I have worn glasses since I was about seven years old. Very strong, very thick, Coke bottom glasses. When I was a child, the fashion was to wear a big lens – the bigger the better - so my glasses covered almost half of my face. Coupled with braces, straight oily hair, and a face full of acne – well, I was looking a little rough.
When I was a teenager, my father took me for contact lenses, and I wore those until I moved out of the house. Once I was living on my own, I could no longer afford contact lenses, and so I went back to big glasses.
I have not worn glasses full-time since I got married. (This is the point where my husband falls down in prayer and gratitude.) All of my children, though, have inherited my bad vision, and they all wear glasses. If not glasses, then contact lenses. We are very fortunate to have vision insurance, even though it is some of the worst vision insurance around. It only covers an exam every two years, but eye doctors will not write a prescription that will last longer than a year. So unless I want to buy the children - who are very tough on glasses - six pairs at a time, I'm usually stuck one year in, with trying to figure out how to get their eyes re examined.
I decided last week that I needed to buy my son new glasses. He's been trying to look through the scratches for several months now, and I also wanted to get a new pair for myself. The pair that I wear, although I only wear them at night and first thing in the morning, has a prescription that is more than 10 years old. They give me headaches. But also they are very, very unattractive, and although I know I don't look great in glasses, I thought I might be able to find a pair that was slightly less hideous.
Being that this is an off year for our insurance, I decided that my son and I would go to the place that rhymes with "Schmerika's Fest". After all, they offer two pair of glasses plus a free exam for just $69.95. I figured at that cost, I could afford for both of us to get new glasses.
My first hint that maybe this wasn't a good idea was in the initial exam, when I was asked if I wanted to spend $15 extra dollars per person to have the health of my eyes assessed. I was little puzzled– wasn't that the point of having eye exam? No, I did not want to spend $15 a person. The technician was baffled. Why would you not want to do that she wondered, surely your eye health is worth a measly $30?
No. Lead me to the next step, if you please.
Both eye exams went off without any further hitch. Neither one of our prescriptions have changed much, and so then we went out to choose our new frames. We both found frames, and then it became time to place the order. I had come in on a 2 pair of eyeglasses for $69.95 promo. Imagine my shock when I was handed the bill for more than $500.
Five. Hundred. Dollars.
I asked why there was a difference. I was told mumbo-jumbo about "difficult prescriptions", the age of my son, how thick my lenses would be, and the fact that we needed plastic lenses, because my eyes were supremely difficult to fit and so on and so on. In fact, my eyes were just so supremely difficult to fit that the eye doctor walked right into the back room and pulled out a standard pair of contact lenses. That's how difficult my prescription is.
My two pair of glasses alone totaled $228. When I asked how much it would be if I only bought one pair of glasses, I was told $268. Apparently, you get a $40 discount if you buy a second pair of eyeglasses. Tell me, in what world does this make sense?
I declined to purchase my glasses. I did however, purchase glasses for my son, mostly because he has a very difficult time finding glasses that he likes, and he had found two pair that he really did like. When we ordered them though, I made very certain that I discovered what his pupillary distance was, so that I will never be forced to buy glasses at this price again.
I knew I could have bought eye glasses online, but we needed new prescriptions, and I thought $69.95 was a good deal. After all, I'd pay more than that just to get our eyes examined anywhere.
I then went to Walmart. I could've ordered my own eyeglasses online, except that I do not know what my pupillary distance is, and I don't want to guess at it. So I went to Walmart, found a cheap pair of frames for $18, and bought a pair of glasses for less than $40.
And I found out what my pupillary distance is. So now, at least for both of us, I can buy glasses online.
And you better believe that I am not going back to the place that rhymes with "Schmericka's Fest".