You Have to Be Able to See the Screen: Buying Prescription Specs Online
While it transcends the topic of computing by a vast margin, ocular vision is a key element of the computing interface. Being able to see the display is pretty elemental.
I've been an eyeglass-wearer for nearly 50 years and am basically lost without my specs, being seriously nearsighted. I usually get several years out of a prescription - and trending even longer since I've entered middle-age - but last fall I noticed I wasn't seeing as clearly with my right eye, normally my good eye, as with my left (weaker) eye.
I hadn't had my eyes checked since 2002, so it was definitely time for a trip to the optometrist, who confirmed that indeed, my prescription needed an upgrade, and I would have to purchase a new pair of specs. But rather than heading directly to a storefront optician, I decided to check out what was available online.
Notwithstanding the economic contretemps we're experiencing these days, this is definitely not the worst of times for value-shoppers. Been to a dollar store lately? Some of the stuff you can get for a dollar almost beggars credibility - the yin to the yang of China's (et al) economic explosion.
However, certain goods and services categories have stubbornly defied price rationalization in a globalized marketplace, notable examples being inkjet computer printer cartridges and prescription eyeglasses. Printer replacement cartridge prices are outrageous - especially for name-brand cartridges from printer manufacturers. In some instances, you can literally buy a whole new printer - with ink cartridges - as cheaply as replacing your printer's original-branded cartridges at suggested retail. Happily, I've found a Montreal-based online outlet that will sell me cartridges for my Canon printer for C$3.00 - color or black ink - and print quality seems serviceably decent, if not perhaps quite up to that of the original Canon ink. For the price I can live with it.
So I wondered if there would be an equivalent in the context of online eyeglasses vendors.
It didn't take much Googling. There are several online optician services and two that looked promising were the quirkily-named http://www.optical4less.com/Goggles4U and a Hong Kong-based outfit called Optical4Less. Prices with these two seemed competitive and astonishingly reasonable for anyone who has shopped recently for eyeglasses. The going rate for a pair of single-vision glasses, including frames, prescription lenses, antiglare, UV, and scratch-resistant coatings, plus sunglasses tinting (if you want it), seemed to be about US$25-30 including shipping anywhere in the world (and in frequent sales promotions even as low as US$12.99-15.00).
Amazing, but were they any good?
It seemed too good to be true, but so cheap that the risk of experimenting was irresistibly low. Checking a bunch of online forums on the topic, Goggles4U seemed to have an excellent reputation with satisfied customers, so I decided to go with them.
The trickiest part was choosing a pair of frames from the thousand or so alternatives offered on the website. I eventually settled on a titanium model with spring loaded arms and high-density lenses for an extra US$12.99, which came to a grand total of US$37.44 delivered to my door, or about 35 dollars Canadian at the time.
Now there is an element of consumer responsibility for success in ordering eyeglasses online, ergo: the measuring and fitting that you would get at a walk-in optician has to be done by you. According to the Goggles4U Website, the most critical dimension is the width of the frames, so I just measured a pair of good fitting specs that I have and entered that figure. The other critical dimension is the distance between your pupils, the median apparently being 149 millimeters, which is what my measurement turned out to be after some meticulous eyeballing with a ruler and a mirror.
There are several other measurement parameters you can specify on the Goggles4U order form, which you can fill in online or download and mail or fax with your order. I just went with the frame width and pupil distance measurements, filled in my optometrist's prescription information, triple-checked for entry errors, and sent the order. Delivery took three weeks, and the package finally arrived from Pakistan (the physical location of Goggles4U had been inscrutable on the website). The package was neatly hand-addressed and wrapped in fabric covering a Styrofoam shipping container. Inside, my new glasses were in a hard, clamshell case with a complimentary cleaning cloth and a pair of spare nosepieces.
The important thing was that I could see really well with these new glasses. The titanium frames themselves are all I hoped they would be - feather-light and comfortable - and the quality of the lens grinding seems excellent. After six months of wearing them, I'm ready to declare them the nicest pair of specs I've owned without qualification. They're superbly comfortable, the correction is bang-on as far as I can tell, and nothing has broken.
In summary, I would rate is my online optical purchase experience as excellent. I'm almost sorry I didn't get a prescription for bifocals, since it's what my optometrist suggested, and I really should have them for reading. They're only US$47.99 for a lined pair or US$61.99 for progressive (no lines) at Goggles4U (and if you're a repeat customer, you can I claim a 15% discount on subsequent purchases.
What about service? Goggles4U has a satisfaction guarantee, although I've not had occasion to test. As I noted, I've been wearing glasses now for just about fifty years and never once taken a pair back to the optician for adjustment or repair, so that aspect isn't a big priority for me.
Would I buy eyeglasses online again? You bet! Bifocals here we come.
Charles Moore has been a freelance journalist since 1987 and began writing for Mac websites in May 1998. His The Road Warrior column was a regular feature on MacOpinion, and he is a news editor and columnist at Applelinks.com. If you find his articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
Other articles by Charles W. Moore
- Apple's Great Hebrew Support, AirPort Express Silently Upgraded, Pismo G4, and More, Charles Moore's Mailbag, 2012.12.03. Also a WindowShade replacement approved by Apple, upgrding a 15" MacBook Pro, and three 13" MacBooks.
- Is There a Cure for a Smelly Mac?, Miscellaneous Ramblings, 2012.07.30. For those suffering from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, gases let of by a new computer can be no end of trouble.
- Optimizing PowerBook G4 Performance, TenFourFox May Run Faster with NoScript, and More, Charles Moore's Mailbag, 2012.07.18. Also pros and cons of Linux on G3 PowerBooks and iPhoto 11 no longer updating in Snow Leopard.
- More in the 'Book Value index.
Links for the Day
- Mac of the Day: PowerBook 165c, introduced 1993.02.10. The first color PowerBook had an attractive screen, slow graphics.
- May 25 in LEM history: 99: OS X and the econoMac - iMac iMpact - 00: Is a Mac better than a PC? - 01: 1993: PowerBook vs. ThinkPad - Old files on a new Mac - 05: Mac minis in classroom a big hit - Of mice and keyboards - 06: The best 'Book for my needs - 07: More RAM vs. matched RAM - Running OS X from flash memory
- Support Low End Mac
Recent Content on Low End Mac
- World Book Encyclopedia 2012 DVD, Tommy Thomas, Reviews, 2013.03.05. "You may be asking yourself, in an age of Wikipedia and instant information, is World Book still relevant?"
- Vintage Computer Festival SouthEast, April 20-21, 2013, Simon Royal, Mac Spectrum, 2013.02.25. Old Apple gear and old PCs.
- iMessage: The Ultimate Messaging Service?, Simon Royal, Mac Spectrum, 2013.02.21. In most ways, Apple's iMessage is far superior to BlackBerry Messenger.
- More links in our archive.
- Best Mac mini Deals
- Best 13" MacBook Pro Deals
- Best Intel iMac Deals
- Best iPod touch Deals
- Best iPhone Deals
- Best iPod nano Deals
- Best iPod classic Deals
- Best Apple TV Prices
- More deals in our archive.
Low End Mac Reader Specials
Cult of Mac
Shrine of Apple
The Mac Observer
Accelerate Your Mac
The Vintage Mac Museum
Mac Driver Museum
System 6 Heaven
System 7 Today
the pickle's Low-End Mac FAQ