Why Are Glasses So Expensive?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

When was the last time you bought prescription glasses, and how much did you shell out? Ira Mitchell, blogger at, and Shantan Reddy from the department of Opthomolagy at NYU Langone Medical Center, discusses the industry and how to save some money.


Ira Mitchell and Dr. Shantan Reddy
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Comments [61]


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Aug. 22 2013 06:01 PM
Try on Glasses at Home from USA

Very impressive blog !!!Here you gave me good information about why are glasses so expensive.I think its depends on brands.Overall post was awesome.

Jun. 06 2013 07:29 AM
james from atlanta

I have been an optician for many years and this questions opens up many things.Eyeglass equipment and the skill of the opticians and staff is not cheap in this day and age. Also most of the high end eyeglass places tend to have the money staying in europe and the united states. The lens quality from americas best, walmart is a lot of times old lenses that they buy in bulk. I went to a so called chain the other day to look at there lab and there was an ao pro progressive in the labs lense inventory, the box had a date of 1997. Do you think you see better out of a lens made in korea that is 15 years old? How about when I go to any other business and pay 12 dollars for a tylenol or 25k for a ford fiesta. At least the ford is up to date. My mom also bought a pair of glasses from one online store and everything was off, it even had base down prism in the left eye. Your eye will automatically adjust to see even if the rx is somewhat wrong, but you can create long term vision issues. also more expensive lenses especially no line have way more field of vision then discount places. The failure rate of progressives where I work now is at less then 1%. I worked for chains and there failure or problem rate is like 25%, you want to risk those odds on a 100 dollar difference. NOT, You get what you pay for and this country has become so money oriented people dont care. Next time you go online and buy glasses, and then wonder why noone is in your business buying your products, well you realize you contributed to this problem of sending money oversees for cheap products. Pro athletes wear oakleys and name brand for a reason. Ever seen a pair of shades on a pro athlete break, never cause they are name brand and everything is better scratch coatingsm the vision, ar coatings etc.

Jul. 29 2012 03:33 PM

I've made glasses for twenty years and work as an optician and I bought my last pair from luxottica no way I would buy glasses online tilt induces prism every 2 degrees of tilt displaces oc by 1 mm some frames have as much as 15 degrees of tilt cannot be measured without trying on the frame

Jul. 14 2012 02:18 PM

I'm going to call bullshit on Melanie Ford. The cost of manufacturing prescription eyeglass lenses is only $5 a set. It doesn't matter how many variations of lens types there are because all manufacturing is computerized, meaning you just type in the configuration and the machine makes them. The frame's copyright fee varies but rarely goes above 10% of retail price. Eyeglasses have one of the highest markup value on the market, and the prices are often fixed by the different companies, that is why you never will see a frame sell for less than $40 even though the manufacturing cost is literally pennies. You are mostly paying for the branding.

Jun. 01 2012 08:54 PM
JAdams from Northern NJ

I just learned that our vision plan, EyeMed, is run and administered by Luxottica.

So not only does Luxottica make most all frames and lens for eyeglasses made for consumers today, and set the prices for them, they now generate revenues from insurance premiums, and decide how much less profit to receive. It sounds like a net positive for Luxottica.

I am even more suspicious of a monopoly position that Luxottica seems to have.

Oct. 17 2011 12:20 PM
mike hanbridge from oneonta, ny

Something private optometrists, especially the high end ones, also have is high-tech equipment in their offices. That equipment goes much further in diagnosing the early onset of many diseases (diabetes, cancer, etc.) and the equipment isn't cheap. The doc can invest in the equipment if they do well in eyewear sales. So buying your eyewear online isn't always great for your health.

Sep. 26 2011 01:08 PM
allstonian from Boston

Sorry to bust up the love-in for Zenni Optical, but I got totally burned. I should have realized that I was in trouble when they told me they couldn't fulfil my prescription as requested (corrective lens on one side, plano on the other), but I went ahead and now I'm out $72 and stuck with a pair of glasses that leave me with vertigo and headaches.

Sep. 22 2011 11:45 AM

I've used Zenni Optical, very satisfied. Am looking at other sites and what sets them apart from each other is the functionality of their sites, especially the TRY ON feature, which I feel is essential. Zenni's is best so far.

Sep. 21 2011 05:51 PM

I've read the great deals people are satisfied with through buying from web sites, but...a very big BUT...

HOW do people know the frames will fit? Be comfortable?

Is that the pupillary distance factor being mentioned part of the fit?

But, even then, what about comfortable fit?

Sep. 21 2011 03:31 PM
Melanie Ford from Memphis, TN

As an employee of Luxottica manufacturing, I can tell you there is much more to making a pair of glasses than cutting a bulk lot of lenses and lining up the pd. There are 1000s of variations concerning prescriptions. As technological advances occur in ophthalmics consumers enjoy customized eyewear to best correct their issues. As far as brand name frames and cost.....this is a matter of consumer tastes and preferences. If a client chooses Ray Ban instead of an unbranded frame there is a cost associated with this.

Sep. 21 2011 01:00 PM
John in Bergen from northern NJ

I get my glasses at It takes 2 weeks. Glasses start at $8.95 With lenses, coating, sunglasses & shipping it is about $25.00 a pair. I got 3 different pair total $84. I broke a big deal. Yes they are made in china. But I get to keep the savings.

Sep. 21 2011 11:51 AM
Noach from Bklyn

It's quite foolish to pay just for a name or logo- which is exactly what most who seek "designer" fashions do. And often for inferior _quality_. (Just compare the quality of Lands' End and L.L. Bean polo shirts with the "Polo by Ralph Lauren" shirts. At least in the past, that was one striking example I recall.)

Sep. 21 2011 11:10 AM

I wait to buy new frames until I visit my parents in middle america. Then I go to the local costco and get fantastic quality no-name frames for about $40 and thin lenses for less than $100. I would never think of buying glasses in the city. Too expensive.

Sep. 21 2011 11:06 AM
Tony Angeline from Manhattan

Robert Marc, one of the highest fashion & price points available, have a sample sale in Chelsea Manhattan at least once per year. Frames regularly priced above $400, $500 are sold at around $125!!! I create a Google News alert for the sale whenever I think I may need glasses.

Sep. 21 2011 11:06 AM
Noach from Bklyn

Correction: Scratch the word 'are' from my previous comment.

I had started to write , "are restrictive of..." and in my hast to post before the segment ended, I neglected to properly edit.

Sep. 21 2011 11:04 AM

... I tape the LOGO™ to my forehead!!

Sep. 21 2011 11:03 AM

I actually get a really good deal from our rather expensive local optometry shop (Broadway in the 80s) because they have a huge bin of sale frames. The frames originally sold for hundreds are go on sale for about $20.

Also, having been the nutrition director at Helen Keller International, I had the good fortune to visit Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai, India. The head of Johns Hopkins Wilmer Eye Institute and later Director of the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health had close ties to Aravind Eye Hospital. The opthalmologists there rock. Not only are their products less expensive and good quality (as the caller said), opthalmologists at Aravind do a much higher volume of cateract surgeries than in the US.

Sep. 21 2011 11:03 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Price isn't the only consideration--I actually spent more to avoid buying frames from China (Brian, you mentioned your upcoming segment on checking for products not made by slaves). And I recently found a store in the Village called ECO Earth Conscious Optics ( that makes frames from recycled materials. But I'd just bought my new frames, so I didn't check prices there.

Sep. 21 2011 11:01 AM

Wearing a logo, particularly on your glasses is tacky and unattractive.

Sep. 21 2011 10:59 AM
Becky from Manhattan

Here in NYC I'm a HUGE fan of Warby Parker. Great fashion for about $120 and they donate a pair to people in need.

Sep. 21 2011 10:59 AM
Noach of Bklyn from Bklyn

1.) Frames only aesthetic?

The ridiculously tiny, narrow frames in vogue are _restrict_ one's field of vision.

2.) Please address the conditions of the workers who manufacture the frames.

Sep. 21 2011 10:58 AM
John from NYC

$60 at Walmart, great frames, but Walmart is banned in NYC.

Sep. 21 2011 10:58 AM

Do the guests have suggestions for eyewearers who have difficult prescriptions. Almost legally blind, bifocals, etc.

Like Siouxan in Bronx, my last ones were about $800 and they aren't that funky.

Sep. 21 2011 10:58 AM

I just duct-tape the lenses to my face!!

Sep. 21 2011 10:58 AM
Jeff from Chelsea

Warby Parker! $100 for frames and lenses. Hip young NYC company. Can try them on in showroom, and ready a week. They've figured out glasses don't need to be expensive!

Sep. 21 2011 10:58 AM
Karen Zukowski from Gramercy Park

I go the Chinatown route, at Optical 55. I get progressives. They do a great job at about 1/2 the price of upper East Side optician.

Sep. 21 2011 10:57 AM
Becky from Manhattan

Here in NYC I'm a HUGE fan of Warby Parker. Great fashion for about $120 and they donate a pair to people in need.

Sep. 21 2011 10:57 AM
Robert from NYC

Go to East Side Vision on 10th st @ 1st Av. No pressure, use old frames you like and just about all lenses with no frills are $69, but check with them about the lenses price I don't want to make false statements but that is based on memory of 3 weeks ago when I got new glasses using old frames. They cost me $69.

Sep. 21 2011 10:57 AM
stephanie from east village

warby parker is the way to go! affordable and chic they're great!

Sep. 21 2011 10:57 AM
Noach of Bklyn from Bklyn

1.) Frames only aesthetic?

The ridiculously tiny, narrow frames in vogue are _restrict_ one's field of vision.

2.) Please address the conditions of the workers who manufacture the frames.

Sep. 21 2011 10:57 AM
BUB from manhattan

there are several new companies that do glasses plus lenses for 100$, i got some from warby parker who seem to be expanding rapidly and for every pair you purchase they donate a pair, tom's kind of thing. they're great! and frames and lenses for 100 is amazing.

Sep. 21 2011 10:56 AM
Alan Holzman from west orange, nj

about 6 weeks ago i purchased frames and lenses (varilux) from a local pearl vision. i spent $400 after a AAA discount of 30%.
i am obsessively careful about my glasses and already noticing several small scratches. when i went back they told me i could replace the lenses at half price up to one year from purchase. why do they have to be so fragile?

Sep. 21 2011 10:56 AM
Steve from Manhattan

I have a very difficult prescription - astigmatism + prism + kerataconus (thinning of the cornea) + one eye near-sighted and one eye far-sighted. The only place that I trust for my eyes, and to have the prescription filled accurately, is University Optometric Center (SUNY's College of Optometry) on 42nd St (betw 5th & 6th). They don't have a huge markup in their dispensary so there's some savings there, and you can bring in your own frames from some of the places suggested above.

Sep. 21 2011 10:56 AM
cynthea from manhattan

i got my eyes checked at lens crafters and just put in the prescription info and pupil distance on the website when ordering. it was perfect.

Sep. 21 2011 10:56 AM
Betsy from Bronx

I worked for Lenscrafters for years when I was in college. I think there is a difference between the plastic lenses and the polycarb ones. Especially if the prescription is thick. Otherwise, yes I agree, glasses are a total ripoff, I hate that they cost sooo much money! I think it's ridiculous, I also think that insurance companies should pay more since they really are medically necessary.

Sep. 21 2011 10:56 AM

Regulation, schmegulation!!!

Details... details.

Go Korporate Amerika®!!!

Sep. 21 2011 10:55 AM
Fatima from Secaucus

Prada-cost $300-OMG!

Sep. 21 2011 10:53 AM
Robert from NYC

Just about everything is a monopoly, look at CableTV companies--we have two and they're distributed to us whereby we only have one choice by area we live in, where are the choices, banks continue to merge, shall I go on and bore you even more! This is not a free and open market; it's very controlled by "The Few".

Sep. 21 2011 10:53 AM
Jocelyn from NYC

Warby Parker for hip and high quality glasses: $100 for frames + lenses. They're theoretically mail order only, but if you live in NYC you can call them up and ask to go by their office where they've set up a showroom.

Huge selection of vintage frames at Fabulous Fanny's.

I've also bought many pairs from eyeglasses from; $25 a pair.

Sep. 21 2011 10:53 AM
Paul from Astoria

If I want a good looking pair of frames I buy high end sunglasses. For one hundred dollars I can get very good looking glasses. The only problem is finding a place to put my prescription glass in to the frames.

Sep. 21 2011 10:53 AM
twebeck from NYC

You can always find warehouse sales. I've been to the Robert Marc sale at Metropolitan Pavilion a couple times over the past couple years. And there are usually a couple more designers offered. Tons of tables full of glasses. I got 3-4 pairs of $200+ frames and sunglasses for $40+ each.

You can search racked dot com for sales. Or get on the Met. Pavilion email list. It doesn't hurt.

Sep. 21 2011 10:53 AM
Brian from Hoboken

The other problem I have seen is that trying to price frames is like trying to price a hospital procedure. Depends on your insurance, or if you pay cash with no insurance, or package deals, etc.
Buy online and take the frames to the store.

Sep. 21 2011 10:52 AM

FYI - Medicare does not cover vision care except for exams. Unless you're also covered by Medicaid or can afford private insurance, you're out of luck. It now costs $25-50 for your Rx scrip after annual diabetic eye exams.

Sep. 21 2011 10:52 AM
Sophie from Poughkeepsie, NY

Frames! The biggest rip-off ever.

I knew a gal who imported frames from China and sold them to high-end stores, she told me that frames cost about .50 cents to make. "the mark-up is super" she said.

Sep. 21 2011 10:52 AM

Go counterfeit copies!!

Sep. 21 2011 10:51 AM
Elaine from baltimore

WOW! How can I buy stock in this company???

Sep. 21 2011 10:51 AM
ckk from ny, ny!

i've been using foreyes for years, since my Berkeley days in the 80's. unfortunately they closed their store in ny a few years ago, but i can Bolt Bus it to my Dad's home (cherry hill, nj). 2 for $99!

Sep. 21 2011 10:51 AM

... don't forget Persol™!!!

Sep. 21 2011 10:50 AM
Rich K from UCNJ

How do I avoid high prices? I (oof!) stopped (crash!) wearing (where ARE my car keys?!) glasses.

Sep. 21 2011 10:50 AM
Charles Sherman from Brooklyn

two words:

Sol Moscot

They make their own frames, which are reasonably priced. And you get a bonus for supporting a native New York City business.

Sep. 21 2011 10:50 AM
Minha from new york, ny

Now there are many options for the glasses-wearers.
Sites such as:
and will let you try on frames before you actually buy.

Sep. 21 2011 10:50 AM
ckk from ny, ny!

i've been using foreyes for years, since my Berkeley days in the 80's. unfortunately they closed their store in ny a few years ago, but i can Bolt Bus it to my Dad's home (cherry hill, nj). 2 for $99!

Sep. 21 2011 10:50 AM
MattyMac from Forest Hills

I was recently directed to Warby Parker by a friend.

Haven't tried yet, but looks promising

Sep. 21 2011 10:50 AM
Joshua Martens from Brooklyn

Have you hear of Tom's Shoes? Well, Warby Parker is the future of eye glasses.

$95 for stylish frames & prescription lenses.

I have nothing to do with Warby Parker, but am a HUGE fan!

Sep. 21 2011 10:49 AM
Ben from Orangeburg, NY

I got one word for ya: CHINA.

Specifically, Zenni Optical.

I got two pairs off their web site, and I am a coke bottle bottom type guy.

Total cost: $132.

Sep. 21 2011 10:49 AM
Faith from East Village

Fabulous Fanny's on 9th St. between 1st and 2nd Ave. has reasonably priced frames. I only paid $65 for mine and I'm very happy with them. They then refer you to Optical 88 in Chinatown, who will discount the price of your exam from frames or contact lenses.

Sep. 21 2011 10:49 AM
cynthea from manhattan

there are online websites that sell glasses at affordable prices. Mine were $30, although I did have the option to buy $12 ones. They're perfectly fine and look nice and fashionable.

Sep. 21 2011 10:48 AM
James Gabriel from Rutgers University, NJ

Last time I bought prescription glasses was on August 21st, 2011 from the internet, 4 pairs for $70, including two pairs of sunglasses! Definitely got my moneys worth... Zenni Optical and other online sites are cheaper compared to the retail optical stores because they manufacture their glasses for much cheaper in Asia, are non-name brand, and don't have to deal with any insurance premiums. Way too much insurance overhead, and of courses just a handful of companies control the US glasses market such as Luxottica (which means little competition and higher prices) give retailers license to charge customers 'through the nose'.

Sep. 21 2011 10:47 AM
Smokey from LES


Sep. 21 2011 10:47 AM
Siouxan from Bronx

I will be looking forward to the answer on this one.

My last pair of glasses - progressive lens w/ a very strong prescription and also astigmatism.

Grand total: OVER $700.00!!!

Sep. 21 2011 10:03 AM

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