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Consumer Confidential: Glasses are still too damn expensive

David Lazarus, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Business News

And because Paris-based EssilorLuxottica also owns the EyeMed vision plan — my vision plan — it has enormous influence over independent optical shops. Its reach extends to virtually every aspect of the eyewear market.

Think about it. Without intending to, I ended up purchasing EssilorLuxottica frames and EssilorLuxottica lenses while using EssilorLuxottica’s vision plan. It’s inescapable.

The company has “too much market control,” Butler observed. “The Federal Trade Commission does not seem to realize how much market control EssilorLuxottica has.”

No one at the company responded to my questions. The FTC declined to comment.

In the meantime, here are some tips for saving money on eyewear:

—If, unlike me, you have a relatively simple prescription, don’t hesitate to shop online. Web-based optical companies have become increasingly reliable and make returns easy if there’s a problem.

—Zenni offers terrific deals, but I prefer the choices provided by GlassesUSA. If you’re interested in having new lenses put into old frames (a smart move), check out LensDirect and Lensabl.

 

—For the best brick-and-mortar eyewear prices, Costco is hands down the least expensive option. Walmart also offers good deals, while Warby Parker will provide high style at a relatively low price.

—Don’t hesitate to haggle. Your independent optometrist won’t like it, but he or she may be open to modest discounts to maintain your business in the face of online competition.

Finally, there needs to be recognition that prescription eyewear is healthcare. That means lenses, if not frames, should be covered by health insurance.

Nearly two-thirds of American adults wear glasses, and that number is steadily rising, creating enormous economies of scale.

A fair, honest market would reflect this.

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