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

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Propublica
Oct. 17 2014 4:21 PM Why the Poor Pay $1,400 for Old iPads #MuckReads: A weekly roundup of investigative reporting from ProPublica.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 1:54 PM Republican Midterm Debate Strategy: Be Pro-Life, But Not Anti-Abortion
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Behold
Oct. 19 2014 4:33 PM Building Family Relationships in and out of Juvenile Detention Centers
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.