Of course, with the internet, there’s always another way. Well, you still need an eye exam from a competent medical professional. But now there are dozens of alternatives to the traditional way we’ve all bought glasses. After researching many, trying a couple, and settling on one, I here present my review of Warby Parker. Full disclosure: my review is unbiased and totally honest, but I benefit financially if you click the links in this post and decide to purchase. Read more on my disclosures page or feel free to email me with questions or concerns.
If you’re neurotic about your vision and glasses like I am, the first hurdle to jump is the very fact of becoming comfortable with leaving behind the reassuring, authoritative nature of buying glasses from your eye doctor. Of course, they send out the lenses to be made in some far off lab just as the online retailers do, but there’s an emotional trust gap to cross nonetheless.
Having made that leap, how do you decide between the many options? Here were my requirements when shopping online for glasses:
- Reasonable Cost. This is what initially drove me away from buying glasses from the doctor’s office in the first place. Using insurance discount or not, I wanted to find something that didn’t break the bank and delivered value.
- Style. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity! It’s true – I wanted glasses that looked great on me, that got me compliments. So sue me.
- Convenience. I’m not good at shopping in stores. I’m quite terrible at it, actually. I get overwhelmed by the options and it takes forever. I wanted an experience that happened online and direct to my home that also offered easy exchanges and returns just in case.
Let’s see how Warby Parker fared when put to the test.[/text_output][image type=”thumbnail” float=”none” info=”popover” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”472″ title=”Warby Parker Home Try-On Tweet”][custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h2″]Shopping & Home Try-On[/custom_headline][text_output]Window shopping on the website is a pleasure, with lots of beautiful product shots and tragically hip models sporting the specs. The selection is quite extensive for both men and women, with many frame styles being offered in different color options. One aesthetic word of warning: the design heavily leans toward a “hipster” sensibility. So if hip and modern is not your thing, you might have a little trouble finding something you love, but it’s not impossible. There are definitely some more conservative options among the pack. Also, they come out with new frame styles approximately every season, so if you don’t see something you like now, there’s a possibility there will be something for you down the road.
I finally settled on a few designs I liked, though it was tough to decide since I thought so many looked good and some were very similar to each other, with subtle differences in design. But how could I really know for sure if any of them would look good on me, instead of just what I hoped would?
I’m one of those people who has no problem demanding that I have my cake and eat it too. I don’t want to just pick a frame out online, order it, and just hope it looks good when it arrives. Warby Parker does offer a neat “virtual try-on” feature to give you some general idea of what it will look like actually on you (involving a photo upload and layering of an image of the glasses on top). But I need more than that.
Fortunately, Warby Parker offers a home try-on program where you request five frames and they are shipped to you free of charge. There’s no commitment to buy and you can keep requesting more frames (5 at a time). Not every frame is available for home try-on, though, so for those you’re a bit out of luck.
I was thrilled when my box arrived. They really put a lot of energy and thought into making the home try-on experience memorable. From the design of the box to printed inserts inside, I was impressed by the effort. I trotted out my five pairs and got feedback from my fiancé. That narrowed it down to a couple, then posted those two on Facebook for more crowdsourced feedback. Warby Parker even offers to give feedback directly if you tweet at them with a particular hashtag. I tried this but never heard anything back – disappointing since the rest of the experience was so solid.[/text_output][text_output]When you’re all set, you simply pack the box back up and drop it off to the post office with a premade label. This wasn’t totally convenient, but I still haven’t figured out how to schedule a pickup with the post office – please let me know if you’ve had success at this.[/text_output][image type=”thumbnail” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”474″][custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h2″]The Ordering Process[/custom_headline][text_output]After comparing my two favorites ad nauseum, I finally made a decision and was ready to pull the trigger. The ordering process is fairly straightforward. After the standard add to cart, they’ve tried to streamline what could otherwise be a complicated series of steps into as few as possible. First, you select whether you need prescription lenses, reading / magnifying lenses, or non-RX – for the true hipsters with great eyesight.
Next, you have to provide your actual prescription. They offer two options: uploading an image of the script itself, or asking that they call your doctor to obtain it. I went route 1 since I had it on hand from my recent eye exam, so I can’t speak to route 2. I can only imagine how pissed the doctor’s office would be to take that call and hand over that information, but at least you don’t have to be the one having that uncomfortable conversation.
Besides the standard Rx numbers, it’s important to know your “pupillary distance” (PD), the distance between the centers of the pupils in each eye. Even if you ask for your own eye exam records, sometimes this information is withheld on those reports. Warby Parker offers an online utility to measure them, but this is too inexact for someone like me. I would rely on obtaining this information from your eye doctor – letting Warby Parker take the heat by calling.
A final option is choosing “high-index lenses” for the visually challenged, like me, with high script values. Essentially, this thins out the lenses so they aren’t inches thick, avoiding appearing like Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys. I initially didn’t select this upon checkout to save $25, but after I placed my order someone from Warby Parker customer service emailed me to ask if I wanted to add this. I hadn’t really given it much thought when I checked out, so I really appreciated them proactively reaching out, as I think I got a better end product without spending that much more.
Another benefit of Warby Parker over other eyeglass retailers is that anti-reflective coating is included in the price already. For me this is an essential add-on, so the fact that I don’t have to pay extra for it is a big win.[/text_output][image type=”thumbnail” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”473″][custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h2″]The Adjustment Period[/custom_headline][text_output]I waited with baited breath to receive my glasses (with free shipping). I did get an email along the lines of “we saw you looking – come back and place your order!” which freaked me out, causing me to wonder if my order hadn’t actually gone through. I emailed customer service about this and they kindly informed me that everything was set, and that I had been added to a list that sends those out automatically. Not ideal, but whatever.
The day of reckoning finally arrived. I opened the outer shipper box, opened the inner box, opened the branded case, and removed my new specs. I put them on…and they promptly slid down my nose and almost off my face. They fit horribly. I was upset. The tips of the side bars flared out instead of bending in toward my head, so there was nothing holding them in place but the bridge on my nose and the slight contact being made at the top of my ears. Sad trombone. I quickly put them away and didn’t think about them for awhile.
After I was done kicking myself for trusting an online retailer to handle the sacred cow known as my eyewear, I reconsidered about a month later and emailed customer service. I included a picture of the flared out tips and asked if there was possibly a manufacturing defect. I explained that the home try-on pairs fit fantastic, so there must be something wrong with the pair I received.
The rep patiently explained that the best thing to do was get them fitted at a glasses retailer near me. I really didn’t like that answer because the whole point of buying online, besides saving money, was to avoid the hassle of brick and mortar. She said that if the adjustment cost anything, Warby Parker would pick up the tab. Reassuring, but still not convenient. I proceeded to do absolutely nothing about it for another couple months.
I finally got around to action, if not directly, by sending a FancyHands request to search for glasses retailers near my home or work who would adjust glasses not purchased there. After some back and forth, I found out that LensCrafters adjusts glasses for free – even if they weren’t purchased there. There was one 5 minutes from my office. Bingo! I headed over during lunch and left wearing them, finally fitting the way I had hoped. Huzzah![/text_output][image type=”thumbnail” float=”none” info=”none” info_place=”top” info_trigger=”hover” src=”475″][custom_headline type=”left” level=”h3″ looks_like=”h2″]Compliments Aplenty for Clark Kent[/custom_headline][text_output]I really like my Warby Parker glasses, but other people seem to like them even more than I do. I get constant compliments at work, and when I forget to wear them, people ask where they are. I now get called “Clark Kent” on a daily basis, which I mainly enjoy. Superman’s bookish alter ego is the most I could aspire to anyway (P.S. Donuts are my kryptonite).
So, how did Warby Parker measure up to my 3 main criteria?
- Reasonable Cost. I got a complete pair of lenses and frames for $150, which included “extras” such as high-index lenses and anti-reflective coating, which I wanted. The cost in terms of time (shopping, dropping off home try-on at post office, getting them adjusted) was not insignificant, but not any more than the brick and mortar shopping experience. At any rate, I spent probably a quarter of what I would have buying through my optometrist.
- Style. I’ve honestly been blown away by the number of compliments I’ve received whenever I wear my glasses. If that’s any indication, I give them very high marks. The important thing is – I like how they look, so anyone else appreciating them is just a bonus.
- Convenience. While perhaps falling slightly short of my entirely all-too-lofty completely hands-off and seamless ideal of internet shopping, overall I believe the Warby Parker experience is as convenient as buying glasses online can be. The natural and infinite variety of head sizes isn’t something that even the internet can tackle easily. I just wasn’t prepared for having to do it, that’s all, so the difference between my expectation and reality chafed a little.
- Bonus: Social Good. Though I didn’t set out to make a difference in someone else’s life by buying glasses, Warby Parker offers a TOMS-esque “buy a pair, give a pair” program. Giving the gift of better eyesight is a sweet bonus.
So, final thoughts? While there were a few minor bumps along the road, I would recommend Warby Parker as a cost effective, stylish, and convenient way to get fantastic-looking glasses for a fraction of the cost of your local doctor’s office.
Have you had experience with Warby Parker? Feel free to share in the comments below.[/text_output][share title=”Share this Post” facebook=”true” twitter=”true” google_plus=”true” linkedin=”true” pinterest=”true” reddit=”true” email=”true”]