28 June 2014

Worth Every Penny: Zenni Optical

Only recently, at the end of last year, did I discover that I needn't to wear glasses. After one too many times driving home at night afraid I might hit a tree, I learned that all this time spent in front of various screens was making it difficult for me to focus at night (the things I do for you, dear readers). In any case, eyewear now became an accessory to consider, one I hadn't given any thought to in the past.

I also hadn't given any thought to the fact that good glasses are apparently unbelievably expensive.Seriously, what a racket. It was the end of December, and we had some flexible spending insurance money to use up, and Mrs. G already has five pair of glasses, so I was in luck. My first glasses were a pair similar to the ones above, but by Burberry. The full price of those was over four hundred dollars (!?!?!). Fortunately, between insurance, sales at the optometrist, and the flexible spending money that wasn't going to carry over into the new year, I managed to get the price down to about $125. I like those glasses, and still wear them 50% off the time. Trouble is they're black, and I really wanted a brown tortoiseshell pair to work with other outfits. Black frames can be a little too harsh, especially when wearing round lenses.

I had heard good things about Warby Parker, who offer a full pair of prescription glasses for $95. I had them send me five pair of frames for home try on, which was a great service. The frames were of good quality and looked well, so after deciding on a pair, I sent back the samples and ordered some. I was disappointed to discover that Warby Parker could not make my lenses, which require prism correction.

Enter Zenni Optical. A good friend at work who is literally blind without his glasses told me about them, saying that many glasses were as cheap as forty or fifty dollars. It sounded unbelievable, but this is a guy who depends on his glasses, so I took his word as a sound endorsement. I ordered the pair above, which came to $42.99 shipped. I figured if they were crappy I could at least leave them on the bedside table and use them around the house. Two weeks later they arrived, in a cheap case in a padded envelope. But the glasses themselves are more than acceptable. The frame is sturdy, the prescription is correct, they look cool, and if I loose them or break them it won't kill me to just get another pair. Best of all, no visible brand name on them, unlike the status seking Burberry pair. At prices like that, there's no reason not to keep a selection of glasses for various purposes. I'll be back to buy more soon.

Zenni Optical is worth every penny, even if it isn't so many pennies.


WSTKS-FM Worldwide said...

Thank you for this post! I too ran into a similar problem with Warby Parker since my own eyes are so poor and settled with some frames fro Sears which are fat from ideal and have never remained on face despite several visits for (re-) adjustment. I'll look more closely at Zenni Optical since the two-year check-up is looming yet again.

Best Regards,

Heinz-Ulrich von B.

Anonymous said...

I have purchased 5 pairs of glasses from Zenni. At their prices you can afford them in every color of the rainbow. I had my optometrist check them out and she declared they were as good as any other glasses she's evaluated. While tortoise is a great neutral, go crazy. Get that purple pair you've always wanted!

Anonymous said...

I hate to say this, but you are getting old! I am 42 and I thought I would never have to wear glasses but when I was 40 years old I woke up one morning not being able to read without a magnifying glass.

I now wear vintage horn-rimmed bi-focals that I like very much. I have to say that yours are very nice.

As always, I love your blog and I look forward to reading new posts. You have really helped me become more savvy at building my wardrobe to the extent that I am now a frugal peacock!

Ronnie MacLennan Baird said...

It has been a few years since I used Zenni, but I was certainly impressed by them at the time.

Mr. Sidetable said...

I've had great luck with glasses from Zenni, although some of the frames have looked a bit wilder in person than they do on the screen. Another great option for the vintage shopper is to find old frames you like, and then have your prescription lenses put in. My local optometrist charges a fortune to do this, so I use a place called replacealens.com (I have no connection with them--just a happy customer). Lenses in my prescription usually run about $35-40.

Anonymous said...

60 Minutes did a story on Luxottica, the Italian manufacturer that makes or owns nearly the entire eyewear business in the US. It's practically a monopoly and that's why prices are so high for no apparent reason. They own lots of brands including Ray Ban, and also own Lenscrafters and Pearle Vision.

Joe said...

Which explains why my first pair of glasses from LensCrafters coast $429. Like I said, a racket.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, but I have a couple of issues with your Zenni post. For someone who appreciates quality ( and detail) in everything menswear, I was disappointed how little respect you have for the most visible accessory a person could wear, their eyeglass frames. Or the craftsmen that make and adjust them.
The price of eyewear at your local optical shop includes having a licensed optician to help you chose your eyewear and make it fit like it was custom made just for you. Do you call your tailor a ripoff for charging $100 to tailor a well made suit or a cobbler re-soling a pair of vintage Alden's?
As a licensed optician, I have spent decades honing my craft, like the tailors you highly regard. Through apprenticeships and schooling I have learned the correct way to adjust glasses so they fit even the most oddly shaped heads, noses and uneven ears. I take as much time as necessary to achieve a perfect fit for everybody who walks into my shop. And I can't charge for adjustments, because nobody would pay. I can just hope that after receiving such excellent service that the client would allow me to show them some real quality eyewear, like Shuron Ronsirs (still hand crafted in USA!) for $99. We cannot compete with Zenni prices (lenses & frames manufactured in China) but I enjoy a modest living wage that enables me to support my family. I wish I could say the same for the folks making your Zenni eyewear. The majority of opticians are not scammers, we simply want to be paid for our skill.
The next time you need eyewear, try giving your local independent optician a chance to gain your business. Tell them what your budget is and see what he or she can do. You might be surprised. Plus, they will probably fit and adjust your Zenni's for free!

Still a fan.


2Stoics said...

I appreciate the review. I need a cheap pair as a backup and for when I do yard work and was about to buy from Walmart. The lady there is dead inside. Dead, I tell you.

Joe said...


I would never argue with any of the points you make. But I do believe we can all agree that Luxottica has a full blast monopoly on the frames business, and that the prices they charge are pretty much whatever they feel like. That's the point I take issue with.

For what it's worth, my third pair will be a deadstock vintage set of frames by American Optical that I plan to have fitted by the local optician.