You Have to Be Able to See the Screen: Buying Prescription Specs Online

2008 – 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 am 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 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 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.

Keywords: #lowendliving #onlineeyeglasses #onlinespectacles #onlinebifocals

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