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Consumer Confidential: Glasses are still too damn expensive

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

“You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8,” Butler said. “For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you’d get from Prada.”

As for lenses, “you can buy absolutely first-quality lenses for $1.25 apiece.”

Think about that when you shell out hundreds of dollars for new glasses, as I recently had to do, even with the miserly discount programs that pass for “vision coverage” in this country.

“It’s ridiculous,” Butler acknowledged. “It’s a complete rip-off.”

My latest dip into the glasses pool showed me it’s still a complete rip-off, but there’ve been some incremental improvements since the last time I purchased eyewear.

The rise of online optical shops is placing downward pressure on prices. Cut-rate outlets such as Zenni Optical and GlassesUSA offer decent frames and lenses for a fraction of what you might pay at a brick-and-mortar store.

 

According to the Vision Council, most people pay an average of $126.47 for frames. I found a nice pair of Ray-Bans at a Los Angeles optometrist’s shop that retailed for $207 but, with my employer-sponsored EyeMed vision plan, cost me $63.

Don’t forget, though: The frames probably ran about 10 bucks to manufacture. So even at $63, that’s a big markup. At $207, it’s ridiculous.

I require progressive lenses with prisms and antiglare coating. I also wanted photochromic lenses that would darken in sunlight. They retailed for $615. With my vision plan, the lenses cost $382.

Even fancy-schmancy lenses like these can run only a few bucks to manufacture. In any case, their production doesn’t cost anywhere close to hundreds of dollars.

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