye wear, did you mention "Gosh you bought them online?" "I am happy to adjust these; but since we did not make them, I can't be responsible for the optics being off or the condition / treatment or lack of on these lenses or the frame. If the frame breaks while I am adjusting them, it is not my responsibility to replace them." Thinking out loud... maybe there is a waiver form we should have these customers sign before we adjust their glasses. And I would like to add... I worked at one clinic where we charged $2 for adjustments. Just be nice and friendly and full of knowledge. They will come back. --

The reality is that most Opticians have historically included (before Internet merchants) free-of-charge lifetime adjustments. Some even include free-of-charge minor repairs, nose pad replacements, temple covers, etc., for their patrons.

In the case of online purchasers that I'm aware of, consumers pay Web-based merchants less, i.e., minus the usual Optician's fitting fees, and any other qualitative service fees. (Some online purchasers pay much higher prices online minus frame-fitting services, etc. Buyer beware!)

Here's what I would do when online purchasers of prescription eyewear present themselves for services: Adopt a 'tough love' business attitude. You are here to serve. But you're a highly skilled Optician, here not just to serve people well, but to make an honest, living wage, as well.

Question: Would you expect an auto mechanic, plumber, dentist, hairdresser, etc,. to donate their services simply because you chose to acquire services from some Web-based merchant who is incapable of providing you with any direct lifestyle design, touch and feel hands-on frame-fitting delivery and/or follow-up services?

Let's be real. The online prescription eyewear consumer, who gets a 'bargain' should not expect, nor be given more consideration as to your time and expertise than your full-fee patrons. And they are certainly not deserving of comparable, free lifetime services. However, in all fairness, if you should choose to accept Web-based consumers at no charge, they deserve the best service you have to offer.

I recommend charging online consumers a fee commensurate with whatever you determine your time is worth. And I recommend posting a high-visibility disclaimer, briefly announcing a nonrefundable minimum fee of $25.00, along with possibly a verbal explanation of your policy to each online purchaser while disavowing responsibility for any unsatisfactory design of eyewear, any consequential lens chipping or frame breakage that occurs, or the discovery of any problematic Rx issues. Any repairs requiring additional time or expense would be subject to extra fees. Furthermore, I recommend charging a reasonable fee for measuring or checking a PD.

These actions will help Opticians regain their market share. The slow and steady decline in handcrafted service to the public has happened over several decades. It will take awhile to restore, but we must make a start. And be advised, each of us is responsible for making it happen. -- More

Here's a memo we received recently, which indicates we are not alone on this issue.

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant from the UK working with UK opticians and optical businesses. I stumbled across your site whilst researching a 'professional selling' course I am writing for _________ Opticians. I just wanted to say what a pleasure it has been to read your views and opinions on the challenges faced by professional opticians in light of the burgeoning Internet and 'bucket shop' optical market. We suffer the same problems in the UK as you report: devaluation of the profession, commercialization for its own sake, a focus on cost rather than value etc. I wish you the very best in disseminating your professional viewpoint, and hope that you are enjoying ever-increasing support from US professional opticians who truly understand the nature of opticianry. Kind regards. --



Consumers deserve a pleasant experience.
s deserve as much time as they need.
Consumers deserve handcrafted prescription eyewear.


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Hands on the Patient Opticianry?

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