Coffee heat rising

Another Big Expense: Glasses

Well, after diddling away $700-plus on clothes a few weeks ago, I’ve done it again. This time, a like amount is going into the optometrist’s pocket. Over the weekend I ordered up two new pair of glasses. Actually, one new pair and a pair of lenses for an existing frame.

I’ve never been satisfied with the progressives and the up-close glasses Costco ground out for me last fall. They just don’t work for the tasks I do in my day-to-day life, which largely entail reading, an activity that apparently has fallen into such disuse that optometrists don’t understand that one or two of their customers still do it. And the truth is, I never intended to use those as my regular glasses, anyway—I bought them on the cheap to use as back-ups.

When we learned that the university would delay closing our office until December, I realized that the period between open enrollment and Canning Day would only be about three months. This made signing up for Avesis, the low-rent vision insurance program, highly cost-effective, since I would only have to make three payments to get the benefit of a year’s worth of coverage. It was only a few bucks a month. If I ran over to Costco, the only dispenser they covered that’s not excoriated in various online consumer reviews, I could try a new pair of progressives (which had never worked well for me in the past) and get a back-up pair for the up-close glasses at a deep discount. My plan was to continue using my old glasses, which at least more or less work, and stash these to use when the good glasses wore out or got lost.

Well, even though I can’t see to read more than a few words in them and they’re useless for computer work, I found myself using the progressives as distance lenses. They work OK to drive in, and I can read the list of ingredients on most (but not all) packaged foods in the grocery store. It’s easier to navigate Costco and Safeway with glasses that will allow me to see down the aisle, even if sometimes I have to take the glasses off to read what’s on a package.

However, they’re not very satisfactory. To read the music for choir, I had to take a pair of old, very strong prescription readers, clip a case to my music folder, and trade off the progressives for the readers whenever the print was smaller than about 12 points. Which is, we might add, most of the time. Some of the print on those scores is submicroscopic! This was a clumsy proposition from the outset. And though I could see the music with the readers on, I couldn’t see the choir director, who signals his desires not only with hand gestures but with various facial expressions. Through the readers, his face is a blur.

Add to that the fact that both the Avesis-underwritten pairs are plug-ugly. I’d selected the frames I thought were the least ugly at Costco, but their selection, despite being numerous, is actually pretty limited. These things are clunky and owl-like. They work at cross-purposes to my current scheme to start looking better.

Well, for quite some time I’ve known about this optician’s shop next to A.J.’s, my favorite overpriced gourmet grocery store. He has gorgeous frames, and he insists that he can do a better job than Costco ever dreamed. He claims he can make a pair of progressives that actually will allow me to read copy, and he does himself one better by proposing to make a pair of monovision intermediate glasses that will bring 8- to 10-point type into view and allow me to see the choir director well enough to follow what the man is trying to tell us.

So on Saturday, having bent the damn Silhouettes again sliding them in and out of the case I clipped to my choir folder (they warp at the drop of a hat), I dropped by his place to ask him to straighten them. This time I took my latest prescription, having already decided to replace the clunkers with a better-looking pair.

What I found there was a frame along the lines of the Silhouettes, but made of a stronger, bendier material. The temple pieces are attached to the lenses in a different way, so they’re less likely to snap off and less likely to crack the lenses. They’re almost invisible on your face, and they’re so lightweight it feels like you aren’t wearing glasses at all. And supposedly they don’t warp as easily as the Silhouettes; when they do, they’re allegedly easy enough to put back into shape that the consumer can do it herself.

So while the optician was measuring for this new device, he revealed the reason I can’t read through the Costco progressives without tilting my head back and peering down my nose. Though the prescription is right and the Costco optician’s measurements were correct, somewhere in the assembly-line manufacturing process they cut off the lower part of the close-up vision range. So in fact, there’s just not enough space on the lens to see a page of print. That’s why…not surprisingly…I can’t see a page of print. He said you should not have to tilt your head to see through the things—that you should be able to read by glancing down, not by doing contortions.

He suggested I take them back to Costco and ask them to redo them correctly. I pointed out that it’s been six months since I bought them, and he allowed as how after that long they probably wouldn’t do anything about it.

At any rate, he makes the lenses himself, at his shop, rather than shipping them to Indonesia or wherever these huge chains outsource to. This means the glasses will be ready the middle of next week instead of two or three weeks hence. And he does his own quality control.

So, we’ll see how this works. Of course, I don’t expect these new progressives to work for all the things I need to see. But I’ll be happy if they work a little better and don’t make me look like the owl-eyed Mma Makutsi in the Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency.

So…ahem! Where exactly is the money going to come from to cover seven hundred and some-odd dollars for a pair of freaking glasses? The frames alone were $390 (hey! I resisted buying the incredible $525 gilded pair with the ruby-colored Swarovski crystals), and then the progressive lenses were over $300, too.

Well, the truth is, even after paying for the clothing extravaganza, I still have enough in diddle-it-away savings to cover the cost. So when the bill comes I’ll probably just draw that down again. Even if there weren’t enough there to cover it, after having lived under budget for the entire spring semester, my $14,500 unemployment cushion has grown to something over $17,000. That overage was supposed to carry me through the summer, when, in the absence of teaching income, I’ll be living on nothing but Social Security, which covers only about half my base expenses. However, that extra $2,400 the college has decided to pay me for preparing the online course will moot the question of how I’m going to live through the summer. So, I figure there’s plenty to cover the glasses.

And in the justification department: one’s vision is not something to compromise on. Especially when dealing with it ties in so intimately with one’s vanity. La Maya once remarked, in justifying the wildly expensive pair of glasses she wears, that you have to wear the things on your face 16 or 18 hours a day. So if you have to have the things hanging on your nose all day long, you might as well break out of cheapskate mode and buy a decent pair.

Besides. Given the extravagant cost of Medicare B, Medicare D, and Medigap, this will easily push my 2010 medical costs high enough to make them deductible.

7 thoughts on “Another Big Expense: Glasses”

  1. Six months is nothing for Costco to take something back. I had a shredder that burnt up after a year, but for $200.00, I felt it should have lasted longer and they took it back. I got Transitions glasses once from Costco and was wearing them outside. My husband asked me if I saw a difference. I didn’t notice but only one side was turning dark. Somehow only one lenses was Transitions. And they remade the lensewith no problem.
    I believe it is still satisfaction guaranteed for non-electronics at Costco. And your problem was an actual error on their part. You just figured there was a problem with the progressives until the optometrist told you the problem. So take them back and see.

  2. I’ve used for glasses twice in the past and have been happy with their service. I go to a few local shops to try on frames first. Just thought this might be helpful for next time you are shopping for new glasses.

  3. I was going to chime in on Costco’s famous customer service. My mother bought a big piece of meat, found it unsatisfactory, and was given a refund upon producing a receipt (no meat).

    Lucky me: I just need reading glasses, so the Clics do just fine.

  4. Welp, I think you’re all right. Whenever WonderOculist has the new pair ready, I’ll write down what he says carefully and then traipse over there and ask for some sort of refund or adjustment. If they gave me a refund…that would be awfully nice, because it would pay for about half the cost the fancy new pair. But a back-up pair would be useful, too.

Comments are closed.