Let’s be honest, buying eyeglasses is a scam

Even though my employer and my wife’s employer both pay for me to have a vision plan, I make only infrequent visits to the optometrist.

Because, you know, I’m a guy.

About five years ago, shortly after I hit the big Four-O, I had an eye exam just to make sure everything looked okay. The doctor said the only problem with my eyes was too many birthdays. I’d need reading glasses someday, but not that day.

It would have been smart to see him again twelve to twenty-four months later. Naturally, I waited four years instead. See above.

By that time, I knew something was wrong. At Mass on Sundays, I like to follow along in a missal, which, for those of you who aren’t Catholic, is a book that has all the words for the Mass. For Sundays only, it’s a thick book with small print. I have a daily missal, so it’s a really thick book with really small print.

As the years passed, I started holding my missal further and further from my face. However, I didn’t realize I was doing it. That is, until one Sunday, while kneeling during the eucharistic prayer, I had to put the missal in the pew in front of me in order to read it. By the time I saw the optometrist, he only confirmed what I already knew.

I needed reading glasses.

Being a relatively wise man, I realized choosing my first set of glasses was a decision my lovely wife would want to weigh in on. She agreed. All we needed was an afternoon when we could both spare an hour to visit the optical side of the eye care practice.

Last week, only nine short months later, that day arrived.

Those of you who have worn glasses for years can perhaps appreciate what I discovered on that day last week: buying eyeglasses from your optometrist’s office is a total scam.

I’m reminded of the scene in Casablanca where Ilsa is looking at linens and the street vendor is asking for 700 francs. Then Rick walks up and tells her she’s being cheated, and the vendor suddenly changes his tune, saying, for a friend of Rick’s, it’s only 200 francs. Rick and Ilsa continue their conversation, and it’s clear they have a past. For a special friend of Rick’s, there’s a special discount; it’s now only 100 francs.

Special friends of Rick's

Well, I looked through the frames until I found something I liked. I then almost walked away when I saw the price tag of $359. The saleswoman said, oh no, with your vision plan, there’s a $269 discount on frames from that designer. So the frames are a profitable sale at $90 but they’ll also sell them for $359 to customers who don’t know the secret handshake? And I thought mattress salesmen were con artists! It’s little wonder so many people take their eyewear prescriptions to big retailers like Walmart and Costco. After accepting the special-friend-of-Rick’s discount, it turned out the lenses weren’t even in stock, so I was going to have to wait “one to two days” for my glasses.

The next day at work, I recounted my experiences to my colleagues. Working in the information technology field, I was one of the few in my office who hadn’t already worn glasses for years. My coworkers had questions about my new glasses, and they were incredulous I had no idea how to answer. Glass or polycarbonate? Polarized? Anti-glare? I had no idea. I just asked for basic glasses.

My colleagues did not approve.

Well, “one to two days” became five days, and I finally got a call yesterday to pick up my new glasses.

It’s official. I’m an old man now.

The hardest adjustment so far is recognizing when I need the reading glasses and when I don’t. Reading and writing are obvious, and it didn’t take long to realize I should also be wearing them when I’m using my smartphone. On the other hand, my computer monitor at work is almost exactly at the cutoff point; whether or not I need my glasses depends largely on how closely I’m sitting.

I’m getting a few comments on the new look. One friend commented that the glasses made me look distinguished “in a non-homo way.” I’m pretty sure it was a compliment. One of my coworkers gave his vote of confidence, although the rest didn’t notice. And my wife and mom approve, but since they’re essentially the entire membership of my fan club, I wouldn’t expect any less.

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