Ever-changing fashions mean an ever-changing selection in eyewear stores. There have been design evolutions: today’s eyewear is lighter and available in more styles than ever before. The new contact lenses are more comfortable and the disposable lenses do not require any maintenance.
Despite these innovations, purchasing specifications and contacts can be a major problem. The Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook nonprofit survey of thousands of local consumers found that many vision centers score very low for advice from their staff, speed and others. problems. And our research on undercover shopping indicates that many stores are priced way too high.
Dozens of stores received “top” ratings for overall service quality from at least 80% of customers surveyed, while others received equally favorable ratings of less than 50%. In general, chains and franchises were rated lower than independent businesses, but there was variation between each type of outlet. Until February 5, Inquirer readers have free access to local optical store Checkbook reviews for quality and price at Checkbook.org/Inquirer/Eyewear.
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When shopping for new eyewear, you can easily feel overwhelmed by the countless models and brands. But much of that variety is an illusion: The lion’s share of eyewear on the market – including those sold under popular designer brands – comes from a few Italian companies with names you probably won’t recognize: Luxottica, Marcolin. , Safilo.
Luxottica does not just manufacture millions of pairs of glasses each year; it markets and also sells them in more than 7,000 retail stores that it manages. Although the name “Luxottica” does not appear on their signs, when you walk into LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Target’s optics department, Sunglass Hut, and many other outlets, you are shopping at a space or store the company giant owns or controls.
Luxottica owns several brands, including Ray-Ban and Persol. And other branded specs are created by the eyewear giants through licensing agreements, which means those Coach, DKNY, or Michael Kors frames could all have been produced at the same factory. With only a few companies controlling both the manufacture and distribution of most of the frames sold, it’s hard to know if you’re getting a good deal or not.
The way to assess value is to buy from a store that offers great advice – where you’ll be told if more expensive frames justify their higher prices, or you would do just as well with a lesser-known brand. Many independent retailers stock a wide variety of frames. Some companies do not sell any Luxottica products. For example, Warby Parker offers $ 95 single lens glasses in funky and trendy frames. It started out as an internet-only business that sent frames for customers to try on before ordering.
It still offers the try-on options for online orders, but the company has opened more than 130 physical stores in the United States and Canada, including several in the Philadelphia area.
Undercover Checkbook shoppers collected prices for 18 models of glasses (with single prescription lenses) and discovered that some Delaware Valley outlets charge twice as much as others. For example, for a pair of Ray-Ban RB5228 frames, the prices in the stores surveyed ranged from $ 198 to $ 508. The best news: You don’t have to pay more for quality advice and service: Checkbook buyers have often found low prices at top-rated stores.
The checkbook researchers also collected the prices of six brands and models of contact lenses and found even greater price and charge differences between stores. For example, for a one-year supply of Biotrue ONEday Daily Disposable Contact Lenses (plus exam and fit), prices ranged from $ 564 to $ 962. Among vision centers, Checkbook found that Costco, along with a few independents, offered the lowest prices for contacts.
You can save a lot by buying from some online retailers, but not all. Checkbook bought glasses and contacts at a sample of Internet stores. For eyewear, prices at almost all online retailers were significantly lower than those at the stores surveyed – several sites were offering prices less than half of those offered by local stores. Online sellers not only tend to offer very low prices, but they also offer a much wider selection of frames.
One obvious downside to buying glasses online is that unless you replace the frames you like with an identical one, you usually can’t try on different frames to see what they will look like on your face. Some sites allow you to upload a photo of yourself so you can try out frames virtually or will send frames to you to try them out, but most buyers will find it much easier to compare the options in person. . Fortunately, liberal return policies are the norm among online eyewear sellers, so you can easily return specs if you’re not completely satisfied.
As with glasses, Checkbook found that online contact lens retailers were cheaper than local outfits – charging about 30% less than local brick-and-mortar retailers. But you can’t count on the low prices of every online vendor – some well-known online vendors were offering above average prices found at the cheapest outlets in the area.
Delaware Valley Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a non-profit organization whose mission is to help consumers get the best service and the lowest prices. It is supported by consumers and does not take any money from the service providers it reviews.