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Online eyeglasses #2: lower price, better quality?

24 May 2009 374 views 3 Comments

I was happy with my $57 online eyeglasses from Zenni Optical back in 2007 (see also parts 1, 2 & 3). They weren’t perfect, but saving $350 was really nice. Since then, the cheapo magnetic shades have broken (I wish I’d gotten a couple of spares at $5/ ea) and I got tired of the arms sticking out too much.

I was going to wait until we moved to Costa Rica to get a new prescription, since I figured it would be cheap (~$7 was the high quote so far) and unlike the US, you keep your own medical records here so getting the Rx itself would be no problem.

I’d periodically check the various sites out there to look for frames and keep abreast of prices, and everything seems to be in the $40-80 range for a typical pair for me. Since I started using Twitter in the past couple of months, I started following Ira (aka GlassyEyes) who pretty much kicked this whole thing off with a blog post in 2006. He posts about deals and such and I noticed a recent entry about getting a new pair of glasses in 2 days.

It turned out to be a company called Coastal Contacts and what caught my eye on their site were a few $6.95 frames. I’ve seen such low-priced frames before, but not from places that included the lenses. At the usual places, the price gets jacked up because of the strength of my prescription, but not here! Plus, anti-reflective coating and decently thin lenses (1.61 index( were included. The actual cost of the eyeglasses came to $6.95, plus $0.48 for handling. I found a free shipping code online, so the total I paid for my new glasses was $7.43!

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I figured if they sucked I could get lenses here (which have been quoted at ~$40 here – I’d much rather buy online). I can’t say for sure how long the shipping took – they were ordered on April 27 and seem to have arrived at my courier service in the US on May 6 (I didn’t go for the 2 day shipping). When I finally got my glasses, everything exceeded my expectations.

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Here’s the unboxing. The case is some rubbery material that reminds me of the exterior of an IBM laptop. It’s much better than what Zenni gave (I’d give extra points if the next case was covered in naugahyde). The two extras at the top were thoughtful touches – a keychain adjustment/screwdriver tool and a cleaning cloth that fits in a wallet. The ‘Thank you’ inside the box was nice as well. Also included is a 20% coupon for a first-time buyer (that’s going to be Trish).

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I guess ‘Clearly Contacts’ is/was another name for the company. The glasses themselves came in a soft sheath, presumably to protect them during shipping. That’s another nice touch, especially since I learned years ago that UPS drivers like to play football with their packages whenever given a chance.

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Here are the glasses themselves. I opted for something with pads this time to lessen the slipping down the nose my old acetate frames would do all the time. These glasses slip less but I can also make them fit a little better if needed.

I also think these frames are a steal for $6.95, even without the lenses. The front part is metal and the arms are plastic, plus they have spring hinges. The quality of the overall frame is a step up from my last pair.

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Now can you guess what brand they are? They’re not any name brand – they’re ‘Ltede,’ according to my receipt. I refuse to pay extra to get a logo on a pair of frames. Frames are the biggest point of mark-up in eyeglass pricing, and spending $100+ for a frame completely defeats the purpose of buying eyeglasses online.

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Like any eyeglass prescription, it takes a couple of days to get used to. Just like the last time, things seemed oddly curved around the edges, likely due to the difference in lens size. I got a mild headache staring at my computer screen in mediocre lighting the first night, but that’s to be expected. The prescription itself is excellent – maybe better than my old pair. Everything – and I mean everything, near, far, what have you – is sharp & clear. Maybe my prescription hasn’t changed or maybe Coastal Contacts nailed it, but I love the clarity I’m experiencing with these.

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This pair also fits really, really well. The other pair was a bit big and the arms bowed out way too much. This pair is just what Goldilocks ordered. Just-right width, not too large lens area. And the shiny front matches my head.

I’m totally sold on Coastal Contacts as I don’t see how the price to quality can be beaten by anyone. I’m going to order another pair or two, or maybe three or four. I’ll see if Ira mentions any deals on his blog or Twitter (there are a couple of coupon codes right now).

One last thing: Coastal Contacts seems to be run by humans (they can be reached by phone) and they care about customer service. They contacted me on Twitter, thanked me for the order and followed up to see how I liked the glasses. They are on the right track and their competitors should pay close attention.

I don’t have anything negative to say about the experience at all. Great, price, great fit, great quality and actual customer service. I think Coastal Contacts will dig the review ;-) (Hey Coastal – any chance of a thank you in the form of a pair of sunglasses? :-P)

3 Comments »

  • seoopticiansharrow said:

    Great idea and piece of work executed & implemented.

  • lyrker said:

    Great review. It’s so hard to decide which online retailer to buy from. I have a strong prescription and a limited budget so your advice means a lot. :)

  • Arp (author) said:

    Glad to be of help. Due to my prescription, I usually can’t get the cheapest pair a site offers (that’s also what resulted in me spending ~$400 for my last pair at LensCrafters). I just ordered two more pairs from Coastal for ~$60 each.