Purchasing contact lenses online-- experiences?

Here’s the situation:

Having tired of my glasses, due to their weight on my nose and their strain around my ears, and lamenting my inability to wear sunglasses without 1) performing a complicated switcheroo, and 2) being blind, I decided to get a new contact lens prescription. (I already have contacts, but they’re somewhere in a drawer 3,000 miles away, in a very outdated prescription.)

Our local Costco has an optical department, where one may obtain glasses and/or contact lens prescriptions. Roomie is a Costco member. I am not.

Unfortunately, while Costco allows me to have the optical department perform an eye exam and give me a prescription, I cannot fill the prescription with Costco. Lacking an opthamologist of my own here (we moved here less than a year ago and have yet to find doctors), I can’t take it anywhere locally (that I’m aware of).

Fortunately, I’m curious about buying contacts online. And now I finally have an opportunity to try it for myself.

However, since I’ve never done this before, and since this will likely involve an investment of about $100, I would like to know if buying contact lenses online is safe and worthwhile.

So I turn to my fellow Dopers, and ask them to share their online contact lens purchasing experiences. Advice, warnings, and suggestions are also welcome.

They are just fine. I went with 1800Contacts.com and was very happy…and have been for 6 years. Please take caution when buying only in the sense that you may be tempted to over-buy. They often will offer massive quanitities with reduced rates. Decide how many you will actually wear in 6mo/year and stick with it. They will send you an email reminder when you are close to “out of stock” whereby you may just re-order. You can keep re-ordering for years without a perscription update-which is what I don’t like as you can go w/out an eye exam…

As far as the lenses…exactly the same as the Dr’s. give only much cheaper. You can also call around local dispensers to see if they will beat the price.

I also use 1-800-CONTACTS, and I’ve never had a problem. Unlike sj2, I like the fact that you can do it without a prescription update. My prescription hasn’t changed in the past 5 years, and my current insurance doesn’t cover eye exams, so I really didn’t see the need for me to get an exam this year.

I also get mine from 1800-Contacts, and I’m happy with them.
Don’t bother with the express shipping. I used regular shipping and they were here within 3-4 days.

Mine are $70 for 6 pairs. I use extended-wear disposables, and that lasts me about six or seven months.

One of the on-line places (can’t remember the name, but Linda Carter used to be their spokesperson) was a club that cost $100 a year just to join, plus the cost of the lenses. Don’t bother with that one.

Another 1800 contacts user here. Both my SO and I order from them. They ship really fast and we’ve had no problems. On my last order they reminded me to see my eye doctor for an exam (it’s been a few years, but my prescription hasn’t changed). They did fill my order, but said they wouldn’t fill anymore until I get a more recent prescription.

I really like ordering contacts online, so fast and convenient.

Wow, 1-800 Contacts gets a lot of Doper business. :slight_smile:

Today was my appointment, and right now I’m checking out various online contant lens merchants. The reason I’m not going with 1-800 Contacts right away is that I discovered that they don’t list the brand and type of lenses the doctor recommended (Fluoroperm 30) in their product list. I’ve just e-mailed them, hoping they can special order them.

If not, VisionDirect.com sells them. A third alternative is Lens.com, which carries Boston, a brand my doctor also mentioned and I suspect was the brand of my old contacts. I’m willing to go through the other two companies, although the fact I don’t know anything about their reputation gives me pause.

So right now I’m not sure which company I’ll end up buying from. But thanks, everyone, for your posting. I appreciate it.

Oh, BiblioCat, I think that was LensExpress. :slight_smile:

I have no really bad experiences. The worst thing that happened is my prescription ran out and they didn’t bother to tell me until I needed new contacts and tried to get a refill. This was somewhat annoying because I was scheduled for a long business trip and had to scramble to get an appointment. Other than that, they were fine.

Yes, it was LensExpress, AudreyK.
Thanks. I was shocked that they could claim to be saving people money while charging a $100 membership fee. What a scam.

Yeah, that is pretty bad.

I got a response from 1-800 Contacts within an hour (!). What it comes down to is that they don’t have my brands but they do have RGPs (rigid gas permeables) that might fit my needs. Kind of a disappointment, but hey, I was expecting it.

I’ll probably go with them anyway. There was no assurance the Fluoroperms or Bostons would be what I needed. It was going to be a “let’s see how it works out” situation anyway. So as I see it, I have two choices: I can either go with a company I’ve heard good things about and not necessarily get contacts that I need, or I can go with a company I’ve heard nothing about and not necessarily get the contacts I need. I feel safer taking the former.

Thanks again, everyone.

Thought I’d post an update.

Right now I’m wearing my new lenses. Hey, watch the eyes! :smiley: They arrived last Thursday. It took about 10 days for them to arrive-- five to seven for them to be manufactured, and another few for delivery. The entire process, starting from when I first called them, took about 14 days, because I couldn’t get to Kinko’s to fax my prescription right away. I understand that it usually doesn’t take that long to get lenses, but because mine weren’t ones they usually stock, it had to be special ordered. Hence the delay.

I actually wound up getting the exact brand and type-- Fluoroperm 30s-- I needed, so I’m quite pleased.

Of all the odd things to like, I really like the invoice. The top portion is ready for reordering, with my lens brand, type, and prescription already entered. I just check off how many pairs I want, enter my credit card info, and mail it. A great touch.

So, anyway, in summary, I love the lenses, and am happy with 1-800 Contacts. Thanks again for the recommendations, guys. :slight_smile:

How long are prescriptions usually valid for? I can’t seem to find mine. Will my optometrist give me a copy?

I used Lensmart which is based in Canada. If your vision hasn’t changed, you can order contacts from them without any prescription at all.

I also use 800 Contacts. I switched to contacts in February (for both diving and martial arts), and ordered my lenses online. (FTR, I wear 30-day disposables.) My experience is one good order in one try. I hope it goes to N for N.

Nitpick directed at the OP: An opthamologist is an MD of the eye. An optometrist is a doctor (OD) of vision.

My only disclaimer, which is kinda moot anyway:

If you are wearing contacts for the first time, I would recommend getting them evaluated from the optometrist. Once they are ok, then continue on your merry way. When I first got my contacts, they weren’t the right fit for me.

When dealing with eyes, its never a bad thing to be extra careful.

Lola, according to the checked boxes on my prescription, both the glasses and contacts prescriptions are good for two years.

Scuba, thanks. I’ve been to both constantly throughout my life, so you think I’d know the difference.

And finally, BNB, I’m supposed to go for a check up with the doc. This isn’t the first time I’ve had contacts, but, yeah, considering this is a new pair, I should get them checked. Thanks for reminding me.

The last time I went in to get new contacts, they gave me another brand than I’d been wearing. The new ones fit me a whole lot better; I hadn’t realized how annoying the old ones were, because they weren’t quite curved enough. But for some optometrical reason, they switched me again the next week. These have worked out great.

And it can’t hurt to get the doc to take a look. That’s how I ended up going through all those $%*# trial pairs of lenses. But my current ones are just lovely. FAR better than what I’d started with.