The Want Not Review: Zenni Optical

Today I’d like to tell you all about my recent adventures in buying eyeglasses. I know! You’re on the edge of your seat with anticipation!

Once upon a time I wrote this little piece and basically begged you to consider glasses one of those must-have, must-pay-for sorts of items. “Do not go cheap!” I told you. “You get what you pay for!” I insisted.

Due to various factors, I decided to challenge my own notion that this was the gospel truth. I had read many sources extolling the virtues of Zenni Optical, where glasses start at just $8 for a complete pair. What did I have to lose, really? I would consider it an experiment. And so that’s what I did.

The truth of the matter is that I decided to do this after going to our touted optical place here in town and having them mess up not just my glasses, but my husband’s, as well. I ordered two pairs of glasses from them for quite a bit of money, and one pair was put together poorly and badly scratched (and they claimed was the last of that frame, and so couldn’t be replaced) and the other pair just never fit right. I don’t want to tell you how many trips I made to their store, trying to get it fixed. Finally I returned both pairs, got a different frame for my computer glasses (because I was in dire, dire need of computer glasses), and went on my way, vowing to try out Zenni, instead.

And here’s what happened: Of course, I found myself checking out the more expensive frames at Zenni, in general, but even those were still vastly cheaper than anything at the local optical place. In fact, I ordered four pairs of glasses from Zenni for a grand total of less than half what the first defective pair from the local place had cost me.

Let’s go through them, shall we?

With every pair I purchased, I paid close attention to the dimensions given on the site, and compared those to the dimensions of glasses we already had. When you can’t try something on, you have to use the numbers to get an idea of their size.

The first thing I ordered from Zenni was a pair of sunglasses for my 9-year-old daughter. We selected this frame for her, which is a memory titanium, at a cost of under $30 complete. My daughter wears a very strong prescription and the lenses on her glasses are very thick. This was the first pair I opened and I thought the lenses looked even thicker than usual, which didn’t thrill me. (Note: Her glasses are teeny tiny, and with a prescription as strong as hers, it’s hard to make tiny lenses thin.) She, however, loves them. They appear to be virtually indestructible, too. (You can wind the earpieces around your finger and they’ll spring back into shape.) They came out of the case needing no adjustment and fitting perfectly. Verdict: Thumbs way up.

Let’s pause for a second while I show you these frames here. These are the computer glasses I bought from the local place. They cost me over a hundred dollars, and in addition to being the color of a grape Otter Pop (mmmm… Otter Pops), they don’t have anti-glare coating, as you can see from the reflections in the lenses. Anti-glare coating is good for your eyes and reduces eye strain and fatigue, but I didn’t get it because they wanted another $40 for it. I’m showing you these glasses for two reasons: One, to tell you how much the coating generally costs, and two, to say that I liked the shape and fit of these glasses enough that I used their dimensions to help me pick the glasses you’ll see below. Moving on….

The first thing I looked for was a frame for another set of computer glasses, because I really wanted a pair with anti-glare coating, and guess how much the coating cost when you get it at Zenni! Go on, guess! Yep, $4.95 a pair. That’s it. A total bargain at that price, no? I chose this frame for $12.95, and you can see them on me right here. This pair needed a bit of adjusting—they were a bit crooked, out of the case. And they’re probably my least favorite-looking of the lot, but they’re fine. The prescription and coating are perfect. Verdict: Thumbs up, because for under $20 they’re perfectly fine.

Next, I decided to pick out two pairs of distance glasses. Given all the money I was saving, I decided to go for a kind of wild pair, and picked these frames which you can see on me right here. These were my most expensive purchase, coming in at just over $30 complete with the anti-glare coating. They fit well and the prescription and coating are fine. The color turned out to be a bit different than it appeared from the website—a little more muted—but in general, I can’t complain. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to wear these every day, but they’re fun and I like them. Verdict: Thumbs up.

For a more “regular” pair of everyday glasses, I ended up selecting this pair, which you can see on me right here. They were under $18 with the anti-glare coating. Again, the prescription is perfect, and it’s worth noting that the lenses were cut really well. What do I mean by this? Well, this was my only semi-rimless pair, and there is a huge disparity in my prescription between my eyes. My right eye is much worse, and I’ve often shied away from rimless frames because lenses that aren’t cut with care yield a right lens three times as thick as the left. I was pleased to discover that my right lens was only nominally thicker than the left, which tells me that some care was put into assembling these. This pair required a little big of adjusting of the nose pads, but other than that were perfect. I’m not sure if I really like these or not—they’re a lot bigger than my last everyday pair—but in terms of assembly, they’re flawless. Verdict: Thumbs way up.

The good news is that shipping from Zenni Optical is just $4.95 regardless of how many pairs you order. The bad news is that I suspect they ship your glasses via slow boat from the Arctic Circle, as it took over two weeks for the order to arrive. It’s hard to complain when you’re only paying five bucks for shipping, though.

Bottom line? I would (and will) order from Zenni again. If you’re not in a hurry, it’s a great, cheap option. In fact, I asked my pal Susan Wagner—guru of all things style—to please grace us with some discussion of picking out glasses and how/when they are an actual fashion accessory, because at prices like these, you can afford a few pairs. Susan’s post is now up over here, if you’re interested in some optical fashion advice.

And I officially take back what I said about ordering online. I’m a Zenni convert now.

44 Responses to “The Want Not Review: Zenni Optical”

  1. 1
    MJ January 31, 2008 at 10:55 am #

    I’ve been dying to try a few pairs for my husband, but completely forgot the website. Thanks for posting this! He wears glasses all of the time though, and I’m wondering if we went to a place like Sears Optical if they would give us all of the “codes” he would need for prescription glasses, and how much that would cost. Does anyone have any ideas?

  2. 2
    Mir January 31, 2008 at 10:58 am #

    MJ: You are legally entitled to your prescription from anywhere you have an exam, at no additional charge. Just make sure that you have them measure your pupillary distance (PD) and write that down along with the prescription, as you’ll need that when ordering.

  3. 3
    MJ January 31, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    Thank you so much Mir, you rock! :D

  4. 4
    Divrchk January 31, 2008 at 11:15 am #

    I love this post with photos and all!

  5. 5
    Cynthia January 31, 2008 at 11:31 am #

    Thanks bunches! Both of my girls need glasses, and maybe my son, too, so this will definitely come in handy. You totally rock! :D

  6. 6
    Dani January 31, 2008 at 11:32 am #

    I poked all around the site looking for sports goggles for my boys and wasn’t able to find any. Anyone else have any luck? If not, can anyone point me toward a lower cost alternative than getting them from a regular optical shop?

    Both my 7 & 8 year old have heavy duty prescriptions which require them to wear their glasses during sports. The goggle-type glasses are much safer and more durable than regular glasses. BUT… The thought of shelling out about $400 for two pairs of glasses that they’ll only wear once a week makes me want to teach them to “duck”. ;)

  7. 7
    Steff January 31, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    OMG…thank you thank you…just save me at least $100! My 11 yo wears glasses and is picky picky about them I always have to put a $$ limit on them which eliminates his idea of acceptable.

    His mother won’t wear her glasses because they are ugly and is too cheap to buy new ones that are pretty. But now I can be pretty again, in glasses.

  8. 8
    Mir January 31, 2008 at 11:46 am #

    Dani: Sports goggles for kids are very hard to find. May I suggest that at these prices, you just get a “sports” pair in titanium (durable) and have them wear them with a strap? Not as safe as goggles, granted, but ever so much cheaper!

  9. 9
    jess January 31, 2008 at 12:02 pm #

    Mir: I have astigmatism pretty bad (as does my husband) and just spent TONS on a new pair of glasses without anti-glare (which I missed the moment I walked into Best Buy right after picking them up. I don’t know how I forgot to get that, as I had it on my last pair.) Anyway, is this site okay to purchase from if you have astigmatism? I had read previously that buying online may not be a good idea if you have this issue, so I was wondering if anyone in your family has this eye problem.

    Thanks!
    jess

  10. 10
    Mir January 31, 2008 at 12:12 pm #

    Jess: That was part of my argument in my previous post, that astigmatism is more complicated and easier to mess up, and so not a good idea for online purchases. HOWEVER, both my daughter and I have severe astigmatism and our glasses are fine!

    Again, for what it costs from Zenni, order a $8 or $12 pair and test them out. If for whatever reason they’re no good, you’re not out much money. But I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality.

  11. 11
    jess January 31, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    Nifty. I will definitely be discussing this with the husband this evening, since we both should have an extra pair just in case anyway. We’re blind without our glasses…

    Thanks for the info! As you said, it can’t hurt to try.

    jess

  12. 12
    Anna January 31, 2008 at 12:21 pm #

    Mir, your pictures reminded me of Wilson Wilson! Seriously, the black/green are cute, and I love the tortoise shell ones.

  13. 13
    heels January 31, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    Those green ones look fantastic on you… at least, they do in the tiny window of a picture provided!

    Thanks for this review. My husband wears very expensive glasses, and I now have to have some for driving. I’ve been suffering with my driving glasses not being sunglasses (I live in California- this is a BIG DEAL), but now maybe I can have BOTH! What a concept…

  14. 14
    Jessica January 31, 2008 at 12:55 pm #

    I ordered a few pairs from them about a year ago. COULDN’T BE HAPPIER!!

    Even got 80% tinted ones, so I can finally read my book while sitting outside!

    Got cute ones for going out, standard ones for cleaning the house, one pair of sunglasses, and one more pair. I think the whole order was less than $50!

    You have just reminded me to go buy more, whoopee!!

  15. 15
    Jen January 31, 2008 at 12:58 pm #

    Mir and Jess
    The main problem with astigmatism being difficult to purchase online is where the center of your pupils will land in your lens. If you have a very good pupil distance (PD) measurement, that will help immensely. If it is very long lens shape (goes down your cheeks, it is good to have a pupil height measurement as well. Most modern frames do not have long lens shapes, so they center the astigmatism axis right at vertical center of the lens.

  16. 16
    Dani January 31, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    Good thought on the cheaper pair for sports, Mir. Believe it or not though, I find it safer without the strap. With the strap holding the glasses to their face, they end up getting gouged/cut/scratched by the glasses (usually the nose pieces). Without the strap the glasses just usually go flying off. Bad for the glasses, better for their cute little faces. :) With cheap glasses, I like that plan even better! Thanks again.

  17. 17
    Ginafish January 31, 2008 at 1:05 pm #

    I bought 3 pairs from Zenni and love them all! I bought a ‘straight up’ rimless pair, a knockem’ down red pair, and then picked up a pair of sunglasses by picking tortoise frames with 80% brown tint. I get a lot of compliments on the red pair, and I got all 3 for under $90. Thanks for this endorsement, you’ve reminded me to give them a look for new frames. :)

  18. 18
    Becca January 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm #

    All those frames look great! I’ve shied away from ordering online because I don’t know how they’ll look on me, but for that price, I can take a risk.

    You say you have a strong prescription. Would you mind sharing how strong? I always need to buy full frame lenses and the super light lenses. If I buy the “standard” lenses, the edges are nearly 2 inches thick.

    Being weak in the eyes is hard on the wallet.

  19. 19
    Phyllis January 31, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    Mir,

    I don’t even wear glasses and you make me want to run out and buy some…=) Hubby does though, so we’ll be filing this away for future reference. Clark Howard has mentioned this site as well. Your glasses are way cute! I love the wild green ones, what fun!

  20. 20
    ChristieNY January 31, 2008 at 1:17 pm #

    I paid over $500 last month (even after my vision plan!) for an exam & 2 prs of glasses from our local optical shop.

    I’m going to order rx sunglasses from Zenni now – thank you! :)

  21. 21
    Jo January 31, 2008 at 1:31 pm #

    Mir,
    Quick question, I ordered my husband a pair of glasses from 39dollarglasses.com and he wanted the plastic frames. When they came, the frames looked very cheap and he won’t wear them. It looks like some of the frames you ordered from Zenni may be the plastic ones. How do they look? Do they look like they cost only $8? We both need new glasses. I also had a horrible experience at a local place and paid over $150 for glasses I now don’t like!
    Thanks!

  22. 22
    Mir January 31, 2008 at 1:57 pm #

    Jo: Although all of the frames are “no brand”, the two plastic pairs (the pink computer glasses, and then half-rim tortoise glasses) are no flimsier than the much more expensive purple glasses I got from the local shop. None of them are particularly swanky, but they’re good-quality.

  23. 23
    Brandy January 31, 2008 at 1:59 pm #

    Would you recommend going this route when purchasing a VERY FIRST PAIR of glasses for my 12 year old Daughter?

  24. 24
    Mir January 31, 2008 at 2:04 pm #

    Brandy: No, I would not. She needs to be professionally fitted so that you have a reference point on frame size, among other things. I would use this option for a subsequent pair (or an extra, or sunglasses).

  25. 25
    J January 31, 2008 at 2:25 pm #

    Also, if you live near Brooklyn, there is a really nice shop that makes glasses while you wait for similar prices… and they will adjust the frames to your face (something I find difficult to do).

  26. 26
    MomCat January 31, 2008 at 2:29 pm #

    Wow – thanks so much for this review! Prescription glasses, sunglasses and contact lenses for my family have always amounted to the cost of a vacation. We will definitely be trying Zenni.

    Cool, green frames! They look extra-pretty on you.

  27. 27
    ImpostorMom January 31, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    My husband wears glasses much of the time so I may suggest this option to him the next time he needs a new pair. Great review, thanks!

  28. 28
    Laura January 31, 2008 at 3:04 pm #

    Would the person who posted from Brooklyn PLEASE share the name and location of the shop!!???!!! (I’m assuming you mean Brooklyn, one of the 5 boroughs of NYC and not Brooklyn, Arkansas. (Is there a Brooklyn, Arkansas? I don’t know…)

  29. 29
    saucygrrl January 31, 2008 at 3:36 pm #

    ok, I’m going to stop beating around the bush. Can we be best friends? Cause, really? First you give me the gift of cheap yet gorgeous shoes, and NOW you’re telling me about cheap and awesome glasses?

    I feel like I should give something in return. I’m B negative if you never need some… ;)

  30. 30
    Melissa January 31, 2008 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks for the info! I didn’t even know you could order glasses online- I think I will try it!

  31. 31
    Ladybug Crossing January 31, 2008 at 5:03 pm #

    I’ve been contemplating trying Zenni since I learned about it online. Now, I’m going to do it!! The 3 of us who wear glasses all have appointments within the next 2 weeks. I’ll be getting my info and ordering from Zenni.
    Thanks!!
    LBC

  32. 32
    Erin January 31, 2008 at 5:12 pm #

    That is so COOL! My husband needs new glasses and I am so going to drag him to get a checkup (and therefore, a new prescription) and then point him in the direction of Zenni and let him loose. His is also a fairly strong prescription (just short of seeing-eye-dog, if you know what I mean), so getting the thin lenses and the anti-scratch and all that costs an arm and a leg.

    Thanks for this! YAY!

  33. 33
    Kristin January 31, 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    I bought emergency glasses for my husband from eyeglassdirect.com 2 summers ago (he was working out of town and his only pair broke,I was going to see him the next day), and for 1 pair with scratch-resistant coating and polarization including overnight shipping I paid $56. Like mir said, you are legally entitled to your prescription so you can get your eyes checked anywhere. He has astigmatism in one eye and that was indicated by one of the numbers on the prescription card.

    They’re based in Brooklyn, might be the shop the previous poster mentioned.

    Did you know that most glasses retailers are really all owned by the same company? Sears optical, Penneys optical, Lenscrafters and Pearle (among others) are all owned by one company, the owner of which is one of the top 50 richest people in the world. The reason you can get glasses so cheap on the internet is because they charge you just a little over cost…these are the same frames you can get from your more expensive shops, but they haven’t been stamped with a ‘designer’ name yet. They are the same darn frames. The profit margin on glasses is insane, right up there with furniture. It, along with textbooks, is a racket in which I refuse to be a hapless participant.

  34. 34
    Cassie January 31, 2008 at 7:43 pm #

    Yeah, I bought my glasses from Zenni almost a year ago. I remember how annoying it was that it took a while for them to show up, but I wear them every day. The sunglasses that clip on aren’t really the right size, but it’s good enough for driving in my car.

    I LOVE Zenni Optical.

  35. 35
    Swistle January 31, 2008 at 9:52 pm #

    This is very, very, VERY exciting. VERY. I might even go get a new glasses prescription now, which I’ve been putting off for SEVERAL YEARS because buying new glasses is way down on my list with replacing the furnace filter and cleaning the cat box. But cheap and fun and I can get about ten pairs for the price I spent last time for one? I’M ON BOARD.

    Now. Cheap eye exams?

  36. 36
    Ani January 31, 2008 at 10:16 pm #

    Thanks, this is great info for our Mr. Magoo family.

  37. 37
    Ani January 31, 2008 at 10:25 pm #

    Out of curiosity…where did they ship from?

  38. 38
    Jill January 31, 2008 at 10:37 pm #

    My husband just ordered a pair a few weeks ago. It did take two weeks, but like Mir and others have said it is worth it. He is very pleased with them. I will say that he should’ve gotten the anti-glare, but other than that…they look good. Also, he just asked the eyeglass place to measure his eyes for him and they did, no questions, no charge.
    And Mir, your glasses look great!

  39. 39
    Barbara February 1, 2008 at 1:19 am #

    Thank you SO much for writing about this! I’m sitting here with the same frames my mom bought me when I was fresh out of college (10 years ago?), and I can tell without even looking that they are very crooked on my face. They’re downright embarrassing to wear in public anymore. But…you know..expensive to replace and all that. Now I have options! Now I can be one of those cool people that have the traditional pair and the fun pair! Woot! Thanks again. (=

  40. 40
    Nalani February 1, 2008 at 1:32 am #

    I love Zenni Optical. I bought 5 pairs a couple of months ago. Cuz I loose mine all the time. My only complaint is that they seem to bow out the side things.

  41. 41
    Anita February 1, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    thanks so much for the review!! i had been looking at this site too, and wondered if you really got what you paid for-which in this case would be bad. but now i will definitely try them out. too bad you’re not making any advertising money on this!!

  42. 42
    Liza February 1, 2008 at 10:59 am #

    This is the very first moment I am regretting having had lasik. My last pair of glasses were ~$300! If I still needed them, I’d go online and by 6 pr.

  43. 43
    Therese February 4, 2008 at 10:36 am #

    Do you have a different prescriptions for distance and computer work?

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