Ask the LensCrafters eyeglasses consultant

I get a lot of questions about my job from both customers and acquaintances, and it seems to me that the general public doesn’t really know a lot about the process behind selecting the right pair of glasses and how they’re made. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you might have (rest assured I will answer truthfully, I personally would never encourage someone to buy glasses they don’t need). Some stipulations:

I am not a doctor of optometry or a optician. Please consult your doctor concerning your eye health, how often you should wear your glasses, etc.

I do not work in the lab making the glasses, but many of my friends do, and I can probably ask them questions relating to the process, etc.

The opinions expressed within are not neccesarily the opinions of LensCrafters. They are just the observations and beliefs of one employee. YMMV, TMI, etc.

So, that’s new. Last I heard you were with the kinder. I need new glasses. I should come see you.

So, do these frames look good on me?

I’ve bought three pairs of eyeglasses here in India. 2 of the frames were no-brand frames, which cost less than US$10 a piece, while one frame was a “designer” brand which cost about $90.

My prescription is fairly high, so I generally purchase the thinnest lens possible. At one small shop, these cost about $15. At a different large franchise shop, I got premium Kodak lenses for about $70.

So, I have 2 questions:

  1. I have never seen non-designer brand frames in the USA. It seems to me that there should be a market for $30 frames in the USA. Maybe I’m not looking hard enough, or all the consultants push me towards the designer frames. I really think $150+ is a rip of for a few pieces of metal or plastic.

  2. Are there differences in lenses? I was never really given options regarding lenses in the USA except for the options either a) a thinner version or b) an anti-reflective coating. But here in India, they had a whole catalogue of different types of lenses with their respective differences in prices. What gives?

What is the markup/margin on frames?

Why is a set of rimless “frames” which consists of two earpieces bolted directly to the lenses so expensive?

Why won’t they make sunglasses that you can put prescription lenses in? They usually come with the lenses superglued in, then welded together, then ritually sealed to each other by renegade priests in an unholy optometric black mass.

Even in the few ugly pairs where the lenses were replaceable, I was told, “oh, not for you, your prescription is too strong.”

I think it’s all a plot to sell me contacts so I can wear them underneath the all-in-one sunglasses, or the color-changing lenses that are never quite light or quite dark enough. But I’ll bet there’s a reason that doesn’t involve a vast conspiracy against me personally by the wily cabal that is the American Optometrists’ Association.

At LensCrafters, we sell designers like Persol, RayBan, Anne Klein, Versace, etc. If you just want some plain frames, you could probably got to a discount store and purchase frames there, and then come to LensCrafters and have us put in lenses for you. Otherwise, check the sunglasses frames, which are usually much cheaper than the other frames (around $60 instead of $140), pick out a frame that can be RX’d and just get clear lenses put in them.

Keep in mind what you’re paying for isn’t just the few bits of metal and plastic. Your LensCrafters should help you find a pair of frames and lenses that fit your lifestyle and budget, then you get a 30-day guarantee (90 days for perscription changes) for refunds/replacements for any reason, plus adjustments and repairs (which we’ll either do free or for just a couple of bucks). Plus the convenience of having glasses in about an hour, with a doctors of optometry right next door. You’ll spend a few nickles more to get a higher quality product.

There certainly are major differences concerning lenses.

We do not sell glass lenses anymore. They shatter too easily. I’ve been told you can special order them, but I’ve never seen this done.

We sell primarily plastic and polycarbonate lenses. Plastic is the cheapest, but I do not usually recommend it because it scratches too easily. The only cases in which I recommend plastic are (a) if the customer isn’t going to be wearing them for very long anyway, example if they’re getting LASIK in six months, or (b) if the customer is in danger of starving if they shill out the extra $60 bucks for polycarbonate.

Polycarbonate comes in several varieties:

(1) Featherwates, a nice basic lens I recommend for reading glasses.
(2) Featherwates Plus, more scratch-and-shatter resistant, what I have in my own glasses. This is what we put in all kid’s glasses.
(3) Invisibles, which have anti-glare coating.
(4) Featherwates Complete with Scotchguard, our most advanced lens, has high scratch-shatter-and-smudge resistance. Great if you work on computers or under fluorescent lighting. It also helps get rid of the haloes you see when you drive at night. Hellaciously expensive.

Ultimately, it depends on your lifestyle as to which lens is best for you. If you only wear your glasses for reading, I’ll suggest basic Featherwates. If you do a lot of night driving, I’ll suggest Completes.

So… if you don’t do the frames/lenses or the exams … what exactly does your job consist of?

A bitch to put together. We have to send them out to an outside lab to have them put together, which we will tell you will take 2 weeks (at our store it’s more like a week to a week and a half). They’re made with special equipment that has to drill through the lens material.

I keep the stock organized and tidy (we call it vendorizing) and scrub the store down so your fingers don’t get sticky pawing through those glasses cases. I’m the person who greets you at the door, listens to your problem, recommends solutions, and helps you find the frames and lenses you need. I sit you down at the computer, key in all your data, including your perscription, and take your measurements. I call your insurance company (don’t get me started on BCBS!) and ring up the final sale. I also assist with adjustments and repairs when I can. I dispense newly made glasses at the pick-up counter. I deal with the lab when customers are angry that their glasses aren’t finished in 45 minutes when I told them it would be an hour. I do exchanges and returns. If you have a problem, I fix it or direct it to a manager.

Some sunglasses aren’t RX’able. There should be a selection of sunglasses that are. Keep in mind, the higher your perscription is, the more curved your lenses have to be. A curved lens in a straight frame becomes a war between the frame and the lens that the frame inevitably looses. You don’t want your $235 lens popping out, do you?

Transitions (the color-changing lens) are nifty but are NOT a substitute for sunglasses. If you need sunglasses, don’t let anyone sell you Transitions. Tell them you want sunglasses that are appropriate to your script.

No, your jaw is square so I’d recommend these Vittadinis right here with a rounder curve to the edges. Softens your overall appearance.

Two jobs, doncha know? And you’re welcome to come see me anytime! I’ll make sure you’re well taken care of.

I am not an “eyeglass consultant” or whatever, just someone who’s been wearing glasses for 30+ years.

There are sunglasses called “solar shields”. They fit over regular glasses. They are the best solution to the sunglasses-for-4-eyes I’ve yet found. (I, too, get told my Rx is "too strong’ to fit into sunglasses, even the thinnest lens available in my Rx is too thick for clip-ons, the color-changers are satisfactory for me, either, I don’t even have the option of using contacts… so yes, it’s a problem.) I originally found them at Wal-Mart, but I’ve been seeing them at Meier’s, Walgreen’s, and other places. $12-20, which ain’t particuarly cheap, but they work.

As a side benefit, they protect my Rx glasses from scratches and abrasions. I hate the way plastics lenses (of ANY sort!) scrape, scratch, and deteriorate compared to glass. I used to get glass lenses and never broke a lens, despite treating them rather roughly, but I have a TERRIBLE time with scraping up plastic lenses. It doesn’t help that my Rx is so effing expensive. But no one wants to do glass lenses anymore

In fact, my Rx is such a trauma that I don’t even bother going to places like Lenscrafters, since I fall outside of “most” prescriptions in about an hour.

I have two questions:
-I’ve been getting my glasses (and clip-on sunglasses) through my opthamologist for the last decade, due to my worsening myopia (Is -6 bad? I seem to remember that number) and increasingly poor results at the chains in the malls. This cost me over $800 the last time with high-index material, coatings, etc. Can LensVision et. al. cover me these days, or is the market at that end too small?

-“About an hour”. Why so coy? I know these are supposedly custom ground, cut, fitted, etc. optical devices here and not pepperoni pizzas, but surely you’re just encouraging people to be demanding, no?

Not knowing the specifics of your case, I can say you might have some luck if you take advantage of discounts. LensCrafters accepts some insurances (15 to 20% off is the norm) but there are a number of other deals people forget to take advantage of – show your AARP or AAA cards and get 30% off, children under 12 get 50% off, and there’s also deferred payment plans (there’s a new one called ‘Six Months Same As Cash’ which I’m not familiar with yet). It might be worth talking to your local LensCrafters to examine your options.

Difficult scripts carry high price tags. Trifocals and Progressives can easily go into the $300s, just for lenses alone. Really unusual perscriptions have to be special ordered, but those are so rare I’ve never dealt with one.

Marketing tactic to get people in through the door. Although I find it amusing how many people have evidently never seen the commercials – every few days I’ll have a customer who is surprised to discover that their new glasses will be done in an hour!

Missed this one earlier. The glasses come with their price-tags attached, we don’t mark them up in the store. We have a database on our computers which shows the prices for every frame we sell. I’ll see if my managers know more about the markups next time I’m at work.

Probably because those of us with weird Rx’s are probably going somewhere else - you folks are set up to deal with the general, run of the mill eye script, not the likes of me.

I have dropped by a LensCrafters when I needed on-the-spot frame repair or adjustment, though - and I’m never charged for it, which I find a little puzzling (but I’m not complaining!)

Has Lasik had a major effect on your business?

I lust after the sunglasses that are like the old fashioned blind persons glasses, wire frames, with side pieces of glass … what the heck are they called? I like the funky oldfashioned look and hate the ultra mod wraparounds … Occasionally you can see people doing welding firewatch wearing them, but I have checked most of the safety oiptics stuff online, and the mountain climbing stuff online and still have had no luck finding them …