It is pretty obvious that retail eyeglass stores is a false economy. I’m not even talking about the Western stores, but the Asian ones that you found at Pacific Mall et al. You go in, get a pair of glasses, and they charge you enough to use up your insurance allotment for the year (and maybe pad the bill a bit so you don’t have to pay anything). They are $300 happier, you are 1 pair of glasses (and no less money) happier, so everyone wins.

But it is obvious that there is a lot of funny accounting going on. First, you can look at the frames and they are exorbitant in price. A designer frame can set you back $400 or more. But if you can get past the sticker shock and ask the attendant, you will find that your total package including “extremely thin” lenses will be about $250 or $300 taxes in. They always give you a 50% discount on the frames!

Lately, I’ve been buying my glasses online, and I think this has become more and more accepted now. Clearly Contacts is quite popular, and you can get the same pair of glasses you would get from a B&M store for about $100. Other more shady places on the web can net you a pair under $30. The general excuse is that the retail stores don’t have the luxury of outsourcing to India or Pakistan to cut their lenses, and have to pay the cost of a storefront and staff.

Well that is a load of BS. I recently heard about a real store that is selling glasses for $38 a pair*. Maybe these are the same frame designs as I would get from China (i.e., shady places online) but if they can stand to at least break even, then your typical insurance fraud eyeglasses store is making over $200 profit per sale!

* Yes, I know you need a coupon to get it down to $38, but 38 is in their name so I don’t think they would ever stray from that price point.