8 May 2012

Finally seeing the light

I’ve been using a particular optician for the 10 years I’ve lived in England, having worn glasses since about the age of 10. In England, there are several large chains (franchises) of opticians such as Specsavers, and Vision Express.

Recently, a friend was going to get his eye test done, and I went with him, also needing to get mine done as well. I tried his optician for the first time, and essentially was told me what my former optician told me: that I continued to need varifocals.

Due to a medical condition, I am eligible for NHS assistance with the cost of my glasses. After the test, I was told that with the varifocal lens, I would have to pay somewhere in the region of £172 for my glasses. My own optician, whom I visited after, quoted me a price of £134. I spent several hours checking online stores which gave me various quotes from £99 to £300. These costs are after the NHS assistance is deducted.

I then called up a small optical business close to where I live, and asked the person who answered if I can have someone explain my prescription to me, since the change was significant from last year to this year. The owner, a qualified optometrist, volunteered to do so, so off I went.

First, he explained my prescription. Then, I enquired the cost of glasses and found out, to my delight, they were very well priced. I had the option of choosing 2 new frames, or sending off my old ones (I have 2 pairs) to have the new lens fitted; but that would mean about 4 days of not having any glasses. I opted for the new frames.

While being fitted for the new glasses, the optometrist found out my prescription was incorrect, and that I did not need varifocals. Rather significantly, he demonstrated to me with new lens what my vision would be like with the new glasses. I found that I could see a lot better than with varifocals.

A lesson learnt:

The big stores have an assembly-line format. An optometrist does a quick eye test and shoves you off to  ‘dispensing’ optician, who would help choose a frame and then recommend lens etc. It is in the store’s interest to sell you an expensive frame, and they have several ‘tricks’ to persuade you.

  • warranty on new frames.
  • 2 for 1 offers.
  • persuading you that your old frame is ‘stressed’.
  • ‘free’ lens in new expensive frames.
  • additions such as transitions, tint, anti-scratch, polarisation, UV protection, etc in new frames.

The list is not exhausted here.

The decision:

I chose to remain with the smaller business. I got two pairs of glasses, one a reading glasses and the other a distance pair but to which I added 1 feature.… a brown polarised tint. Cost? £10 as opposed to £60 at the bigger store.

Final total cost to me for 2 pairs… £10.