After reading repeated complaints about the evils of Costco and online opticals, I decided to try them myself, compare them, and determine if these attacks were justified. With that goal in mind, I ordered three pairs of glasses: one from my work, another from Costco, and an online pair from Eyebuydirect.
My work pair was a CR-39 Laramy-K digital PAL with ICE colorless A/R in a zyl/metal frame (retail cost $505,) the Costco pair was a hi-index Kirkland digital PAL with regular A/R in a zyl/metal frame (retail cost $229,) and the online pair was a CR-39 premium PAL with stock A/R in a zyl frame (retail cost $115.) Rx is the same OU:
-1.00DS 5D BI +1.50 Add
-1.00DS 5D BI +1.50 Add
I tried the Costco pair first. The Costco PAL is a wide corridor digital but because of the prism, the hi-index lens caused me optical distortion and Costco does not offer CR-39 as a lens option. Their A/R appears comparable to high-end treatments. Their lenses seem premium overall, but Costco frames are usually discontinued and they offer no lens warranties, a potential drawback to those hard on their glasses.
Next, I tried my company pair: the Laramy-K PAL in CR-39. I was impressed. It offers a wide zone of correction, no discernible distortion, and clear, crisp optics at distance and near. The colorless A/R was aesthetically pleasing, and it worked as well as other A/R treatments without being as visually noticeable. Our company offers a one year warranty on frames and lenses.
I tried the online pair last. Eyebuydirect does not require doctor verification of the Rx (I learned this is common with online opticals.) I typed my Rx into their database, and the company cut the lenses from that information. This lack of verification may explain why patients are more likely to choose online eyewear than brick and mortar opticals and why we receive many requests to troubleshoot these purchases.
The frame was not adjusted in bench alignment so I adjusted it myself. The Rx seemed accurate but I wasn’t able to verify it. My vision was clear through the lenses. However, it was not a premium progressive as the company claimed. It is a narrow corridor regular PAL that requires much head-turning. Thus, I can only use it as a backup pair. The A/R is a standard dip and drip lab coating. Frames and lenses have a 14-day return policy.
THE VERDICT: The winner was my Laramy-K company pair, although the Costco lenses might have done as well had they been available in CR-39. Now that I’ve compared them, I can eloquently explain how they differ and how our business offers patients a superior product.
MY CONCLUSION: Is Costco and online optical bashing justified? No. Both Costco and online eyewear offer an economical alternative for patients to meet their visual needs. Rather than criticizing our competition, it’s up to us to prove to our patients that we deserve their business.