(Prescription) Shades of Summer

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This has been happening for a couple years now. Every time I see someone wearing a great pair of glasses and I ask where they got them, I get one of two replies: Costco or Warby Parker. Costco surprised me. I did find a sweet deal on some Maui Jim’s there a while back, but they weren’t prescription. Yes, Costco has an optical department, and you can even get your eye exam there in some locations, but who knew you could also look good? Warby Parker’s fame is well known by now, but I didn’t understand how it worked. Here’s a quick rundown as you contemplate that critical summer accessory: prescription shades.

Costco: easy peasy.

I’d been wanting to get my own prescription eyewear here since I’d spoken with friends – male and female  – who were happy with the selection, looked stylish, and saved money. As necessity would have it, I sent my 18-year old son as a proxy. (I know, right?) He hadn’t worn glasses since he was 6 years old but video games seem to have taken their toll and it was time. After getting his exam and prescription at the eye doctor, I made my pitch. “Let’s take a trip to Costco.” Decidedly an uncool idea -- until I pointed out that family hipster Woody and a couple other folks had found great glasses there. We took a drive.

The Costco Experience: We walked up to the department, handed over the prescription, and started browsing the wall. The glasses were arranged by size, which I hadn’t noticed at other optical shops. (There was also some gender and brand segmentation.) 53mm, 51, 48…it made it easy to focus on the choices once my son zeroed in on the right number for his face and the fashion statement he wanted to make. As the “payer”, I appreciated the clearly-marked prices so I could approve or disapprove before he got too committed. Surprisingly, it didn’t take long to snag a frame that would meet the demands of a peer-conscious high school teen as well as the wallet of a cost-conscious mom. But what about for driving and golf? He had to have shades.

Multiples discount: Great news for me, the second pair was discounted. Of course, one typically wants a different look and better coverage in shades than indoor glasses so he had another pass at the frames. Again, size, price, fashion statement – done. It was amazingly quick. Sonny-boy felt quite pleased with his selections, and the price was even better for the second pair, thanks to the multiples discount. Oh, and they accept insurance. The glasses were ready for pickup in about a week at an all-in cost of well under $300. (Details here.) I recommend.

Warby Parker: revolutionizing the eyewear industry.

Lindley in Rose Water with Riesling for Women

Lindley in Rose Water with Riesling for Women

Warby Parker is bigger than just a great eyewear retailer. Here, you’re a part of the movement that has revolutionized the eyewear industry over the past 10+ years. If you’re curious about the backstory of these Wharton guys, have a listen to Guy Raz’s How I Built This podcast interviewing two of its co-founders. They’re all about high-quality, fashionable, prescription eyewear online at great prices – though now you can find brick & mortar stores, too, some that can even perform eye exams. (Click here for Warby Parker store locations.)

If you’re like me and so many others, you’re drawn to the story as much as the product. As co-founder Dave Gilboa tells it, he had left his $700 eyeglasses on a plane and was bemoaning the fact that he’d have to replace them – on a graduate student’s budget -- back in the day when a brand new iPhone only cost $200. That conversation with classmates led to an initiative to do eyeglasses differently. In this context, $175 or so for fashionable, high-quality prescription eyewear seems like a steal today.

If you already know what works for you, Warby Parker is fabulous. Select from their Summer Sun Collection, upload your eyeglass prescription*, and you’re on your way. Insurance is accepted; FSA and HSA dollars OK, too.

Free Home Trial

Warby Parker Raglan

Warby Parker Raglan

Call me an experimenter, but I want to try some on and decide. I’m willing to engage in Warby’s mail-order trial experience because (a) it’s easier for me than going to a store in New York or Philly, (b) I love what they’ve done for consumers, and (c) it’s free.

I’m doing the 5 pair free home try-on. You can do it for yourself here. After completing a simple online quiz, Warby will send 5 pairs of frames to try for free for 5 days. Then just ship them back in the prepaid return package. Order your selection online and they’ll send a fresh new pair. Let’s see…Aubrey, Tilley, Raglan, Nancy…

 Let me know how it goes for you!

 *(Tip: have your eye doctor include your PD, or pupillary distance, for eyeglasses. If not, Warby shows you how to do it for yourself.)