Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Okay, here's the thing about Zenni Optical . . .

I just saw today that Zenni Optical has a deal going on where you can upgrade to tinted lenses for no extra charge (for a limited time, but I'm not sure how long - no code needed). So yeah, I bought myself some new prescription sunglasses today.

I've been buying glasses from Zenni for years now, and I've bought several pairs, both regular prescription glasses and prescription sunglasses. They are really the cheapest source of glasses I have been able to find, and they have a lot of interesting and stylish frames available. Even with my extremely bad eyesight and a prescription that includes astigmatism, I've got all my glasses for $30-60 a pair. Considering that previously I was paying upwards of $400-500 for a pair of glasses, that's pretty exciting.

Here's what you need to know if you're thinking of going this route for glasses, though:

Plain and simple, you can't expect your glasses to last, and you should always have at least one backup pair. You might get lucky, but chances are that your frame isn't going to hold up for more than a year. In my experience, at some point the frame cracks or just suddenly snaps. The frames I've had were all plastic and all in the $6.95-$19.95 range (I don't know how the metal or more expensive frames hold up). With the one pair I have that has not snapped in 3 years now, most of the colored coating on the frame bubbled and peeled off. The two pairs of sunglasses I've had have made it through the initial summer in which I bought them, and then cracked at the beginning of the following summer. I'm not sure if it has something to do with changes in temperature or what.

So basically, think of these as semi-disposable glasses that you'll have to replace annually. Still, say your glasses cost $50 (and if you have a fairly low prescription, they may be as cheap as $15, with shipping) and you only wear them for a year. But say, conservative estimate, a decent pair of glasses costs $300. At $50 a year, you'd have to wear them for 6 years. That might work for some people, but I usually need a change before then. This way I can potentially have 5 or more frames in that period of time. Kind of wasteful, yeah, but kind of fun.

Oh, and if the frame snaps, and your prescription hasn't changed, you can just order a new frame and pop your lenses into it. So long as the frame you have is still available (it has to be the same frame or the lenses won't fit), that could keep you going for several years on $7-20 a year. The frame for one pair of my regular glasses has been available for over 3 years now, though the frames for my last two pairs of sunglasses were discontinued by the time I needed to replace them. It's a bit of a gamble, but the lenses have always been very good quality, in my experience.

If your insurance will pay for a complete pair of glasses for you, then probably Zenni isn't the way to go. But if you don't have vision coverage, or you want a backup pair, this is a reasonable option. For sunglasses, even though I know I'm going to be pissed off when they inevitably break, this is the cheapest option for me. I just ordered a pair for $40, and even with my insurance and picking the cheapest frames at the glasses shop, it was going to be over $150 for prescription sunglasses. That might ultimately be a better investment, but right now I need sunglasses and I need to save money. So Zenni it is. For $150 I'd have to not sit on or lose my sunglasses for more than 3 years to make up the difference. What are the chances?

So there you have my thoughts on ordering cheap glasses from Zenni. In summary: (1) always have a backup pair (especially when travelling - one time my glasses snapped for no apparent reason when I was sitting on a plane waiting for takeoff); (2) don't be too surprised or pissed off when your frames break; and (3) calculate how cost effective a cheap pair of glasses or two each year is in comparison with buying one more expensive pair at a glasses shop.

There's plenty of information out there about how to enter your prescription and how to choose frames, etc., but I'm happy to answer any questions people have about shopping from this site. I've done it many times now.

Have you tried Zenni? What did you think? Would you go for a cheaper, less durable pair, or a more expensive frame that will last for years?


  1. I have horrible eyesight, so this is actually really useful! Thanks!

  2. OMG!OMG!OMG! This fucking fantastic!

    I ruined my $400 pair of glasses last month after literally falling on my face, but now I don't have to save up another $400 for a new pair. Right now Zenni has a BOGO 50% off promo. I can't wait to place my order. Thank you!

  3. Can you recommend another cheap alternative online with better quality so the frames don't peel or bubble. Have been buying from Zenni but willing to pay a little more for longevity.

  4. My current glasses are from Coastal and they've lasted a long time. They usually have specials for new customers.


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