We've got our eyes on a few eyeglass stores (sorry), but we're awaiting your input to pick a winner.
We can tell you the store that did not make the cut. I lost my glasses and needed a quick replacement before a trip, so I went to LensCrafters in the Irvine Marketplace since it promises "glasses in about an hour." The prices of glasses are outrageous to begin with, but LensCrafters seems especially bad. I think LensCrafters has fallen into what I call the "Shell approach to
discounting." Shell Oil states that you can save five cents a gallon if you use a Shell credit card. So the next time you drive by a Shell station, compare its prices to the stations on the other corners. Sure enough, the price is usually at least five cents higher than everyone else. LensCrafters appears to work the same way. The store is constantly sending out coupons that appear to offer big savings, but even with the "discounts" LensCrafters is far more expensive than other stores. Read the fine print on the discounts and you'll find that they always involve a tradeoff. For example, we checked the prices during a half-price promotion and found that the half-price was only on the lenses, and only if you paid FULL price for the frames. Even with the alleged half-price lenses, the total cost for a pair of glasses exceeded $500. The same glasses could be purchased at Costco for $189.
If you must go to LensCrafters, here are some tips: LensCrafters offers an AAA
discount that is usually better than the coupons. Here's another tip: Costco is far cheaper (no surprise there) but admittedly has a far more boring selection. Final tip: LensCrafters will mount their lenses into your frames. Customers have reported to us that they beat the system by finding frames they like at LensCrafters, buying them on ebay for a fraction of the cost, and then going back to LensCrafters for the glass. This approach can work especially well under insurance plans, where the glass is covered but not the frames.
Back to my saga. My prescription had expired, so I first needed an appointment with the LensCrafters' "eye doctor". (OK, another quick aside. Am I the only one bothered by the requirement that I obtain a prescription for something I'm going to stick on my face? What's next -- a prescription before I can buy a pair of shoes?) I left a two hour block of time for the appointment, but he never got to me before I had to leave. I was forced to return the next day and wait all over again. (So much for glasses in about an hour.)
Once I got my prescription and picked out my frames, it turned out that the "glasses in about an hour" only applies if you do nothing special to the lens, such as any coatings. I would have preferred such coatings, but given the time factor I was forced to go bare.
I did get the glasses when promised, but I immediately did not like them. I have perfect far vision, but need the glasses for reading. Based on their doctor's prescription, they made some compensation for my far vision, making everything fuzzy. Equally bad, they ground the progressives such that the reading part was relegated to the extreme lower edge. To read, I had to basically face the ceiling and look down through the edge of my glasses.
LensCrafters has a satisfaction guarantee, so I returned with the glasses to seek a proper pair. For the next hour, they tried to convince me I didn't know what I was talking about and that there was no way to grind the glasses in the way I was suggesting. I have worn progressives for years; this was not some new experience. I know that it should not be necessary to look at the ceiling in order to achieve the correct angle to read something. I looked like a Monty Python routine. I finally had to get stern and threaten to sue
for breach of contract before the manager would honor the guarantee.
The new pair came out great and -- surprise -- it was possible to expand the reading area. Based on the high prices and poor service, we cannot recommend LensCrafters.
-- Hari Seldon
June 8, 2010