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Buying Glasses Online: Seven Claims Debunked Part 1

shopping online imageWe came across an online “article” with the headline: “These guys are putting glasses stores out of business.” It wasn’t actually a news article, it was an advertisement by a well-known online eyewear retailer. As you can imagine, our CEO (and licensed optician) Sheri, had a few things to say in response.

But not just because this online retailer claimed to be putting glasses stores out of business–it was because the advertisement made a lot of claims that were, in fact, untrue.

In fact, it told readers that they should buy glasses online, and listed the reasons why.

The problem is, as eye care professionals, we know that’s not actually good for your eyes. We’ve tested it out ourselves, and absolutely believe that–unless you are young, have healthy eyes and a very low prescription–you need a professional to be able to assess your needs, take measurements, make adjustments, and do all of the finely-detailed things to bring you the exact prescription you need for your sight. There’s a whole profession dedicated to just this, and an online store simply can’t measure up.
Alex in Mattisse 5050 'Butterfly Red'
So in response, Sheri and I (Alex, Cascadia Eye’s blogger) have taken each claim from the advertisement and done some in-depth debunking. Because we use a lot of words on the subject, we’re going to divide it into two parts for ease of reading.

Claim #1: Save up to 70% off Retail on prescription glasses online

Leading online stores cut out the middleman so you pay less

FALSE–The claim that online stores cut out the middleman, taking the frames from the factory to your home so you can get frames for under $150, may be true for the “leading” online glasses retailers. But claiming that they are the only way to save money, or the only stores that “cut out the middleman,” is incorrect. Because that is what Cascadia Eye does! We have written several articles about this in the past, and since then, we have expanded even further, going direct to manufacturers (even visiting their factories) and designing even more of our own frames from scratch.

Sheri says:

“We also cut out the middleman, but we offer hands-on service, fitting, expert measurements, and adjustments after the sale to our customers/patients–and our average price on Cascadia Eyewear frames is closer to $100.”

Claim #2: Bigger frame selection–your favorite brand, shape, or style

Leading online retailers can showcase over 3,000 frames on a single site

MISLEADING–Using big numbers like 3,000 frames makes it seem like the styles they showcase aren’t often just minor variations on the same theme. Sheri says, “Even as an expert in eyewear, after about 20-30 little thumbnail pictures of frames, they all look the same to me.”

Even more importantly, the disadvantage of thumbnail pictures is that you can’t try them on. And the disadvantage to having a huge frame selection comes in the form of decision fatigue–too many options–and not knowing what is actually just right for you when all you have to go on is a picture. And “try on” apps that superimpose glasses over a photo of your face won’t accurately represent the real effect.

Sheri says:

“The only way to get good eyewear that looks great on you and actually fits is to try them on! Even when people come into the stores and browse our boards, it takes an optician to pick frames off the board and encourage you to try them on. In fact, a large percentage of our patients/customers who choose a frame for themselves from the board don’t end up ultimately buying that frame–it is usually one chosen by a trained stylist, someone who knows how the bridges will fit, how the shape will work, and the correct size for each face.

“It is just roulette when you pick from the ‘thousands of styles and brands’ they offer on their websites. That said, at our stores we usually have between 400-700 frames to choose from—and we have 6 stores. I think any more than that would be a negative, not a positive.”

​Claim #3: No Sales Commission with online retailers

Online sites don’t try to “force” a sale on you. Retail store salesmen do.

FALSE–Let’s state right up-front that Cascadia Eye opticians do not make sales commissions, and in fact are encouraged to not up-sell patient and customers on special features they wouldn’t actually need. But this advertisement also says something else that is untrue for Cascadia Eye: it claims that 60%+ of eye doctor’s income comes from glasses sales. Speaking for ourselves, at Cascadia Eye our doctors offer routine eye exams and treat patients medically. They perform surgery, treat injury, and see people with chronic illnesses such as glaucoma and diabetes.

Sheri says,

“If we make even 25% of our money from glasses sales, that is an outstanding number for us. For the online glasses store to even mention that eye doctors make any percentage from eyeglass sales seems downright hypocritical–they make 100% of theirs from online sales. And with ads after ads online and untrue ‘headlines,’ no less.”

Now, it may be that those hard-hitting quota sales people are out there, but Sheri says you’re more likely to find them in the ‘evil giants’ (Luxottica owned) stores such as Sunglass huts, Lenscrafters, and so on.

And as a reminder, the above mentioned “evil giant” is one that we have written about in this article, and has also been exposed by this entertaining and informative web show. We highly encourage watching the video and then reading our blog about it.

Part 2 Coming Next Week

Next Monday, we will post the remainder of the claims and de-bunk them. I hope you read both parts, and get the same value out of this information that we do! We really do want what’s best for your eyes, and with a few exceptions, online shopping for glasses is not the solution.

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