This post is in no way sponsored by Zenni Optical. When making my online glasses purchase, I relied on reviews by honest folks to help me find a quality pair, so I want to give back in a similar fashion!
It is, however, an exceptionally long, overly-detailed description of my experience. I’ve emboldened the key takeaways throughout for you to find them more easily.
A few months ago, my glasses broke for the second time. Not so badly that I couldn’t glue them back together, but enough that they were going to be even more fragile moving forward. Then, they broke a third time, and I decided it was time to find a new pair of frames.
I ordered a pair of prescription glasses from Zenni Optical, a company dedicated to providing quirky and inexpensive frames and prescription specs and sunglasses.
It was my first time buying glasses online after years of only purchasing from my beloved optometry clinic in BC, so I was pretty hesitant about committing to something before I felt over 95% sure of success.
Those that know me well know that my glasses are pretty important to me. They are often the only thing I put on my head to prepare for the day and they’ve long been a part of how I view myself (literally and conceptually). So, this decision to buy a new pair of frames was going to be a significant one.
I had a vision for what the frames would be: Probably red, slightly large, and either thick frames or a fun shape. I began my search with that vision.
These are my experiences and key takeaways.
TL;DR? My key takeaways are at the bottom of this post!
My search didn’t originate online. It started in optical shops and optometry clinics, where I could be confident about how a given pair of frames would look and feel on my face.
I tried on 30+ pairs of glasses in at least 5 different stores in an effort to get a clearer sense of what I wanted. A few pairs came close, but none made me feel truly inspired. Since my budget is tight while I pay off student loans, the frames I decided to spend my money on needed to feel right.
In an effort to expand my horizons, I asked my Instagram network where they would recommend finding funky frames. I received great recommendations, including Bailey Nelson, Warby Parker, Firmoo (this one was recommended by my dental hygienist), and Bonlook. I also learned about Dresden, a funky manufacturer and optometry clinic that makes one style really well in multiple colours and sizes.
In the end, I settled on on Zenni Optical because my research pointed to the quality, price, and service all lining up with what I was looking for. Most importantly, however, I found frames that inspired me!
Ordering the Glasses
With my decision made on a pair, I now needed to input my prescription and measurements. Zenni Optical uses “PD,” or pupillary distance, for its orders. This is the distance, in millimeters, between the centers of one’s pupils. I invite you to try to measure this distance yourself – it is more challenging than you might think!
Using Zenni Optical’s PD measurement guide as well as an app (yes, there’s an app for that), I determined what my PD was with about 98% confidence. That 2% made me uneasy, as I didn’t want to mess around with my vision, but the consistency of measurements eventually led to me settling on a number.
Then, I had to learn how to interpret my prescription. Since my optometrist back in BC always tested my eyes and supplied me with lenses for them, I never needed to know my prescription. Now, however, I was taking matters into my own hands, and that required a bit of research.
I have an astigmatism in both eyes, so my eyes are shaped slightly more like footballs than soccer balls. Because of this, my prescription includes three measurements for each eye: SPH, CYL, and Axis. The sphere is my eye curvature, and I have learned that OS means “oculus sinister” and refers to the left eye and its measurements, while OD means “oculus dexter” and refers to the right eye.
“CYL” means “cylinder” and refers to the particular type of lens curvature used to correct astigmatisms, and it is combined with the Axis whose angle ensures the curve goes in the correct direction.
Lesson 1: Astigmatisms are very particular and warrant care when ordering lenses.
Prescription in hand, I input my numbers online and then had to choose what features I wanted included with the lenses and glasses. I opted for blue-light protection and clip-on sunglasses. I figured that if I liked the experience enough I could invest in prescription shades at a later time.
The all-in cost? Around $100 CAD. Not bad!
I felt satisfied that, even if this didn’t end up working out perfectly, that it had not been a big enough investment to experience a great deal of regret. My only major concern was that I would be delaying getting a proper pair of glasses longer if these ones didn’t turn out to be the right ones.
Nevertheless, I submitted my order and waiting for them to arrive.
Receiving the Glasses
After ordering, I waited about a month before my glasses arrived.
During that time, I had a few questions regarding the process and wanted to make an adjustment to the order. On Zenni’s website, you can see the status of your order (allegedly – mine didn’t update with perfect accuracy). So, I had a sense of when it was appropriate to make changes prior to them shipping.
One thing I appreciated about this experience was the customer service. I was always surprised by how quickly the responses came through and how thoughtful and thorough they were in addressing concerns or answering questions I had.
My order arrived unexpectedly a couple of days after my last look at my order status online – it hadn’t changed to “shipping” like I thought it would, so I thought it was still in queue.
To my surprise, a small package showed up in my mailbox one day (another perk – soft packaging meant that it could fit inside my building’s small mailboxes) containing my glasses!
I ripped them open pretty quickly and threw them on and ran to look in the mirror.
Wearing the Glasses
My immediate reaction?
“That doesn’t look good.”
The glasses, mercifully, sat perfectly straight on my face and the frames looked exactly as I had imagined. However, the lenses themselves caused the skin behind them to look a little bit… Yellow.
My excitement for receiving them turned to intense frustration because I had not been told I was ordering old-school tinted glasses. Why did they look this way?!
Lesson 2a: Blue-light protection usually tints your lenses.
My despair was written all over my face and J really didn’t know how to react to my 30-second turnaround in emotional state. I didn’t, either!
I began planning what route to pursue to remedy the situation. 50% refund? One-time 100% store credit? These are the options offered by Zenni.
After some reflection, I decided to take the rest of the week and weekend to become more accustomed to the lenses; I would make a less emotionally-charged call in about 10 days. During that time, my hyper-awareness of the yellow tint decreased. I did notice that my prescription seemed slightly off, but I booked a follow-up optometry appointment to figure it out.
Lesson 2b: The tint isn’t really that bad – you get over it.
The optician very kindly walked me through a few experiments to determine what the issues might be that I was experiencing and we figured out that my pupillary distance and prescription were, more or less, perfectly measured. However, the optical center of my glasses was determined to be lower than it should be (i.e., the glasses seem to think the center of my eyes is about a centimeter lower than it actually is). The Axis of my prescription may also have been mis-measured the first time, but was mostly correct.
I took more time wearing my glasses and, like eyes do, my eyes adjusted to the change. It had been months since my prescription had been this close to accurate, and it required time to get used to it.
Lesson 3: Give your eyes time to adjust to a new prescription and new glasses that sit differently on your face.
After two months of wearing my glasses, I am more or less comfortable with the prescription. However, I have decided that I’m going to have the lenses replaced with some made my optometry clinic to ensure accuracy.
While Zenni Optical did a great job with everything I gave them, the optical center of the lenses is off, and I believe this causes some discomfort and headaches.
Lesson 4: You can buy inexpensive and fun frames and then pay for lenses that are made with your face in mind.
My Key Takeaways
This experience was valuable overall and I would recommend Zenni Optical’s fun frames and great customer service experience to anyone. However, there are a handful of things I would be prepared for next time:
- I would buy ONLY the frames online next time. Astigmatisms are very finicky prescriptions and warrant having lenses made in-person. If you have an astigmatism or strong prescription in general, getting your lenses made by a clinic is probably best. HOWEVER, if you have a weak prescription, online purchases can save you a lot of money!
- I have pale skin – pale skin will look a little yellow with most blue-light protection. My optometry clinic offers this feature without the tint, so if that’s important to you it might be worth checking out with your local clinic.
- Zenni Opitcal: They have wonderful customer service reps and a variety of inexpensive, unique, and fun frames for both regular and sunglasses. I would buy frames from them again.
Kudos to you if you read this whole thing and kudos to you if you skipped right to the end.
In any case, I hope this helps you if you’re looking to make a spectacles purchase in the near future! Glasses are important for those that use them for seeing and fun for those that exclusively accessorize with them.
I believe that if you are buying glasses to see clearly, you shouldn’t compromise on the quality of the lenses, even if it costs you an extra $50 – $100 to do so. Many clinics will likely offer the option to pay in multiple installments if cost is a concern for you.
Thanks for reading!