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Mar 07, 2013

Of all the things you’ve bought online, have eyeglasses made it into your shopping cart yet? If not, it probably won’t be long before they do.  

Recently, I had a visit with Dr Dhavid Cooper, President & CEO of Frames Direct – the world’s largest online eyeglass retailer. Besides having a great accent, he gave me some tips to help as you “look” into that future!

In 1996, after a decade with a successful Optometrist practice in Houston, he was sitting around with his friends debating what this newfangled “internet” would do to the future of eyewear sales. Thinking it could be a good idea, they developed in keeping with their idea of a high-service, high-quality eyewear store.  Today, they get 45,000 unique visitors per day and any potential customer has access to speak with an Optometrist who will help them with questions about prescriptions, lens choices, and even the best frames for the shape of their face!  

Dhavid had some great tips for us, so let’s “look” at them!

1) What’s your Rx?

How long has it been since you’ve had an eye exam?  Be sure to visit your local optometrist and get an updated prescription.  You don’t want to spend hard-earned money on a hot pair of glasses that need to be replaced in 3 months because you’re getting headaches and seeing fuzzy.  

Your optometrist should explain your situation: far-sighted, near-sighted, astigmatism, etc. They should also tell you the type of lenses you need:  thinner hi-index, tinted, transitions, etc.  You should always receive a copy of your prescription - completely filled out with the PD (distance between the pupils) included.  And remember:  while your optometrist probably sells glasses, you have the choice to buy them anywhere.

2) What size are you?

What size frame is best for you?  Click here to see Dr. Cooper share the details.  Sizing can be a bit confusing because it’s not something we deal with on a regular basis - even when buying glasses in our local optical store.  In the past, you’ve probably just guessed this on your own.  

There are 2 numbers that determine your size.

1.   Eye Size 

This is the width of one lens measured in millimeters. It’s usually a number between 44mm and 62mm for an adult.

2.  Bridge Size 

This is the distance between the two lens sections of a frame (sometimes called the nose size). It’s usually a number between 14mm and 22mm for an adult.

You can look at a pair of your current glasses - find its size written on the inside of the arm pieces of most frames (provided you can read that little print – you may need help!).  You can also go to a store and note the size of those that look best on your face.

Here’s one of the advantages of buying online - you can use an online frame sizing tool and facial recognition software.  How awesome is that? Follow that up with a call or a live video chat to have a professional frame stylist evaluate your face shape and size in real time. 

I like this option because I don’t need to fight for the attention of the store clerk (who may or may not know what they’re doing) or listen to the girl next to me telling her friend “Oh my gawd Becky, did you see that girl…?”

3. Who are these people?

Be sure to purchase from reputable sites run by eye doctors.  Hundreds of eyewear sites are run by people with only web experience – not eye care professionals. Many of these sites tout big savings, but the quality of the frames & lenses are difficult to determine unless they have a brand name attached to them.  One of the reasons for the “savings” is that they are selling cheap imports (both for frames and especially for lenses).  There are eyeglass lenses for sale on some sites for under $10 - common sense tells you that a quality prescription lens will cost more than that. Such cheap lenses can can cause fatigue, strain, and be harmful for your eyes.  

Here are 3 tips to determine if a website is reputable: 

1. Stay away from no-names.  Only buy name-brand frames and/or lenses online.

2. Make sure the company validates your prescription or at least asks for an authentic copy.  If there isn’t a professional confirming your prescription information, you might get incorrect lenses that could damage your eyes.

3. Check this review site for online sellers:

It’s a new day for us as consumers. Zappos transformed the online shoe-buying experience. Apple transformed the online music-buying experience.  The time is certainly here for buying prescription eyeglasses, sunglasses, and contacts online.  Now that summer is on the way, I think it’s time to get some good quality sunglasses that’ll actually look good on me!

Now, it's time for you to tell us your story.  How do you feel about buying glasses online?  Have you done it?  Would you try it?

P.S. If you’re a freshbenies customer, you’ll get an even better price from (and even at your local store).  Click here to learn more or call the number on the back of your card!


Reid has a passion for helping brokers & employers strategize fresh approaches to benefit plans that contain costs and increase access to care - helping employers & employees control their healthcare dime, time, and peace of mind. He writes & speaks around the country and is the Co-Founder & CEO of freshbenies.

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