blogs.ajc.com- Clark Howard: Save big buying glasses online

01/04/2011 Back

The December issue of Consumer Reports has taken a close look at eyeglasses retailers, and one of my favorite stores has topped the list of best places to buy a pair of spectacles.

For the first time, Costco Wholesale has been identified as the No. 1 place to buy glasses. According to Consumer Reports, Costco’s average price for a complete pair of eyeglasses is $157, while the industry retail average is $200. (In prior years’ surveys, Costco was in second place behind independent local eyeglass shops. Now the indies are taking a backseat to Costco!)

A number of the big chains got horrible scores in the December tally. J.C. Penney Optical and America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses both tied for last place.
For my money, I’ve bought cheap prescription eyeglasses from mainland China from a company called ZenniOptical.com over the years. Their complete prescription eyeglasses (lenses and frames) start at $7, with an additional $5 for shipping.

Many people have let me know repeatedly on the message boards at ClarkHoward.com that Zenni can be a customer service nightmare. If the glasses come as intended and the prescription is right, well, people are just happy as a clam. But if something goes wrong, it’s almost impossible to make it right.
There are a number of other sellers of complete prescription eyeglasses for under $20. (If you wear bifocals or progressives, you can run that bill up to $40.) Some of the ones I’ve discussed in the past include EyeBuyDirect.com and GlassesUnlimited.com.

Typically, you’ll pay one-fourth to one-sixth the usual price with the online sellers versus the traditional retailers. But again, you have the issue of limited customer service after the sale with online glasses transactions.