By Kevin M
Has this ever happened to you? The arms (technical term “temple arms”) of your eyeglasses break at the joint forcing you to purchase a brand new pair of glasses? It’s happened to me three times in the past five years!
OK, if you’re not an eyeglass wearer, and no one in your immediate family is either, this post will hold little interest for you. But looking around at the general population it seems that despite the acclaimed shift toward contact lenses and radial keratotomy, the number of the bespectacled in the population remains substantial.
Perhaps like me, millions of one time contact users were forced to abandon them either by choice or necessity. Or, again like me, they find one-in-a-thousand chance of surgical error in RK to be too high on a sense as precious as eyesight. Either way, millions of us remain eyeglass users, and a substantial industry has been built around us.
But back on topic…obviously I’m doing something wrong in the way I’m storing or handling my glasses. I’ve been told to remove and hold them by the bridge, not by the arms, which I’ve been doing mostly, but they still break in the same place. I’m beginning to sense a conspiracy by the optometry world as some sort of plot of planned obsolescence to force me and other eyeglass wearers to buy a new pair at regular intervals. From an economic standpoint it’s a brilliant plan.
The usual routine
For most of us I’d guess, the standard response to a broken pair of glasses is to head back to the optometrist (or optometrist chain franchise) and see what can be done. The inevitable response—remember I’ve been through this three times in five years—will be “those glasses can’t be fixed, we’ll need to give you a new pair.”
A new pair—that means money; and usually a lot of it. And there are a couple of conundrums attached to that cost.
First, a couple of optometrists have told me in the past that here in Georgia we have a law that says that if your lens prescription was dispensed more than 30 days ago, they must be replaced. The optometrist is “prohibited” from simply placing your existing lenses in a new frame. Broken frame equals new frame PLUS new examination PLUS new lenses, even if the old ones are perfectly good.
That sounds like a very optometrist-friendly prohibition from where I sit. It’s also a solid bet that Georgia isn’t the only state with that law, since all of the states play follow-the-leader, more or less.
The second no win situation is vision insurance. Now, I’m aware that most people don’t have this coverage, so it’s a non-issue. But if you do have it, the coverage is typically full of holes. What usually happens is that the providers in the plan tend to be higher priced independent optometrists. For one reason or another, the less expensive chain providers seem less likely to participate or get less benefit from the coverage. We can either go to higher priced providers and get the insurance benefit, or to the chains with no coverage but lower prices. Either way the cost is about the same.
Since I have bifocals (standard issue after age 40), the cost is considerably higher than distance-only glasses. At a local optometrist where our insurance is accepted, the cost of the exam, lenses and new frames comes to approximately $600, less about $360 for insurance reimbursement for a net of about $240. That’s roughly the cost of the whole job at a chain store with no insurance benefit, but since I prefer to give my business to local providers, that’s the route I take.
But $240 is still a chunk of money that I’d rather not spend unless I absolutely have no choice. And I do!
Stepping out of the box
We live in a world where it’s often cheaper to replace a broken gadget than it is to repair it. Computers and TVs now fit that mode and on smaller items it’s a no-brainer. Unless it’s a big ticket asset, like a house or a car, we’ve basically become a throw away society. But that philosophy may have become so ingrained that we often do it without considering less expensive alternatives.
As I get older, I’m becoming less willing to do the conventional thing and just pay, so two broken glasses ago I began researching my options. I went on the web and searched “eyeglass repair” and actually found a few. When I was a kid there were repair shops everywhere fixing everything, but as I said, this is a throw away world, and a lot of the repair shops of a generation ago have disappeared.
There were maybe six or seven possibilities, which was a pleasant surprise—I expected to find none! The best priced shops were out of state. For less than $40 I could mail my glasses to a shop in California who’d get them back to me in a week to ten days. The price was right, but losing use of my glasses for more than a week would be problem. But low and behold, there was one shop right in my own town that did repairs (as a sideline only)! It was more expensive at $59, but they’d be ready the next day.
Let’s see, $240 for new glasses or $59 to repair the old ones…talk about a no-brainer!
I had my second repair done this week, and came away feeling real good about it.
Here’s something that could be in your favor: two optometrists over the years have told me that once you reach 40 your distance vision is pretty much constant the rest of your life. Another told me that it actually happens quite a bit earlier than that. Either way, if your lenses are in good condition but the frames are broken, you might be able to save a nice chunk of money repairing rather than replacing them.
If your glasses are only for distance (as opposed to bifocals), and you have a decent vision plan, it may be worth it to just buy a new pair rather than repair the old ones if the numbers support it.
And that’s another point too—bifocals. I’ve had two pairs of them now, and still need to take them off to read! When I do finally buy a brand new pair of glasses, they’ll be the far less expensive distance-only type, and I’ll buy a pair of reading glasses at Walgreen’s for $20-$30. I’m not an eye doctor, but in my experience a pair of eyeglasses correcting two deficiencies corrects neither terribly well.
I’m taking aim at optometry here, but the fact is that many professions and businesses box us in with systems that force us to spend more of our money than we really need to. Some times all we need to do is say “enough” and start looking for other options. In this case, that thinking worked well for me–twice!
Can you think of any other businesses, products or services where this happens, and more important, what we can do about it?