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Why "Showrooming" and buying glasses online isn't such a good idea !


Having dealt with customers needs in the optical industry for over 26 years,( and taken in prescriptions from opticians to make glasses which I make myself in our optical laboratory), using all my experience, skills, and knowledge as a technician and dispenser, I am very aware of what is to be done to make a great pair of glasses that satisfies you the customer, and what can go wrong( I learned my lessons quickly).

I have noticed over the last five years or so, a growing trend towards what is now known as "SHOWROOMING". Yes that's right, your optician and staff know what is being done.

In optics ,this is evidently when a prospective online customer calls into store, tries the desired spectacle frame styles on for fit, comfort etc, (and to see what they actually look like), only to return to the internet ,and make the purchase for what they perceive to be a better price. Is this always the case?

The answer is, sometimes, maybe a cheaper price can be found, but is this a better "deal ?", All to often the answer is NO !

Let me share some examples of my experiences over say, the last two years, with regard to this subject, and perhaps through my eyes you might think a little more carefully at what's on offer in the high street compared to an online store.

THE NUMBER ONE PROBLEM with buying prescription glasses at a distance online, is lens accuracy, and actual vision clarity. This is a tricky task for the online supplier because many accurate measurements need to be taken. Many online businesses attempt to get these measurements in a variety of ways, including,

ASKING YOU TO measure your own eyes

ASKING YOU TO get someone else to do it for you.

ASKING YOU TO get the optician to give you this service and provide it to you ( which of course generally they won't as they know you want to buy on line at this point and as it doesn't form part of the eye test procedure you can bet they won't take the responsibility of later problems etc with no profit for them either).

OR ASKING YOU to use an Online camera method which isn't particularly great either, and doesn't take into account how you usually prefer to wear your glasses and the relevant adjustments of lens fitting needed in the equation.The tilt of the frame panel, gap between your eye and the back of the lens etc, which many modern varifocals require.

Remember, if these measurements aren't accurate, in terms of widths and heights, tilts and back vertex distances, then you can have a range of problems, from poor vision, to an awful headache.

NO ADVICE AT POINT OF PURCHASE. This is a big problem, because often the frame style is very relevant to the end result, cosmetic look, and suitability of the glasses. You shouldn't be expected to be the expert on these technicalities, it should be a job for the professional that is selling the glasses to let you know of the equations and possibilities, as well as the pitfalls of choosing the wrong frame style and size. Mistakes at this stage made when ordering online , go undetected ,until it's to late and you have the glasses made and in your hands.

ANOTHER BIG PROBLEM is that there is no one there on hand in person to talk to you and discuss ways of addressing any problems later or ways of improving your wearing experience. Often, a simple refit of the glasses and a tilt of the front panel is all that may be required, but on more complex lenses, stronger prescriptions, and varifocal glasses, the problems may be more serious and harder if not impossible to fix, without changing the lenses altogether. You wouldn't believe how many people actually realise too late that the glasses aren't working for them, and then return to the opticians, who often take the attitude that they owe no service to " the internet customer".

We see many cases where the customer has had no joy resolving a problem, despite the guarantees made by the internet seller in the first instance, and then no back up from the testing optician afterwards in fixing the problem.

Come to think about it though, if you had given the service of an eye test, and time showing the customer many frames, talking about lens options suitable, only to see your customer make there excuses and leave, to make the purchase online, then to return with a problem with the online bought spectacles, would you instantly try and resolve the issue, without charging at least.. The reality is, you may end up paying again, with your old optician, making the cheap internet glasses not so cheap. The lesson is, your eyes are important, and if you are going to shop around on price, do it where you can get a service, and where you can return in person, get things right from the start and get free advice and if need remedy, face to face. Old fashioned, but the old ways are the best ways sometimes.

WHEN YOU BUY NEW GLASSES, you will need them fitting. This is very very important, as they need to be comfortable and so can be worn all day every day. When you pick your glasses on the high street, you can insure that they are fitting well and they suit you, and that they will be suitable for your intended purposes. You may notice they may fit and look a little different once your own prescription lenses are fitted, and you will need them professionally refitted. Don't buy into the old "online sellers" claims that "for a small fee, high street opticians will fit you glasses", because from experience I can tell you they won't.

Correctly fitted glasses give better vision, and can be the difference in you being satisfied, seeing well, or not. This will make your whole wearing of the glasses a pleasure and money well spent.

From time to time you may need the glasses adjusting again, all services given free on the high street over the lifetime of the glasses. You can't get this for online bought glasses, It's pay your money and go.

OPTICIANS WILL OFTEN REGLAZE your own glasses frames with new lenses when your prescription changes. We are seeing people who tell us they either won't fit lenses to glasses frames bought online, or, charge an excessively high price just for the lenses, and still refuse to take responsibility for frames broken in the glazing process. Effectively this means that once your prescription becomes out of date, say, two years down the line, that's the end of the glasses frames. All very well if they're a cheap frame, but if they're a designer, then it's a bind.

GUARANTEES by your online provider may look great, but, if they are trading from abroad, we have seen cases where either the glasses have never arrived after payment,or where they have not been as ordered, or have taken many many weeks to arrive, only to be damaged on arrival.

Reading the small contractual print in detail, I have noticed many get outs, and non refunds for bespoke made parts of the order, which of course glasses and lenses generally are.

MANY STYLES found online, especially designer glasses, are four or five years old, and often discontinued models, which would mean even if you managed to get your guarantee, the frame or parts may no longer be available. This is common as we know, because we are authorised stockists of many designer brands. We know the current models where there is access to spare parts, unlike unauthorised suppliers online, and so may not be able to replace your broken or faulty goods. Often a partial refund is offered, or a replacement, sometimes with a partial payment required. Often no guarantee is forthcoming. If the business is based abroad, remember, a legal remedy in our courts is not applicable. Meaning...your stuffed, not great huh!!!

FAKE AND STOLEN DESIGNER GLASSES IS A PROBLEM, and defective sunglasses that can damage your eyes, that don't meet CE European standards of manufacture and safety, stolen or ghost goods that don't exist, or the good old, " We will try and source the glasses when you have paid us upfront in full first, although our 14 day promises to deliver may take 3 months or never at all". It all seems such a gamble that's not worth the risk.

There are many people who have told me personally, of all these instance more times than I can mention. I've heard of customers who have actually had there credit card rinsed in the process of buying goods online, by some person abroad who they have never heard of but who has expensive tastes in branded goods, nightclubs,holidays and good living etc.

I can safely say, sometimes, it's not worth saving twenty five quid on a pair of designer glasses.

Be safe, try the glasses on, appreciate the skills and services of the dispensing optician and high street business, know that if things aren't done right, you can go back, and get that ongoing service, back up, and guarantee. You can be there to see that you get what has been promised when you parted with your hard earned cash, and that you know the glasses are undamaged, as described, comfortably fitted, and you can see well !!!!. Surely , the high street is worth perhaps that bit extra

Think what it would be like without us !

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