Re-lensing glasses by mail

Ira, the blogger behind the Glassy Eyes blog, is one of my heroes. He writes about online companies that sell prescription eyeglasses. I now buy all my prescription eyeglasses online and save a bundle.

Today, Ira writes that he is sending in a pair of cherised, but badly scratched, eyeglasses for re-lensing. If he reports back with good results, I've got some vintage eyeglass frames I'm going to get re-lensed. (This photo of Ira has mouth eyes!)

200802211514 I've not been easy on my lenses even when they were so criminally attached to the $350+ price tag... The thing is, I REALLY LOVE these glasses. I love the photochromic lenses. I love the look. Dare I say, they've become my trademark. I needed to get them re-done. I looked around and decided I'd give the folks at 39 Dollar Glasses a whack at replacing the lenses.

They're going in the mail tomorrow (with a significant amount of padding included in the box). I'll report back when they arrive.

This is also ("potentially" -- until I see the results) a great way to fill those vintage frames you just grabbed at the thrift store or off eBay without spending an additional fortune.



  1. I can’t believe that you brought up mouth eyes again. That picture of Mick Jagger is worse than goatse.

  2. I suppose if you have a simple prescription….

    No substitute for seeing professionals though. Your ophthalmologist every two years for sure.

  3. Be careful, though; the 39dollarglasses people are not always competent. Last time I ordered from them, they sent me such a horrendous pair of glasses that I had eye pain and headaches from wearing them. I went to the local optometrist and got them measured, and the interpupillary distance was off by a significant amount – enough to screw up one’s eyes.

    I got my next pair of glasses from the optometrist in question, paid a lot more than $39, and consider my lesson learned.

  4. A friend of mine went to a local optician to get some glasses re-lensed only to find that they wanted to charge a king’s ransom. He found some online service to do it for really cheap. Funny thing is that the frames were from cheap drug store sun glasses.

  5. In NYC, the boutique eyeglass shops will charge ~450 to put lenses in a pair of frames ( ultrathin, ultrilight, polycarb with all the trimmings ). The chains charge 300.

    There are a handful of not-fancy boutiques who charge 150. They contract the same labs as the fancy-boutiques for the grinding, but just do a 50% markup, not a 400%.

  6. when I am emperor there will be no opticians, optometrists, eyeglass shops etc. The inferior genes will be culled, CULLED I SAY!

  7. My parents live in Switzerland, and I make a habbit of buying my contact lenses there because you do not need a perscription, just turn up to the shop, tell them what you want, 2 days later go and collect your order.

    As it should be,

  8. I think a big problem is that people don’t realize that you can easily bargain down eyeglass prices. I found these really cool sunglasses at Hakim for only $90, but they wanted $380 for a single pair including the lenses. I got the guy there down to $200 total, including tax. Naturally, I broke them a week later.

    You can get the frames cheap online, but with something like glasses it’s better to be able to try them on. This goes doubly for tight fitting sunglasses.

  9. I love Ira’s blog! I’ve bought 2 pairs of glasses so far online and I’ll never pay retail shop prices again!

  10. For over three decades this is what I have done for a living.
    I started a business collecting unwanted frames,refurbishing them
    and fitting them with new lenses.
    My company Old Focals,provides most of the eyewear you see in movies, commercials etc. I also have a retail outlet in Pasadena,Ca.
    that caters to all.
    I am eagerly waiting for your follow up.

  11. We’ve been buying our glasses from Zenni Optical (5 pair now). They are cheap, fast, and our optician says the prescription is correct. In fact, he said as long as we were willing to wait a little longer to get the glasses, we were better off getting them online. We’ve been happy, and you can’t beat the price.

  12. I bought some glasses from a couple of years ago. The frames were pretty cheap. Though they fit fine and looked OK, I’d have liked to pick them in person. The lenses, though, were perfect.

    With anti-reflective coatings and everything, and a neato silver hard case (optional — the standard case is “free”), and shipping, IIRC they cost $80. It was nice to be able to select exactly the features and type of lenses I wanted without any haggling.

    They were shipped fairly promptly, inside the hard case, inside a padded envelope.

    I re-lensed some old glasses locally around the same time, and that cost $90; they wanted $150 to relens sunglasses, but I passed.

  13. I live in Guangzhou, China, which has an area of a street, Renmin Lu, dedicated to eyeglasses. I am talking about three-storey buildings crammed floor to ceiling with frames: tens of thousands from granny to funky to funkygranny. My first visit I bought a pair of cool frames with prescription lenses that were ready in two hour for about $40 US. That’s expensive because the lenses had to be high-index. My pair of prescription sunglasses in some cool black plastic frames were less than $20. I have had a problem with one of the lenses being off, but they replaced it no problem.
    My last pair of glasses from Canada, excluding the test, would get me about 10 pairs here, and I wouldn’t have to wait two bloody weeks.

  14. i will never again do business with

    i ordered an $80 some dollar pair of sunglasses, when they arrived the lenses were fit so poorly there were random millimeter gaps around the lenses.

    i sent them back to be remade, waited a month.. they came back still gaps albeit much smaller. I decided to live with it, and after wearing them for a bit i swear the pupil distance is off..

    thats what i get for trying to be as cheap as possible.

    Anyone else know an online optical place that dose polarized lenses?

  15. My son bought a pair of glasses online and while the prescription was correct, the frames broke within a couple weeks. I may give it a try for a spare pair, but I typically get my vintage frames lensed at ForEyes. They charge about $70 and if they screw up the frames you provide they will give you a free pair from their line. So far they have been perfect on 4 or 5 vintage frames that I have had done there.

  16. Coincidentally, my entire family bought our glasses (not just lenses) from the same website a few weeks ago. We figured we’d give it a shot and it was really fantastic.

  17. I bought frames and lenses at a large chain store for over $500, and the anti-reflective coating quickly flaked off leaving them useless. I was told by the store I bought them from that I’d have to buy a whole new pair, they wouldn’t even consider relensing them! So on a whim, I sent them to Global Eyeglasses. They came back fantastic. Perfect prescription and no issues with flaking coating.

    I also bought new frames and lenses from Optical4Less shortly afterwards, which I “tried on” with Photoshop before purchasing. They’re just great.

    I think if you’ve had experience buying glasses in the past, and know your face shape and what looks best on you, buying glasses online should be a snap!

  18. @19 “local merchants exist for a reason, fight Walmart, build community”

    I can not believe the pair of glasses I got from a local merchant. The presription was *way* off and the glasses were falling apart. They had the gall to try and get me keep them, until I went to another optician who measured them to show they were noeven *close* to the prescription that *their* optician wrote.

    There are half a dozen relensing services on the net. The thing that this article fails to mention is that you need to know the *size* of your glasses that give the most comfortable fit. Many opticians fail to recognize whether your present eyeglasses or the ones you choose may not be the right size for you. This is probably causing needless discomfort for many people.

    Once you know the exact proper size (and how it’s measured, and which numbers are the most critical) you can then shop for frames on ebay, then have them relensed.

    I would avoid 39 Dollar Glasses as their consumer satisfaction is sketchy.

  19. I forgot to mention that many merchants mail out their glasses to a nameless optical shop anyways, which is what I think happenned to the pair I ordered.

  20. …Having a complex prescription further complexified by my now requiring bifocals that can’t be made seamless, I wouldn’t touch something like “$39 Glasses” with a 20-foot pole even if Xeni offered me dinner, movie *and* bought a large popcorn with extra butter. However, I’ve had a couple of friends with really basic prescriptions – the ones that when I put on, I see AbZero difference between having them on and not wearing glasses period – who’ve gone there and were 110% satisfied. Then again, they had nothing radical where their diopter is concerned, or anything unsymmetrical in their focal range in their prescription, which makes it easy to “stamp-press” lenses like these. Any serious abberations, and you’re far better off paying the extortion rates a *real* lens shop charges.

    Oh, and the same caveats especially applies to places like LensCrafters.

  21. Sorry to go a little off-topic, but since there is a considerable number of glasses wearers here, could someone tell me; on a glasses prescription, under “SPH” for the right eye, would “P1” make sense? or could it be “101”?
    I ask as it’s my 1st prescription since childhood and I was going to get lenses fitted by for super-cheap, but P1 or 101 don’t seem to be options here. My left eye is +0.50 if that is of any consequence.

    Thanks a lot.

  22. Paul, I am an Optician, so I think I can help you. The “P1” you refer to should actually read “PL” and is an abbreviation for the word “plano” and means a lens with no optical power, some website will have either 0 or plano. I hope this helps! I have had a look at the prices at ciliaryblue and they are cheap!

  23. 2 months ago I had my annual eye check up. Needed new reading and distance glasses (I hate bifocals/progressives). The reading glasses I bought thru the optometrists WITH my insurance still took $125 out of my pocket (with the exam fully covered); that was for a simple prescription with no frills for the lenses.

    Insurance only covers one pair every 2 years, so I bought my distance glasses thru ZenniOptical. With photosensitive lenses, the whole thing ran me $49, including the frames, lenses and shipping. It took a week for the glasses to show up – the same amount of time it took for my reading ones to show up at the Doc’s. There is no doubt I will be purchasing my glasses online from now on; the expensive ones I had previously were replaced twice and the frames STILL fell apart.

  24. I’ve worn glasses for decades, more years than I can count. I have bad vision, and need to have the super-duper-special high index lenses.

    I’ve been patronizing a local eye doctor. I get everything from him: frames, lenses, contacts. He’s really great, and we share a love of hiking in Yosemite. I know I pay more, but I’m happy to do it. Because my doctor lives in my neighborhood and spends my money stores that I’m happy are doing business in my ‘hood. And I can go in anytime and have stuff fixed. And, they do a great job, utterly reliable, and went to bat for me with their lab when one of my lenses got ruined from heat.

    I’m probably getting screwed, price-wise. I don’t make a ton of money (about as much as an average assembly-line worker), but I’m happy to spend it with my local doctor. I don’t have any ill-will against the online folks, but I wonder if the marginal benies you get from a local doc don’t outweigh the costs. It’s nice living like a king once in a while. . .

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