Zenni Optical Review: Cheap Glasses Revisited

About a year and a half ago I ordered some glasses from 39DollarGlasses.com, had a mostly bad experience, and gave them a less than glowing review here. To recap (there is, of course, much more detail in the original review), the glasses themselves were fine, but they took much longer than promised to get here. And (the real issue) the customer service response when I expressed by frustration about this was….indifferent at best. I never got any sort of explanation or apology, and that was really all I wanted (a refund for the extra money I paid for fast shipping would have been nice, too).

A lot of people who otherwise would have no interest in this blog wind up here searching for 39 Dollar Glasses reviews, and I’ve encountered a few ardent defenders of the company. So let me be clear: I am completely tolerant of mistakes and delays. I’m not the least bit tolerant of crappy customer service or dishonesty. As I told one person in a response to a comment, I think you can tell a lot more about a company by how they handle something going wrong than you can when everything goes smoothly.

But maybe bad service is just the trade off one must accept if one wants cheap glasses?

A lot of people left comments on that post reporting good experiences with Zenni Optical, so the next time someone needed glasses, I decided to give them a try and find out.

Disclaimer/Spoiler: Everything went smoothly with my Zenni order, so I didn’t get a chance to evaluate how they handle things when there’s a problem. Maybe the Zenni people went to the same customer service school as the 39 Dollar Glasses people and they would have behaved the same way. But there are a couple of other differences in my experiences with the two companies that I can talk about, too.

Dave and I are still happily wearing our 39 Dollar Glasses frames, and they’ve held up just fine. But Ari, being a youngster, has a rapidly changing prescription and already needed new glasses. We ordered a pair for him from 39 Dollar Glasses last time, but they didn’t really fit right (not their fault), so we wound up buying him a pair at Target. His new prescription was also from Target Optical, and I figured, since the frames were only a year old and he only needed one new lens, we could just pay for a new lens and be on our way. Right? Because it doesn’t make any sense to toss out a perfectly good pair of frames that I spent a lot of money on just because the prescription has changed in one of the lenses.

But the folks at Target regretfully informed me that that’s not how things work. Pricing is set up in such a way that it’s actually cheaper to buy totally new glasses than to have a lens replaced. It doesn’t matter if you want new frames or not; you MUST buy them. Says Target. And, I’m sure, pretty much all other brick and morter glasses retailers. I’m really not sure how they all stay in business when the price difference between them and the online places is so incredibly huge.

So we turned to Zenni. Ari wanted basic plastic frames, and Zenni had a nice selection of those. The website was easy to navigate, and the ordering process went smoothly. And then the glasses showed up 11 days after I ordered; I waited a week to write the review, so he could wear them for awhile first….no complaints. They fit fine and everything looks like it’s supposed to through them. So…..thumbs up, Zenni!


So how about a side by side comparison with 39 Dollar Glasses?

Ordering Process/Website: No problems with either company here. Both sites were easy to navigate, included the option to upload a picture of yourself for virtual trying on of glasses, and had clear instructions for ordering.

Price: Zenni has the edge here, for sure. Most of the glasses at 39 Dollar Glasses are, well….$39 (we actually picked a $59 pair for Dave). Zenni’s glasses start at $6.95. I found a $15 off each pair offer when we ordered from 39DG, bringing the price of a pair of basic plastic frames with lenses down to $24 plus shipping (I paid for upgraded 2 day shipping for 3 pairs; I don’t know what regular shipping for one pair would be). Ari’s basic frames and lenses from Zenni were $17.90 (plus $4.95 shipping). So the price difference is fairly small if you can find a discount code for 39DG, but Zenni still wins.

Shipping: Well, we already know who wins this one, right?

Zenni’s website says, “Standard shipping to a U.S. address should take about 2-3 weeks.”

39 Dollar Glasses’ site says, “Over 95% of all orders ship within 1-3 business days.”

I paid for standard shipping with Zenni and the glasses arrived 11 days after I ordered….3 days faster than the low end of the estimate on their website.

With 39 Dollar Glasses, I paid for 2 day shipping. My glasses took three full weeks to arrive.

Packaging: Both places sent the glasses with a nice array of accessories; hard cases, a cloth for cleaning. I believe 39 Dollar Glasses included a little repair kit and Zenni did not. Zenni sent the glasses in a cardboard box and then inside the hard case. 39 Dollar Glasses shipped in an unpadded cardstock envelope (glasses were inside the hard cases in the envelope).


The Glasses Themselves? As I’ve mentioned, Dave and I are both still wearing our 39 Dollar Glasses with no problems. At this point I can’t see any difference in quality between these and Ari’s Zenni glasses. So I’m calling it a draw for now.

So, in short, even putting aside the shipping and customer service issues with 39 Dollar Glasses (I’m sure the slow shipping is an anomaly and that most people won’t encounter it and thus won’t have reason to find out how lacking their response to complaints and concerns is), I give Zenni the edge simply because they’re a good bit cheaper for the same basic thing. Also because I just really don’t like 39 Dollar Glasses. I don’t think they’re very nice there.

Review comparing Zenni Optical with 39 Dollar Glasses




Zenni Optical Review: Cheap Glasses Revisited — 18 Comments

  1. I’ve never heard of Zenni, that’s good to know! I used to pay $300+ for my glasses because Lens Crafters said so (same as Target, had to buy whole new frames). Then I worked with Firmoo (sounds similar to these 2 companies) and got just as awesome glasses for under $50. Pretty sure I’ll be buying online for the rest of my life now! haha

    • Yeah, I think once the secret gets out, the Lens Crafters of the world are going to be in real trouble!

  2. Check out walmart… seriously walmart. The associates there have to be trained like any other optical shop. You can get high quality glasses for $38 (no joke), frames have a 1 year frame replacement guarantee (for any reason) & if you dint like the glasses for any reason you can get a full refund. I work in my local walmart vision center & people under estimate us or assume our glasses are cheap because it is walmart, but the lenses & frames come from the same places. With your need to just get one lens for your child I think some one was trying to get you to pay more. It is easy to order one lens an use an existing frame but maybe that is just a target thing

    • Thanks for the tip! Still more than Zenni, but the replacement guarantee is a nice feature :). I gather that the issue with replacing just the lens is that all the specials they run are for frames with lenses….so you pay the full price for just a lens, which ends up being as much or more than a new pair of glasses with whatever the current special is (since there’s always SOME kind of sale)

  3. Shoddy work not worth the cheap price. We ordered two pairs of glasses with an identical prescription. We received two pairs of glasses with slightly different prescriptions.

    When worn, one pair would result in slightly blurred vision, dizziness, etc so we took them to an independent retailer and sure enough the axis on both lenses was off slightly (on the messed up pair).

    We contacted customer support and sent the glasses back. After a month or so they came back to us (after we had to ask them what is going on) and said the glasses were fine. We asked about the difference in prescription and they said they would test them again.

    Finally got back to us that the glasses were within an acceptable margin of error.

    They have an acceptable “margin of error” when producing glasses to match a prescription.

    In other words, what you order is not necessarily what you get – but that is just fine. You’ll “get used to them.”

    • oh, that’s disappointing! Thanks for the comment….my son still has no complaints about his glasses, but maybe we got lucky.

      • I am glad that your glasses are working out for you. We are getting the runaround. They are telling us that they would “be very happy to explain in detail how a pair of glasses you can’t see well with could still be within tolerance for your prescription.”

        They want us to keep glasses he cannot see well with – that are not the prescription we ordered because they are apparently within “tolerance” for for the prescription. As a result, they will do nothing to rectify the situation. What about blurred vision, headaches and dizziness speaks screams “tolerance” to you? The fact of the matter is – they did not send us what we ordered and will do nothing about it.

  4. “I figured, since the frames were only a year old and he only needed one new lens, we could just pay for a new lens and be on our way. Right?”

    WRONG! And I think you’re being naive. Let’s say someone walks in with a pair of glasses that they say they bought from Target and wants one new lens.

    Even if Target sold the glasses, they might no longer sell that model frame. If they go to remake one lens and accidentally break the frame, now they have to make for the said customer a whole new frame and lenses anyway, and who’s going to pay for that?

    Target might do the work no problem, and said customer now complains that Target scratched the other lens, or scratched the frame, or stripped a screw, you name it…any of which might have happened beforehand due to negligence by the customer and Target missed it upon initial inspection. Now Target might have to provide a whole new pair for very little money. Or replace the frame only, etc.

    In the case of a growing child, the PD will get larger, and there may not be a reasonable way to compensate for the fact that the existing lens, although the proper correction, has the wrong PD.

    Maybe the customer damaged both the original lenses and had two new lenses made by a thrd party (and doesn’t tell Target this information). Target would suffer complaints because their AR finish on the new lens would probably not perfectly match the AR finish supplied by the third party.

    In the case of sunglasses, add the batch to batch variation in tinting and polarizing characteristics to the mix.

    Processes also continually improve, especially AR coatings, and Target might not even be able to match the AR coating they sold the previous year.

    All of these things could and would become a customer service nightmare. That’s why they’d much rather sell you a discounted package and control the service and warranty issues. Some B+M, and some Online companies will provide new lenses (plural) for a customer supplied frame, but never one lens only.

    • I’m always surprised to find that my two posts about buying glasses consistently get the longest, most passionate comments :). All of that may well be true (to be fair to me and my naivety, I remember buying lenses for a pair of vintage frames in college and that they were significantly cheaper than buying frames and lenses, so this is one of the reasons I was surprised to hear it couldn’t be done now), and it’s certainly Target’s prerogative to sell and price things however they wish, but then it’s my prerogative to go elsewhere and spend a whole lot less money. I think the “nightmare” for B&M glasses places these days is that one can get 10 pairs of glasses online for the same price as one at a B&M shop….and if you and Target are telling me that my growing kid will need new frames every year–that frames are literally disposable whether I pay $20 or $300 for them–then that’s even more reason for me to keep ordering online. I mentioned my experience here by way of explaining why I went elsewhere even though I would have been willing to pay something of a premium had I gotten any kind of increased value in exchange for it (i.e. if the more expensive frames were a longer term investment for the money, or if Target could offer specialized services over what Zenni offers).

      • Thank you for responding, but gosh, no one said putting new lenses in an old frame “couldn’t be done now”. And, neither I, nor Target, told you that your child needs new frames every year.

        I simply told you that buying ONE LENS is a problem. Is that difficult to understand?

        • I’m always happy to respond to comments. Actually, you gave me a long list of reasons why Target might not want to sell lenses separately from frames, some of which were specific to selling just one lens, but some of which would apply whether I wanted both or just one replaced in the existing frames. All of these reasons collectively, you explained, are why Target would rather sell me a discounted package than sell lenses separately. It’s worth noting that the people at Target (as I said in my post) actually never said that I couldn’t get just one lens replaced; they merely explained that to do so would cost more than buying new frames with lenses. My “couldn’t be done comment” was leaving “couldn’t be done more cheaply than buying a new set of frames” implied. So, no, no one actually told me that he’ll need new frames every year, but, if his prescription changes every year, and it’s cheaper to buy new frames than to reuse the existing ones, then that is the end result. Unless I’m so devoted to reducing waste that I just DO pay more to NOT get new frames.

  5. I see an independent optometrist for my eye exams, and when it’s time for an updated prescription, I do buy one pair from his office, primarily because it’s covered by my insurance, but also because I like to make sure the prescription works before I order my spares.

    I have had great luck with Zenni, but do want to let those that have used Zenni in the past and had refund/return issues that things have changed ! The policy on refunds and returns was always very clear, but not always very good. A previous poster mentioned being told the glasses where checked for prescription, and found accurate, so they were sent back to the purchaser. Thanks to those of us that voice our opinions, this has changed recently. Now the return policy is “no questions asked” – if you don’t like the frames on your face, if they are too heavy for comfort, you keyed your prescription incorrectly, you can return them. I’ve only had to do this once, and was given my full purchase price as a store credit. Now, for some people, that is not good enough, and I say state your complaints, because things can always change. But for a frequent shopper of Zenni, it works out well (I pay more attention to the frame weight now, as well !).

    Also, if you have a pair of glasses from your eye doctor that fits well, you can use the measurements on the inside of those glasses to find a similar fitting pair. This also helps prevent you from ordering clownishly-large-for-your-face glasses if you pay attention to those sizes !

    I apologize for the long post, but I’ve saved so much money using Zenni (5 people in my house need glasses, and 3 of them are kids in sports !) and been so pleased with the glasses (I can even get fun, funky styles that I love) that I sometimes want to go on and on about them !

    • Thanks for the info on the updated return policy! It’s great to hear they listen to feedback, and that the process is easier now (the thought of having to deal with a return if something were to go wrong is one thing that gives me pause about ordering online, I admit).

  6. I have 2 pairs of Zenni glasses and I LOVE them!! They have lasted me almost 2 years now, and I am very happy. Thanks Zenni!

  7. I have tried Zenni twice and so far they are shit. Not only does customer help offer no help at all, it took me five days to get an RA number for my return, and they only give 50% of the price when you return, otherwise you’re stuck with having to use credit on another pair of shitty frames. The lenses were crap, out of focus, the PD was not correct, it seems Zenni uses monkeys to make their frames. Suffice to say I opted to spend a little more to get proper service and frames, not cheap junk that never works. My eyes are worth more than junk.

    • Sorry to hear you had such bad experiences! We’ve continued to have good luck with them, but we’ve never needed to do a return; sounds frustrating!

  8. I just got the glasses I ordered and the lenses are awful. I called and it will take weeks and it’s a big IF they think there is an issue. Well the issue is the middle of the progressive lens is great – the sides are blurred and the bottom of the lens that should be for reading is a complete blur. I called customer service – after 25 minutes got no where.

    I am a breast cancer survivor and out of work and really needed these to see so I can put out applications etc… I am beyond frustrated, hurting and upset and now broke.

    They are crooks who don’t give a damn. Based in San Francisco – basically hiding with all the cash from hard working people and THEY – DO – NOT – CARE. Greedy people headed to hell is my guess.

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