Update: See my review of Zenni Optical, my next attempt at cheap glasses ordering, here
The title might be kind of a spoiler here.
Let me say first that I am not an especially difficult to please consumer. I never send food back at restaurants. I’m terrible at haggling over prices at garage sales. And, in my 14 months of blogging here, I’ve never written a negative review of anything. So what I’m getting at is that I had to be pretty much monumentally dissatisfied to actually write this.
Dave, Ari, and I all needed new glasses. Mine were about a million years old and had a stripped screw on one side that couldn’t be tightened at all. Dave’s were in rough shape, too, and he wanted to get some more Tenth Doctor-ish glasses for Halloween. Ari was getting his very first glasses; we’d taken him to the eye doctor after he started getting a lot of headaches. Just a matter of time with the genes we passed on, poor kids.
Dave’s last glasses came from 39DollarGlasses.com, and everything went smoothly. In fact, because I never clean out my inbox, I was able to take a look at my e-mails from them from back in 2009 and see that we paid for overnight shipping (we were, I believe, about to leave for vacation, and I was worried they’d arrive too late) and that the glasses were shipped out the very next day after we ordered them. The glasses themselves have been completely fine, although now, four years later, some of the protective coating seems be coming off.
So I didn’t hesitate to order from them again. And I fully expected to be here a bit later, happily typing a positive review whilst wearing my new glasses. Well.
The ordering process went smoothly. They have a thing where you can upload a picture of yourself and try the glasses on your fake self. They have a million or so different styles of glasses to choose from. The most Tenth Doctor-y ones for Dave were actually $59, I believe, but there is a good selection of frames that are really and truly $39. And they were running a $15 off every pair of glasses promotion, so, all told, we paid something like $108 including an upgrade to two day shipping for three pairs of glasses. So far so good.
The FAQ on the website says:
Orders with single vision lenses are typically processed and completed in 3-5 business days. If you choose lenses that require more complex processing, such as progressive lenses, bifocals, tinting, or other specialty lenses, we will process and complete those orders on average in 5-7 business days. Once the order is completed it will be shipped by the method you have chosen.
Pretty clear, right? All of our lenses were very standard, boring, nothing complex or special, so, what with my two day shipping, we should have them in a week or so, one would expect.
First, I waited nearly two weeks. I kept checking the status of the order, and it kept telling me that two pairs of glasses were all ready to ship and that the third pair was almost finished. And it just stayed like that day after day after day.
I finally sent an e-mail, asking what was up. The online submission form said I’d hear back within one business day. I didn’t.
I started an online chat with them. They told me my glasses would go out the next day. They didn’t.
I sent another e-mail. I wasn’t rude, but I laid out my issues. I had made my decision to order based on how long they said the glasses would take to ship. My kid has headaches every day because he doesn’t have glasses. Clearly time was a priority for me, or I wouldn’t have paid for two day shipping.
Now, let me emphasize again that I am pretty easy to please. I understand that sometimes mistakes get made, delays happen, etc. Even at this point, any kind of sincere apology and token gesture would have satisfied me. Maybe a refund of the extra money I paid for two day shipping (shipping would have been free if I’d gotten standard shipping, and, of course, I STILL would have expected my glasses to arrive way sooner than they did). Maybe an upgrade to overnight shipping….which would have been nice, since the glasses wound up shipping on Thursday, meaning it took until Monday for them to arrive with the 2 day air.
Here’s what they sent back:
Thank you for choosing 39dollarglasses.com. We apologize, but we do not show that you emailed over the weekend. We do have notes that you contacted us on October 29 via Live Chat for status. The order has been completed and will be shipping from our facility this evening.
And that was it. I was a little stunned actually by how little they seemed to give a crap. First there was the non-apology apology: “we’re really sorry that you think you e-mailed us the other day, bless your heart.” Then the implication that the fact that they didn’t respond to the first e-mail was my biggest concern here. And then the complete failure to offer any excuse or apology for the delay or to make up for it any way.
So, in short (ha! I don’t do “in short”)….39 Dollar Glasses FAILS customer service 101. The glasses arrived three full weeks after I ordered them. Dave did not have his glasses in time for Halloween. Halloween was pretty much RUINED. Not really–that part about Halloween. But he was a little bummed.
And the glasses? Eh…they’re fine. Any issues with them are built in hazards of online glasses ordering; Ari’s are too big for him, and I think we’re going to need to just go get him a pair at a real place and use these for a back up. They came in hard cases but just stuffed in a thin cardstock envelope–no padding or anything–I can easily imagine them getting damaged in transit and I hate to think what a nightmare it would be to try to return them and get replacements.
Here are the glasses:
Left to right: Dave’s, mine, Ari’s. I ordered pretty much exactly the same frames I’ve been wearing since college, and no one has even noticed I got new glasses.
Needless to say, I won’t be ordering from 39 Dollar Glasses again.
But I also can’t really go back to just buying glasses at the eye doctor; the price difference is just too big. I think I paid something like $300 for my old glasses. I am going to need to go that route for Ari, first time glasses wearer and possessor of an in between child and adult sized head. But for me and Dave (and maybe future Ari), I’ll be in the market for a new place to order cheap glasses next time around.
Here are a few contenders…put forth without endorsement, as I have no experience with any of them. If you do, or know of some other places, please chime in in the comments!
Zenni Optical: this seems to be the big, well-known one. Prices start super, super cheap. And they say right up front that the glasses will take 2-3 weeks to arrive with standard shipping. That’s all I’m asking for: the truth!
Warby Parker: looks like their deal is “we’re more expensive, but hipper!” Glasses start at $95.
Incidentally, many of these sites list the shipping time as being as long as 2 or 3 weeks. Had I gotten the same information from 39 Dollar Glasses, I probably would have gone ahead and ordered mine and Dave’s glasses from them, but gotten Ari’s from somewhere that promised a faster turnaround time. But it would have been nice to have had honest information with which to make my decision. If I were a cynical person, I might suspect that 39 Dollar Glasses deliberately underestimates their shipping time to get people to choose them over their competitors based on false information.