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Opticians & Optometrists (From CHECKBOOK, Fall 2013/Winter 2014)
 
Go to Updated Ratings of 168 Delaware Valley Area Opticians & Optometrists

Checklist

Our Ratings Tables include our evaluations of area outlets that sell eyeglasses and contact lenses. 

Our ratings reveal sizeable differences in customer satisfaction: At the time of our last full, published article, of the 155 outlets rated on our Ratings Tables, 38 were rated “superior” for overall quality of service by at least 90 percent of their surveyed customers, while 25 earned such favorable ratings from fewer than 50 percent. 

There is plenty of room for variations in quality. How happy you will be with your eyeglasses depends on how carefully staff specifies how the lenses are to be ground, how accurately the lenses are positioned within your glasses in relation to your eyes, the choice of frames for fit and appearance, and how well the frames are adjusted. With contact lenses, you need good advice on the type of lenses that best fits your pattern of use and your eyes plus skilled follow-up care. 

Price matters also. We found identical eyeglass frames and lenses cost twice as much at some outlets than at others. For contacts (with exam and fitting), price differences were even larger. Our Ratings Tables show how the companies stacked up on their prices on a number of different types, makes, and models of eyeglasses and contact lenses. 

For both eyeglasses and contacts, we usually found the least expensive sellers online. For contacts, there’s little reason not to buy online, particularly if you’re just replenishing a year’s supply of lenses and not changing brands or type. But shopping for glasses online is challenging because it’s hard to tell which frames will look good on your face. 

You can shop price for eyeglasses without worrying that the glasses you get will damage your eyes—you’ll know after a few days if the glasses aren’t right. But the wrong contact lenses can permanently damage your eyes; the first time you get contacts or a new type of contacts, make a follow-up appointment to make sure there are no problems. 

If frames aren’t comfortable or cause discomfort with your vision for more than a few days, return to the store and explain the problem. The store should adjust the frames for comfort at no charge; if the lenses are the problem, they should check that the lenses match your prescription, are positioned correctly in the frames, and the frames position the lenses properly in relation to your eyes. 

 “Ooooh! Look at those GLASSES!!” 

If you wear eyeglasses (or contacts), you’ve probably heard these words, gleefully squealed, while the exclaimer pointed at an old picture of you. It’s all part of the fun of seeing worse than 20/20. 

But shopping for eyewear doesn’t have to be as excruciating as strolls down optical memory lane: Our ratings of area eyewear outlets will point you toward businesses that provide excellent service and low prices. 

Finding Great Service and Advice 

Our Ratings Tables show how area eyewear outlets were rated by area consumers we surveyed (primarily CHECKBOOK and Consumer Reports subscribers). The table includes ratings from more than 3,000 consumers. Fortunately, most eyewear customers are satisfied with their choices. When there are problems, the complaints usually relate to second-rate customer service—rude salespersons, long waits, and indifferent advice—and high prices. But some consumers also complain of incompetence. 

Although most outlets provide eyeglasses and contacts that fit satisfactorily and properly correct their wearers’ vision, a lot can still go wrong. For example, there’s the positioning of lenses. Prescriptions specify the power of the lens, and most eyewear outlets consistently grind lenses to correctly match the prescription. But the optician or optometrist must also make sure the optical centers of the lenses, when mounted in your glasses, match up with your pupils. If the centers are too close together, too far apart, too high, or too low, your vision may be distorted. If you have astigmatism, the lens will have an axis that must be oriented to line up properly with the eye. For those who require strong lenses, rotating the axis by five degrees might reduce vision from 20/20 down to 20/60. 

Another consideration is the “base curve” of the lens—the curve you feel if you run your finger over the lens. Your optician or optometrist should confirm with the lens-grinding facility what the base curve should be based on the frame manufacturer’s recommendation for your prescription. Some eyeglass outlets skip this step, but getting the lens base curve right helps ensure optimal performance. 

It is also important for the frame to fit you well. Fitting the contour of the nose is critical. A badly fitted frame will either be uncomfortable or cause the glasses to slip out of position. If you have a strong prescription, store staff should alert you to the disadvantages of large frames: Not only will lenses be heavy and look thick at the edges, but they’re also likely to distort the view at the edges. 

Choosing the right frame is important in determining how you see and feel and also to how you look. A good salesperson will help you find frames that complement your face. Your selection should look right with the line of your eyebrows, the spacing of your eyes, and the shape and size of your face. 

Contact lenses present their own set of issues. You will want good advice on the type of lenses that will suit your pattern of use and your budget. And you’ll want proper follow-up when you get a new type of lens, to ensure that they present no risk to your eyes’ health. 

Given the many ways in which an eyeglass supplier can help you make the right purchase, you need to choose one carefully. 

If you have a prescription from a recent exam, you can go to any optician or optometrist for eyeglasses. Many of them also dispense contact lenses. Most will dispense contact lenses based on a recent prescription you’ve obtained elsewhere, but some will insist on performing their own exam. Most suppliers consider a prescription recent enough if the exam took place within the past year, but some will accept even older prescriptions, particularly for eyeglasses, depending on your age and eye-care history. 

If you don’t have a current prescription, you can get one at many of the listed outlets. Opticians can’t perform eye exams, but many outlets either are run by optometrists, who can, or have an optometrist working in an affiliated office. (Delaware law prohibits optician firms from employing optometrists, but the optometrist can be located just one door away; there are no such restrictions in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.) 

Once you get an exam, you have the right to take the prescription anywhere else to get eyeglasses. In Delaware and New Jersey, you also have the right to take a prescription for contact lenses anywhere, but optometrists in Pennsylvania are not obligated to let you take your prescription elsewhere, and some won’t. Their argument is that providing contact lenses is a professional service for which the exam, supplying lenses, and follow-up care must be done together in order to produce consistently safe and satisfactory results. Many practitioners—especially opticians (who can’t perform eye exams)—dispute this view, but there is an additional reason for buying your lenses where you get your exam: If the lenses don’t work out (and contact lenses often don’t), there will be no question as to who is responsible. 

Because you have the freedom to shop around, you may as well check out quality stores. As noted previously, providing good old-fashioned customer service is a challenge for a number of area eyewear outlets. The ratings on our Ratings Tables show the extent of store-to-store differences on this front. At the time of our last full, published article, 38 of the 155 listed outlets were rated “superior” (as opposed to “inferior” or “adequate”) for overall quality of service by at least 90 percent of their surveyed customers, while 25 received such favorable ratings from fewer than 50 percent. (Click here for further discussion of our customer survey and other research methods.) 

In general, chains and franchise operations received lower ratings than other firms, but there was variation among chain and franchise operations. The chains or franchises with the lowest percentage of “superior” overall ratings, on average, were America’s Best (33 percent), Sears (44 percent), Sterling Optical (53 percent), LensCrafters (56 percent), and Pearle Vision (56 percent); those with the highest percentage were Design for Vision (81 percent) and Costco (80 percent). 

Finding Low Prices 

Eyeglasses 

Because there are many outlets that received excellent, or at least acceptable, ratings for quality of service, you have room to shop for price. Keep this key point in mind: You can shop price for eyeglasses with no risk of permanent damage to your eyes; if your prescription or the grinding of your lenses is significantly off, you will know it right away and can get the problem fixed or, if necessary, start over with a new pair. 

For firms that were evaluated in our last full, published article, our Ratings Tables provide price comparison scores for eyeglasses and for contact lenses. 

The eyeglasses scores are based on prices our shoppers were quoted for up to 19 models of glasses. This score reflects each store’s prices relative to other stores’ prices for the same models of frames and basic lenses for a common low-correction single-vision prescription. 

We set the average price comparison score at $100. A score of $110 means the company’s price quotes were about 10 percent above the multi-company average. 

Fortunately, you can find low prices for eyeglasses without sacrificing good service. Our survey identified many stores with price comparison scores below $90, some of which also receive our top rating for quality. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to compare eyeglasses prices at a number of big chains, including America’s Best, BJ’s Wholesale, Costco, Sam’s Club, Sears, and Walmart, because their selection of frames differs so much from other stores’. But, in our experience, prices at BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Walmart tend to be among the lowest for items they do carry. 

Among the chains and franchises for which we were able to compare prices, For Eyes was the winner for price, with a price comparison score of $88 based on the average across the outlets we surveyed. We found that LensCrafters’ prices averaged about 21 percent higher than the all-outlet average. 

For many of the chains and franchise operations, we were quoted inconsistent prices from store to store. Because of this, we have reported separate price comparison scores for each store we evaluated. 

Contacts 

Because price comparison scores for eyeglasses don’t always correspond with contact lens prices, our Ratings Tables report contact lens price comparison scores separately. These scores show how each outlet’s prices for a year’s supply of six common brands of contacts compared to the average of prices at all other quoting outlets. We list a price comparison score for an outlet only if we obtained quotes on at least two of these types of lenses. 

The scores are adjusted so that the average for all companies is $100. The scores are based on the price of the lenses plus exam, fitting, and follow-up visits because most buyers pay a package price that includes an exam and some follow-up care. 

As you can see, the variation in price comparison scores is large, with the score at some outlets more than twice others. Among the chains, BJ’s, with an average price comparison score of $78, was the winner for price. Prices at Costco ($81), America’s Best ($84), For Eyes ($84), Sterling Optical ($87), and Walmart ($89) were also well below average. As with our price comparison scores for eyeglasses, we found low prices at some independent stores, many of which, according to our customer survey results, also provide better service. 

Be aware of variations in refund policies and warranties on contacts. Most dispensers will refund some or all of your money if your eyes do not adapt to the contacts within a specified time. A few have no refund policy but promise to make numerous adjustments, if necessary, to obtain a satisfactory fit. Neither arrangement provides foolproof protection. Dispensers with refund policies may give up quickly if you are hard to fit, and then offer only a partial refund. Promises to make extensive adjustments are not worth much if they are not made skillfully; and, remember, each adjustment will require your time. 

Table 1—Low, Average, and High Prices Quoted by Local Stores for Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses

Low, Average, and High Prices Quoted by Local Stores for Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses1
ItemLow priceAverage priceHigh price
Ray-Ban RX5169 $200 $288 $459
Prada 58LV $305 $437 $618
Calvin Klein CK7885 $257 $356 $448
Kate Spade “Elisabeth” $218 $306 $418
Gucci GG1037 $268 $388 $538
Polo by Ralph Lauren PH2088 $219 $309 $518
One-year supply of 1-Day Acuvue Moist daily disposable contact lenses $375 $686 $962
One-year supply of Acuvue 2 two-week disposable contact lenses $206 $315 $684
One-year supply of Biofinity monthly disposable contact lenses $178 $338 $700
One-year supply of Air Optix Aqua Sphere monthly disposable contact lenses $215 $326 $660
One-year supply of Air Optix Night & Day extended-wear contact lenses $283 $419 $630
One-year supply of PureVision monthly/extended-wear disposable contact lenses $215 $358 $740
1 Prices of eyeglasses include cost of frames and lenses. Prices of contact lenses include the lenses, eye exam, fitting, and follow-up visits.

Covering the Basics 

While choosing the right outlet is important for both service and price, your ultimate satisfaction with what you buy and what it costs depends largely on how carefully you choose among your outlet’s many offerings. 

Eyeglasses or Contacts? 

The biggest decision is whether to buy glasses or contact lenses. 

The major advantages of glasses are that they usually cost less, do not irritate the surface of the eye, require less care, are not as easy to lose, are available in frames that protect against eye injuries, and can be a fashion accessory. 

The major advantages of contacts are that they are virtually invisible, provide a wider field of vision, do not irritate the nose bridge and ears, are relatively secure and safe to wear during sports activities, and cause less visual distortion than glasses because they are fitted closer to the eyes and move with the eyes. For cases of extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness, and following cataract removal, contacts can be a real godsend. Because of recent improvements in contacts, you can now get a better combination of comfort, safety, and visual acuity than was possible in the past. Individuals who have previously preferred glasses may now wish to reconsider. 

Frames for Glasses 

If you are buying glasses, choosing the type of frame is a major decision. In choosing frames, the main considerations are comfort, positioning, durability, appearance, and price. 

How They Feel 

The key points to check for comfort are the bridge of the nose and ears, where the glasses rest. Although trying on a frame for a minute or two may not reveal the discomfort that might occur with extended wear, that’s all you can do. Of course, getting glasses similar to ones you’ve already had limits your risk. 

All things being equal, the lightest glasses are the most comfortable. These frames are usually made of plastic or thin metal, with smallish-sized lenses made of thin plastic. 

If you are considering metal frames, keep several points in mind. Metal frames usually have a nosepiece of rocking pads (small adjustable plastic pads) that are unlikely to slip and easily adjusted. This is an advantage over plastic frames, which usually have a rigid nose support that varies in shape among manufacturers. But rocking pads, unlike a properly fitting plastic nosepiece, concentrate the weight on a small surface of the nose, which is uncomfortable to some people. If this is a problem for you, consider a model with an inserted molded plastic nosepiece instead of rocking pads. Metal frames are also likely to cause irritation on the ears, a problem many models avoid by covering the ends of the temples with plastic or rubber pads. 

How They Are Positioned 

The main purpose of eyeglass frames is to position lenses to provide maximum visual acuity. Some frames may position lenses too far from your eyes, or too high or too low. If the frames slide down your nose, you won’t get the fullest benefit from the proper prescription lenses. The stronger your prescription, the more critical the positioning. If you wear your glasses for driving, sports, or other activities requiring peripheral vision, make sure the “temples” (the two side parts of a frame that extend behind the ears) are located above or below the eyes, not directly alongside them. 

How Long They Will Last 

When handled with care, glasses should last three or four years, and many eyeglass wearers want to change style at least that often. If you plan to keep the frames longer—or the frames get knocked around a lot in sports activities, wrestling matches with your children, or whatever—strength and durability are important. Both depend on the materials used to make the frames, their thickness, and the craftsmanship that went into them. 

The strongest metal frames are usually made of titanium, with smooth welding wherever two pieces of metal are joined and flexible hinges. 

The strongest plastic frames are made of nylon, but these tend to be thick, heavy, and plain in style. Among other plastic types, the strongest usually have at least moderate thickness, metal reinforcing within the full length of the temple (not needed in nylon or optyl plastic), and flexible hinges. 

These are general guidelines. Some other types of frames may be quite durable, and some that meet these standards may be rather frail. 

How They Look 

 Appearance and style are key considerations for most eyeglass wearers. In fact, a substantial number of frames are sold with clear nonprescription lenses to be worn just for effect. 

As with anything else you wear, there is no best look for everyone. To look right, frames must suit the shape of your eyebrows and cheekbones, spacing of your eyes, height of your nose bridge, and size of your head. The conventional wisdom is that people look best in frames shaped differently from their face—square or oblong rims for round faces, round rims for square faces, and wide, shallow oblong rims for narrow faces. 

Consumers’ interest in style and brand names gives optometrists and opticians extra leverage for steering them to high-priced frames. The best approach is to try on a variety of frame styles and decide for yourself which few look best and feel comfortable. Then examine the price tags on your favorites. Chances are some will be relatively inexpensive. If not, take another look and ask the person assisting you whether the shop carries another cheaper frame that looks similar to one you like. 

What Staff Recommends 

The staff at an eyeglass outlet can be a valuable source of information about selecting frames. They can suggest models that can eliminate previous problems with comfort or positioning, and steer you away from models that might cause other problems. But always ask them to explain their recommendations, and be suspicious if they invariably recommend the higher priced—and usually the most profitable—frames 

How Much They Cost 

Frame prices vary tremendously. Prices for decent quality frames range from less than $40 to more than $500. 

Types of Lenses for Eyeglasses 

In choosing lenses for your eyeglasses, you have many options. 

One option is glass or plastic. The lighter weight of plastic lenses is a particular advantage for large-style frames or a strong prescription that requires a thick lens. The scratch-resistance of glass is a particular advantage if you frequently remove your glasses and slip them into your pocket, purse, or briefcase. Federal regulation requires both glass and plastic lenses to resist breakage from moderate impacts, but no lenses are unbreakable. 

If you have a strong prescription for nearsightedness, you may prefer lenses made of materials that have a strong capacity to refract light. Such materials permit a thinner, lighter lens but cost more. 

An increasingly popular choice for individuals who need multifocal lenses (bifocals or trifocals), but don’t want others to notice this sign of aging, is “progressive,” or “no-line,” lenses. But such lenses are more expensive than regular bifocals or trifocals, and require special care in fitting to avoid vision distortion. 

Several types of lens treatments are available. One of the most popular options is a treatment to filter out ultraviolet (UV) rays. There is evidence that UV rays contribute to the development of cataracts and may damage the retina. UV coating may appeal to you if your eyes are heavily exposed to UV radiation—for example, if you work or spend a lot of time outdoors, particularly at the beach or mountain climbing. 

Another popular option is anti-reflective coating, which reduces reflection from your side. This is especially helpful if you do a lot of night driving. 

Other options include: scratch-resistant coating; tints; polarizing lenses, which reduce glare from reflective surfaces such as water, snow, and glass; and photochromic lenses, which are activated by UV rays and darken as the sun gets brighter. However, because most car windshields block UV rays, this doesn’t work while you’re driving. 

With all the possible features and add-ons, buying glasses almost seems like buying a car. 

What’s more, some optical companies push these options harder than high-pressure car salespersons do. Although the add-ons are more legitimate than car dealers’ rustproofing treatments and paint protection packages, you have to be skeptical about them. If your glasses have not gotten scratched in the past, or if reflection has never troubled you, don’t let them pressure you into paying to fix something that isn’t broken. 

Contacts 

Choosing the right type of contact lenses is more complicated than selecting and buying glasses. 

Although a few contact lens wearers still have old-fashioned hard lenses, most outlets currently supply only two basic types of lenses—soft lenses and rigid gas-permeable lenses. 

Soft lenses, first introduced in 1971, are made of a gelatin-like substance with high water content. Most wearers adapt to them quickly and easily. The high water content allows passage of oxygen to the cornea, the tissue covering the eye. This oxygen supply is crucial because the cornea, unlike other body tissues, doesn’t have a blood supply. 

Current versions of rigid gas-permeable lenses, first introduced in 1979, allow oxygen to easily pass through them. This feature, in turn, allows such lenses to be larger than old-fashioned hard lenses, which had to be small enough so that oxygen could pass around them to the cornea. The larger size makes them relatively comfortable because the eyelid doesn’t have to pass over the edge of the lens with each blink. 

Soft lenses have several advantages over rigid lenses— 

  • They are easy to get used to. You can wear them comfortably almost immediately, stop wearing them for days or even months, and then start again without an extended period of re-adaptation. 
  • They are easy to fit. The softness permits some tolerance of variations in the cornea’s shape, so custom fitting is not required. 
  • Because they cover a large part of the eye’s surface, they work well in dusty conditions where they prevent dust from reaching the eye. 
  • They are not easily dislodged, making them ideal for use in sports. 
  • They cost less. 
  • With the availability of affordable, disposable lenses, little or no maintenance is required. 

On the other hand, rigid gas permeable lenses have important advantages over soft lenses— 

  • They can provide clearer vision. Their rigidity allows precise shaping, which also means they can be used to correct serious astigmatism that standard soft lenses are unable to correct (however, special soft toric lenses are available for this purpose). 
  • They are easier to clean because they are much less prone to collecting protein deposits. Ease of cleaning means regular maintenance is easier and cheaper, and you’re unlikely to suffer discomfort from wearing dirty lenses. 
  • They are safer. Because they can be kept clean, they are less prone to harboring microorganisms that can infect the eye. 
  • Because they don’t absorb moisture, they can be worn by individuals with relatively dry eyes. 
  • They last longer than soft lenses because they don’t get as dirty and are harder to scratch. While soft lenses typically last for a year or less, standard rigid lenses generally last twice as long. However, lenses for extended wear (overnight) have shorter lifespans. 
  • Their relatively long lifespans and ease of cleaning mean they are likely to cost less in the long-term than soft lenses. 

In terms of these two basic types of lenses, there are many variants— 

  • Extended wear lenses. While regular lenses should be removed each night for cleaning and to allow oxygen to freely reach the cornea, extended wear lenses can have longer intervals between removals. Both soft and rigid gas-permeable extended wear lenses are available. 
  • Disposable lenses. These soft lenses cost so little that you can afford to throw them away. Like other contact lenses, disposables are made in both daily wear and extended wear versions. Daily wear disposables, which must be removed and cleaned each day, are designed to be kept for a specific time period—two weeks, a month, or even three months. Extended wear disposables, designed to be worn continuously for one day or up to a month, depending on the brand, spare you the trouble of cleaning your lenses. 
  • Additional contact lens options include lenses for astigmatism, bifocal lenses, tinted lenses, and UV-filtering lenses. There are also lenses with gas-permeable rigid centers that allow oxygen transfer and sharp vision, with soft perimeters for comfort. All these options cost extra. 

Pickup Tips 

What you do when you pick up your glasses or contacts matters. Examine them carefully. 

Eyeglasses 

When you pick up new glasses, they may have to be adjusted to fit your face or to allow for differences in the height of your ears. Make sure there is no excessive pressure on your ears or nose, that the frames do not slip down your nose, and that both lenses are the same height and an equal distance from your eyes. And, of course, check whether you can see clearly at a distance and read comfortably. 

Contacts 

When you pick up new contact lenses, the practitioner should carefully check their fit on your eyes using a slit lamp biomicroscope. He or she should also check how well you see, using a standard eye-chart test. If these checks indicate no problems, test the fit yourself by looking left, right, up, and down several times while holding your head in different positions. And try blinking, squinting, and closing your eyes several times. If the contacts don’t fit just right, you may need new lenses. 

Along with the lenses, you should also receive thorough instructions on how to insert them and remove them from your eyes, on the adaptation schedule (how long to wear them each day during the first few weeks), and on care and cleaning. Listen carefully, and practice inserting and removing the contacts while the practitioner watches you to make sure you can do it correctly. Ask for a written copy of instructions, and read them right away. Remember, all contacts can cause permanent eye damage if mishandled

Resolving Problems 

If the frames you have purchased start to feel uncomfortable after a few hours, return to your optician or optometrist, explain the problem, and ask for further adjustments. These adjustments should be free. 

If the discomfort seems to be caused by the lenses—either glasses or contacts—and consists of mild eyestrain or objects appearing closer than normal, wait a few days. Often your eyes and brain need time to adjust to new lenses, even when the prescription is correct and they are properly positioned. 

If you suffer substantial discomfort, mild discomfort that persists for more than a few days, dizziness, blurred vision, a tendency to tilt your head when driving or working, or some other strange reaction, return to your practitioner and explain the problem. The practitioner should check the lenses to determine if their actual correction coincides with your prescription. He or she should also check the positioning of the lenses in the frame and the positioning of the frame on your face. 

For contacts, you can expect a little discomfort during the adaptation period, particularly with rigid lenses, but you should suffer no real pain. If you do, remove the lenses immediately and return to the practitioner as soon as possible. 

If someone who has sold you glasses that prove to be uncomfortable checks the lenses and claims the refractive power and positioning match the prescription, ask what caused your complaints. If the answer doesn’t satisfy you, you won’t know for sure whether the seller is right and the original prescription wrong, or if the seller is wrong and just doesn’t recognize his or her mistake. As a first step to resolving the problem, take a copy of the prescription and the glasses themselves to a conveniently located optician, explain your problem, and offer to pay to have the refractive power and positioning of the lenses measured. Then compare the measurements to your prescription—the measurements will take only a minute or two. Sometimes there will be no charge, but find out in advance. If refractive power and positioning match the prescription, go back to the optometrist or ophthalmologist who wrote the prescription and explain the problem. Your practitioner should check the glasses and might retest the refraction of your eyes. Sometimes this is free, but check. 

Another strategy is to explain your recent problems to a different optometrist or ophthalmologist and have him or her perform another eye examination. This will always incur an additional examination fee, so do it only as a last resort. 

Obtaining compensation for your wasted expenditures can be tricky. Will the optometrist or ophthalmologist who wrote the erroneous prescription pay for the new set of lenses? Will the optician who incorrectly filled a correct prescription pay for the second visit you made to an optometrist or ophthalmologist? 

If the party at fault refuses a fair settlement, file a complaint. Below, we list contact information for agencies that handle consumer complaints against opticians and optometrists. 

Extra Advice:
Where to Complain 

Complaints Against Opticians 

Delaware Division of Professional Regulation
861 Silver Lake Boulevard, Suite 203
Dover, DE 19904
302-744-4500 

New Jersey Board of Examiners of Ophthalmic Dispensers and Ophthalmic Technicians
P.O. Box 45011
Newark, NJ 07101
973-504-6435 

Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer Protection
14th Floor, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17120
800-441-2555 or 717-787-9707 

Complaints Against Optometrists 

Delaware Division of Professional Regulation
861 Silver Lake Boulevard
Suite 203
Dover, DE 19904
302-744-4500 

New Jersey Board of Optometrists
P.O. Box 45012
Newark, NJ 07101
973-504-6440 

Pennsylvania Department of State, Complaints Office
Penn Center
2601 North 3rd Street
P.O. Box 2649
Harrisburg, PA 17110
800-822-2113 or 717-783-4849 

Extra Advice:
Which “O” Does What 

Buying glasses or contacts requires the services of an ophthalmologist, an optometrist, or an optician. If you’re like most of us, you can’t remember which of these “three Os” does what, even if you’ve been told a dozen times. So here it is again. 

Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating disorders of the eye. They are college graduates who have gone on to complete four years of medical school, followed by an internship and additional clinical training. They check eyes for vision problems, eye diseases and abnormalities, and symptoms of general body disorders, such as diabetes or hypertension. They treat eyes with drugs, surgery, and other means, and they prescribe corrective eyeglasses and contact lenses. Almost all ophthalmologists expect you to take the prescription they write for eyeglasses to one of the other types of specialists, but quite a few do dispense contact lenses. 

Optometrists are not medical doctors, but they are properly referred to as doctors. They are college graduates who have completed four years of post-graduate training in optometry. Like ophthalmologists, optometrists perform eye exams that diagnose a wide range of eye problems as well as symptoms of general health problems. Some use visual training techniques to counter certain kinds of vision problems. They also prescribe, and most also dispense, both eyeglasses and contact lenses. 

Opticians are not required to have extensive training, unlike the other two types of specialists. To operate in New Jersey, opticians are required to be licensed by the state, but Delaware and Pennsylvania have no certification or licensing requirements. Opticians are not allowed to prescribe, but they fit, supply, and adjust eyeglasses and sometimes contact lenses prescribed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. A few opticians grind eyeglass lenses to the correct prescription, but most purchase lenses from a wholesaler and then fit them into the frame. 

Extra Advice:
The Payoff of Buying Online 

For both eyeglasses and contacts, we usually found the least expensive sellers online. 

We shopped prices at a sampling of online retailers using the same list of eyeglasses (including lenses for a simple prescription) we used to compare prices among local stores. On average, prices at all online retailers were substantially lower than all surveyed local stores—42 percent lower. The lowest prices were from EZContactsUSA.com, which quoted prices about 60 percent lower than the average prices at local outlets. Online sellers not only offered very low prices, but also carried a much wider selection of frames than any of the local outlets. 

We also compared prices for contact lenses from online retailers with those quoted by local stores (for price comparison scores reported on our Ratings Tables, we included fees for eye exams and fitting, but for this comparison considered only the cost of lenses). As with eyeglasses, we found that prices at all of the online retailers were on average substantially lower than the average prices found at local stores. The lowest prices were from ContactLensKing.com, which quoted prices about 50 percent lower than the average prices at surveyed local outlets. Compare this to the price leaders among local outlets, which quoted prices for contact lenses about 20 percent below the all-outlet average. 

To sell you contact lenses, any seller will need a copy of a current prescription. When ordering contacts online, you usually enter your prescription information when placing your order and then the company calls your doctor to verify it. At some sites, if you don’t have your prescription on hand, the retailer will contact your doctor to obtain it (although there may be a charge for this service). 

When buying eyeglasses online, you can buy only frames and have lenses installed by local opticians, or you can order eyeglasses with prescribed lenses already installed. If you order frames with lenses, you’ll need to submit information about your prescription. Unless you are replacing frames with an identical pair, you may as well buy both frames and lenses together online, because it is likely to end up costing less than involving a local outlet in the process. 

There are some disadvantages to shopping for contacts and eyeglasses online. It’s possible that the prescription may be incorrectly filled or that the seller may send the wrong contact lenses. But these problems could also occur with a local seller. 

If you are a new contacts wearer, or trying out a new type of lens, at first buy a minimum number of lenses from a local outlet; then, if the lenses work out, buy from online retailers in the future. Even better, ask your doctor for a sample pair of lenses to try out before you have your prescription filled. By taking this approach, you identify any problems right away, before you’ve paid for a year’s supply of lenses. 

An obvious disadvantage of buying eyeglasses online is that, unless you’re replacing frames you like with an identical model, you can’t try on various frames to see how they’ll look on your face. One strategy is to visit local stores, try on frames to find ones you like, and then buy online. Also, some sites let you upload a picture of yourself so you can try on frames virtually. Fortunately, liberal return policies are the norm among online sellers of eyeglasses, so you can return them easily if you’re not completely satisfied. 

Another problem with ordering frames online is that you’ll have to find a local solution for obtaining any necessary adjustments. Fortunately, most optical shops make small adjustments for free, even for consumers who bought their glasses elsewhere. 



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