on buying glasses online

I've been looking to buy new glasses for several months, now. The ones I had were so old they were missing about 70% of the anti-reflective coating on the lenses, and small enough that I couldn't wear them outside because they didn't block enough light (and I didn't wear them often enough to bother getting prescription sunglasses). I wanted plastic frames this time, skewing more bookish-librarian or nerdy-girl-prior-to-prom-queen-transformation than hipster irony.

So I begin poking around. My optometrist had fuck all; Costco had some that were tolerable, but none that I'd actually enjoy wearing. (The enjoyability factor is important: I spent half my childhood hating how I looked in glasses, and therefore have sacrificed my eye health for looks ever since I got contacts.) Enter Warby Parker - via facebook ad, I believe - with sexy models and reasonable, all-inclusive prices, and a try five at home for free program.

I should preface this with the fact that I seem to have a hard-to-fit face for glasses. I'm of medium width measurement-wise, but I have a wide jaw and round cheeks, so what fits physically on my face often ends up looking too small visually. I also have a huge pet peeve about frames touching my cheeks, even if it's just when I smile. It takes trying on about a hundred pairs of sunglasses before I find ones I can stand; prescription glasses seem to be more on the order of two or three hundred. I should also mention that the last pair I had fitted (a decade ago, now) involved me having a melt-down in Costco about how unsymmetrical my face is. The poor woman who helped me clearly still remembers and is especially nice whenever I come through her check out line.

But I use the "virtual try on" feature on Warby Parker, order five for my try on, and get them sent to me. I am excited. When they arrive, I tear them open, am impressed by the quality, and completely unimpressed with how any of them look on me. Glasses, it turns out, look very different in a photograph online - or superimposed over your photograph online - than they do in person. I play around with them awhile anyway, and drop them back in the mail five days later.

Warby Parker also sends a barrage of friendly emails when you do a try on, encouraging you to post pictures on social media to get feedback, or to email them directly for advice. Nonplussed with my own selections, I send in photos of myself in the try on pairs by email (it's hard to take photos of yourself in glasses, I find), and get fairly helpful feedback that informs my next try on batch. When they come, they are better, but still nothing golden; mostly, still a touch too narrow for my face visually.

I give up awhile, and then start poking around on Rivet and Sway instead. Their styles are slightly more expensive and geared entirely for women, and they have a handy little survey to direct you toward frames you might like. I pay more attention to the measurement numbers this time, and end up with a batch of glasses that all almost-work, with one pair being the standout. I order, overjoyed.

And when they arrive, they come in a very nice case with a beautiful, watercolor print cleaning cloth, but they fit absolutely nothing like the try on pair - they lean heavily on my cheeks and seem oddly angled downward. I email customer service, and they respond quickly and sympathetically, and promise to send a replacement pair. The second pair arrives, and it is (I swear) exactly the same pair as the original, except that they'd bent the arms up at the hinges violently, so that they are loose from the frames (like glasses get if someone sits on them) and incredibly crooked on my face. When I write a complaining email, requesting the no-questions-asked refund and pointing out that they said they'd *replace* the frames, the woman insists that they were replaced, but that all the frames had that inward tilt so their technician bent up the handles of the *new* pair of frames. Sigh. (Note for customer service people: better to tell the truth than lies that make no sense.)

Here's a shot of the "replacement" pair:

Back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile, I've taken so long with this process that Warby Parker has come out with a new season of frames, and armed with my newfound expertise, I pick out another five styles. I find another clear winner when the try ons arrive: the Dale, in Whiskey Tortoise. I order them, slightly apprehensive, and hold on to the trial pairs until the prescription one comes, just in case they suffered the same problem (a three day weekend makes this possible, although I was still impressed by how quickly they shipped). They arrived, and fit exactly the same as the trial pair. Success! The hard case isn't as nice as Rivet and Sway's, and they only have a plain fabric case instead of a cleaning cloth, but the glasses themselves are much better quality (and were $50 cheaper).

I also discovered that my optometrist's office was willing to fit them on me for free (which was good, as I didn't want to trust myself to bend them).

I would absolutely recommend Warby Parker, though I would say ignore the virtual try on feature and start by emailing them for help, with pictures of you in your current frames for reference. I also had a friend that suffered from Bell's Palsy and had to buy glasses last minute, and she raved about how helpful and swift they were as well. They also donate a pair to someone needy for every pair purchased, so you get feel-good bonus points for buying from them.

Also: if you don't know what measurement numbers your current frames are, try some on in person somewhere. When you order your try ons, select frames that are a similar size. Glasses come with three measurement numbers (in order): the width of the lenses, the width of the bridge, and the length of the arms. Arms are less important (since they can be bent), but make sure the total of the lens + the bridge measurement is within a digit or two of your current pair. Don't bother with anything that isn't the right measurement, no matter how cute they are - you'll just end up sad that they don't fit.

And here's a selfie of a (finally) satisfied customer:

1 comment:

  1. You had to know, when you saw the name of the color, that those were the ones.


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