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Buying your glasses online vs. at an Optical: Buyer beware, you get what you pay for!

These days its easy to buy things online; groceries, clothes, shoes, food, even medicine. But what if you need glasses? Sure you'll save time and money. But what about the quality, style and fit? The Headline reads "Complete pair of glasses for only $50" You go ahead and click the link and browse through the hundreds of frames they have on their website. You find a pair that you think may look good and off you go placing the order for your glasses. You enter your prescription and PD (Pupillary Distance) information, select the coatings/filters and voila. Easy, right? Except buyer beware! Issues with your selected glasses not fitting right or not being the exact prescription are potential cons to buying glasses online. There might be problems associated with the fit of the frame not sitting correctly on your face or even not being able to see through the lenses because of an error in PD calculation.

There are advantages and disadvantages to buying your glasses online. Weigh the options below, before you make an online purchase.

Convenience & Price

Buying glasses online can be convenient. It can save you a trip to the store. You can scroll through thousands of styles of eyeglasses in a matter of minutes and shop around with ease.

Buying glasses from an online retailer can end up saving you between 30 and 75 percent over optical store prices. This is often due to the level of competition and the ability of online shoppers to shop around. You can compare prices between multiple providers with ease, and find the best deal by doing your research. But what online retailers don't tell you is that a lot of their frame selections, designer or not are discontinued models. Therefore giving them the ability to sell at a higher discounted rate.

Fit & Prescription Issues

One of the benefits of visiting an actual optical store is that a trained eye care professional can walk you through the process of selecting, fitting, and buying your glasses. They can explain the ins and outs of different lens features and ensure that the frame you choose fits your your face correctly.

When you shop in person, all glasses are customized for you specifically. Prescription errors are more common when buying your glasses online than from an optical store. Online retailers may not be able to accommodate your specific prescription either. Many times, glasses ordered online do not fit correctly or the prescription is off.

When ordered online, your glasses may not look the way you expected them to. You may not like them when you see them in person. It can be difficult to choose color and style from a website as opposed to actually seeing them on your face in the mirror at an actual optical store.

You will still need to visit an optometrist for an eye exam and a prescription for corrective lenses. There's the possibility that you will then have to go and get them adjusted, or you’ll have to deal with the hassle of attempting an exchange or getting a refund. Taking away from the convenience of online ordering in the first place. Which ultimately means a trip to the optical store after all.

The quality of frames/lenses purchased online can also be an issue. You can't tell how good the quality is until they come in the mail. Sometimes the low price may also be the result of poor materials.

When to Buy Glasses Online

If you're okay with compromising the quality of the frame and lenses, and possibly needing an adjustment then online is the way to go.

If you're unsure about the fit and frames and not clear on how to measure your face and eyes yourself, have a pro fit you in person. If you have a specialized prescription, such as a need for progressive lenses, you may not be able to order glasses online. You may need to get them from a traditional optical store. You'll need your pupillary distance (PD) measured in order to buy glasses that fit from any source, online or in store. This is the distance between the centers of both of your pupils, and is specific to your eyes and face. Online retailers do provide information on how to measure this distance yourself, but it is most accurate when measured by a trained professional.

According to online sources 4 percent of eyeglasses purchased in the North America in 2018 were bought from an online retailer. While that number is likely to continue to grow with time, at this point, most eyeglasses are still purchased from an actual physical storefront.

Ultimately, there are pros and cons to buying your glasses online versus in person. Weigh all your options before making a purchase.