How to get an unbelievable, thrilling deal on new glasses.

Innovation, the Internet, gadgets, and more.
Aug. 27 2008 3:23 PM

How To Get an Unbelievable, Amazing, Fantastic, Thrilling Deal on New Glasses

Buy them online.

(Continued from Page 1)

The same is true for glasses. Online shops offer huge selection, a better way to browse (by style or size, which is better than relying on some salesperson's recommendations), and unbeatable prices. It's a winning formula: A representative for Zenni Optical told me that the company is now selling more than 7,000 pairs of glasses a week.

Be warned, though, that buying eyeglasses on the Web takes patience. The whole process is a bit of a time-suck: First, you've got to ask your doctor for your prescription. (Be firm.) Then, you need to figure out what size frames look and feel good on your face. (Measure an old pair you're comfortable with.) Next, you need to find your "pupillary distance"—the length, in millimeters, between the center of your pupils. (Ask your doctor to measure it, or do it yourself.) Finally, you've got to navigate online shops that tend to be poorly designed and full of copy errors and poor English.

Advertisement

If you're willing to soldier through all of this, the payoff is grand. When the glasses arrive, you're elated that you pulled it off, that you've got something so expensive for next to nothing. It's a familiar Internet sensation, reminiscent of the first time you placed a classified ad for free or downloaded an obscure song on Napster—the thrill of pulling something over on an entrenched cartel. Do I sound a bit evangelical? That's the other effect: When you've just bought glasses for $50, you yearn to tell everyone you know.

That's what happened to Ira Mitchell, a software engineer in the Twin Cities who was so surprised and thrilled at the deals he found for glasses online that he started a blog to popularize the industry. Glassy Eyes has grown into a community-review and how-to site for the online glasses business—if you're thinking about buying specs on the Web, start there. Mitchell told me that during the past couple of years, he's purchased 16 pairs of glasses online. He doesn't need that many, he says, but when they're so cheap, why not? He now buys frames to fit his mood or the current fashion. "For the first time, I can afford prescription sunglasses," Mitchell says.

Mitchell sometimes gets angry letters from optometrists who tell him that he's harming people's eyes. The big worry is that people will get a pair of glasses fitted with the wrong prescription and will wear them for a long time without realizing it. But that risk seems exaggerated; Mitchell says that only one of his purchases resulted in bad lenses, and he noticed it immediately. (Just to be safe, I took my $50 glasses to an optometrist's office for an inspection. The lenses matched my prescription.) Mitchell argues that Web shops might be helping to improve people's eye health by pushing us to get our eyes checked more often. For me, at least, that rings true. When I was paying a few hundred dollars per pair, I'd wait two or even three years before getting new specs, often way longer than was safe. Thanks to the Web, I've no longer got a reason to stumble around blindly.

Farhad Manjoo is a technology columnist for the New York Times and the author of True Enough.

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

A Comically Inane Court Opinion Just Upheld Puerto Rico’s Gay Marriage Ban

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 23 2014 3:55 PM Panda Sluggers Democrats are in trouble. Time to bash China.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Culturebox
Oct. 23 2014 6:07 PM Devil in a Trenchcoat Will the new NBC series bring Constantine into the mainstream, or ruin the character forever?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM South Florida’s Desperate Secession Movement
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 23 2014 5:42 PM Seriously, Evolution: WTF? Why I love the most awkward, absurd, hacked-together species.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.