Buying glasses online may not meet the eye test, some optical experts warn

Online shopper: Rachel Penner, 25, show off her new glasses at her workplace in northwest Calgary on Sept. 16, 2019. Penner purchased her glasses online at Cleary.ca. (Photo by Marijo Abad/The Press)

Jessica Yang, an optometrist, is concerned that consumers are at risk of buying incorrect prescriptions from unregulated optical companies online.

“The risk of buying online is that the regulations are not going to be met,” Yang said in an interview on Friday, Sept. 20, at Centennial Place downtown.

While people purchasing new glasses online can pay a lot less than they would if they went to an eyewear clinic, Yang noted that clinics, like the one she’s employed with, work directly with the manufacturers.

Some online contact lens websites don’t provide eye-care professionals with lens quality information, like curvature of the lens, ranges of the perscription, or the breathability of the lenses, said Dr. Yang.

“People have different prescriptions, so there is different leeway,” said the optometrist, in relation to purchasing glasses online.

If you have a stronger prescription, even a millimetre off, you will get a lot of distortions, or headaches because of the misalignment, said Yang.

Rachel Penner, 25, sales associate, did not notice a difference in the lens quality online compared to buying in store.

Jason Yuen, 29, on the other hand, noticed a difference in quality of the glasses he bought online compared to in store.

“The glasses I bought from Visions, are clearer than the ones I bought online,” said Yuen.

The personal trainer said that the glasses he bought online made him feel dizzy.

Melinda Kahveci, an optician, says that there is a higher risk for first-time progressive lens users and kids.

“They teach you how to measure your pupil distance online,” said Kahveci.

Kahveci says that measuring your own pupil distance is not the same compared to a professional doing it for you.

“People who have never worn glasses before would not know where to start,” said the optician.

“It’s a little bit risky, especially for first-time users because they really don’t know what they’re getting online,” said the optician.

Kahveci said that frames sit differently on each individual.

Yang said that the geometric centre of the frame and the optical centre of the lens, have to be aligned to the centre of the eye, in order to achieve clear vision.

“It’s a common problem” for those who buy glasses online, but feel that their prescription is off, Kahveci said.

Buying glasses online is a lot like cutting your own hair. – Melinda Kahveci

The optician was referring to people who buy glasses online, but do not have the correct prescription.

Yang also warned people to stay away from measuring how high the bifocal or progressive lens is online.

“Multifocal and progressive lens are like gradients to your prescription,” the optometrist said.

The top of the lens is for distance, whereas the bottom half is for the computer and reading.

“Those types need to get even more specialized readings and measurements,” said Yang.

Penner switched to buying glasses online because it was cheaper than buying in store.

The sales associate paid $200 for glasses online on a website called Clearly, compared to $400 in a store.

Yuen bought his first pair of online glasses from a website called Eyebuydirect last June to save money.

“The price was 20 per cent of the price that I would be paying at Visions,” said the personal trainer.

Yuen said that he would’ve paid $350 in store for one pair of glasses.

“Buying glasses online is a lot like cutting your own hair,” said Kahveci.

“It’s important to consider where the frame is sitting, where your eyes are, and where your fitting optical centre is located,” said the optician.

“You don’t know how to take your own pupil distance and that messes a lot with your vision, especially people with higher prescription,” said Kahveci.

“Never risk that.”

“The biggest difference I would say, when coming into the office, is that you’re getting that big level of access to professional advice and service,” said Yang.

A New Perspective: Dr. Jessica Yang, optometrist, on Sept. 20, during an interview downtown. (Photo by Marijo Abad/The Press)