How much did you pay for your last pair of glasses? I paid about 60 NIS including frames, lenses, and coatings! Was it a super sale at Optical Halperin or Opticana? Nope!
Buying glasses online
Zenni Optical was one of the first direct-to-consumer, online eyeglass stores. With no brick-and-mortar structure, they can manufacture and ship them at ultra cheap prices.
How does it work?
- First, pick out your frames. Currently, frames come in a variety of price ranges including $6.95, $9.95, $12.95, $15.95, and $19+. Over the last few years, my family has bought two pairs at $8, three pairs at $9.95, one pair at $12.95, and one pair at $16.90. (Prices have changed slightly over the years.)
- The price of the frames includes regular lenses, UV protection, anti-scratch coating, and a case and cleaning cloth.
- You can get extras such as tinting to make them into sunglasses or an anti-glare coating for $4.95 each.
- Shipping is charged per order: $9.95 to international destinations such as Israel (or $4.95 to the US).
Some things to keep in mind
- It can be hard to know what frames you will like without trying them on. For us, we’ve usually tried to purchase one pair that is as similar as possible to a pair which we already have and like.
- Zenni makes this easier by listing the measurements of each part of the frame for each frame. By looking at the general shape of your current frame and taking its measurements, you are likely to find a pair that closely matches what you have.
- In addition, we usually also purchase a second, backup frame that is a bit different or more adventurous. My wife has ended up liking her risky choices while mine remained backup pairs.
- You don’t need to present a prescription. However, you do need to have the information available including your pupillary distance (PD).
- Some eye care professionals will withhold your PD on purpose, in an effort to prevent you from easily going to other suppliers (including online stores) to fill your prescription. In the US, it is your right under federal law to receive your PD when getting your prescription. In Israel, there does not seem to be such an entitlement.
- I was able to get my PD by calling the store where I last filled my glasses prescription in the US. My wife did not know her PD. Instead, she informed our ophthalmologist that she needed to know her PD; the doctor told her to see the in-house eyeglass saleslady. My wife confidently told the eyeglass saleslady that the doctor told my wife to see her about getting her PD. So, with a little assertiveness, she got it!
- If you did not know your PD, consider telling the healthcare provider, in advance, that you expect to receive your PD as part of the prescription and that it is a condition of you using them, or you will seek another healthcare provider who will.
- As a last resort, it is possible to have a friend or family member measure your PD, though it is very important to make sure you record the number accurately.
- As an adult, once you find out your PD, you are set; PD is supposed to stay constant once you reach adulthood.
Mailing to Israel
- Up until now, we’ve had them mailed to the US and brought over by family or friends. Soon, we’ll be placing our first order using their delivery service to Israel.
Given that mailing costs $9.95, we won’t let the cost of our eyeglasses and extras exceed $40.04, in order to avoid the tax and customs on packages with a value of $50 or greater and, hopefully, also ensure that the package meets the requirement of being 2 kg or less.
Update 30 January 2012: Internet purchases up to $75 are now tax-free, so you can order $65.05 worth of glasses before shipping - between 3 and 8 pairs for most people – without worrying about taxes.
- Update 8/8/2011: We placed our order for three pairs of glasses ($34.80 + $9.95 shipping = $44.75 total which is less than 160 NIS). The glasses arrived by FedEx delivery to our door in less than 10 days from when we placed the order!
A number of people I know have used Zenni Optical to their – and their wallet’s – great satisfaction. With eyeglasses costing in the hundreds or even thousands of shekels, it’s important to save money, if possible, on this significant purchase. And, if you have children who need glasses and treat them as if they’re disposable, I imagine you agree that cheap is the way to go.
Feel free to share your own experience with Zenni Optical, other online stores, or eyeglass purchases in general in the comments.