Bane of Man's Existence

June 25, 2012

When I was in high school on of my buddies used to say that "glasses were the bane of man's existence." Based on my experiences trying to get my lens prescription updated the last couple of weeks I whole-heartedly agree with him.

It's been three years since I had my eyes examined so I made an appointment with a new eye doctor for early June. My previous eye doctor discovered politics and now works for the state government after closing her vision practice here in town.

The exam was good and as I suspected discovered that my current prescription is no longer quite strong enough. I've reached the age where presbyopia is steady diminishing my visual acuity. With my new prescription in hand I set out to get new lenses for my current frames. I like the frames and saw no reason to get new ones. The glasses/frames side of the business where I had my eyes examined said they would need a day to fit the new lenses to my current frames. And their prices were quite a bit higher than the Vision Center at Walmart, so I opted to get the lenses at Walmart.

Lenses, First Try

On a Saturday afternoon I went to the Vision Center at Walmart with a copy of my prescription to order new lenses. The clerk who assisted me had great difficulty getting their computer system to recognize my insurance, and she seemed less than confident in her approach to gather the various measurements necessary. After about 45 minutes she handed me over to the other store clerk (who I've worked with successfully in the past). Clerk number two finished the order after another 30 minutes of futzing around. My patience was completely gone by this point so when the customer facing price display showed $170 instead of the stated $80 for the final price I canceled the order and walked out.

Lenses, Second Try

I went back to the eye doctor where I'd had my eyes examined and tried to order new lenses from them. Since they don't carry my frames the lens would have to be "finished" in the store and fitted to my frames. The clerk said it would take all day - a business day - to accomplish this fitting. I cannot read or operate my computer with my glasses so this would entail a day off from work. I wasn't happy about that requirement but okay. The total price was $125 - more than 50% higher than Walmart's price.

After getting home and discussing it with my wife we decided that the premium price was too much and I called and canceled the order.

Lenses, Third Try

I went back to Walmart and ordered the lenses. This time I observed the customer price display more carefully and saw that it only shows two lines at a time, whereas the details of the price, the discount, the insurance allotment, and the total are spread out over many lines. Even though the display says $170 the actual cost is really $80. Lenses ordered.

Lenses, First Fitting Try

A couple of weeks go by and I get a call from Walmart saying my new lenses are in so I go there to get them installed. The first clerk is working that evening and she wasn't able to setup my glasses properly. In hindsight it appears she managed to reverse the lenses, putting the left in the right-side and the right in the left-side. The are nearly symmetrical over the vertical axis which makes them hard to tell apart. However with them in the wrong sides the frames were visible distorted. When she did get them in right the lines for the bi- and trifocal areas were not parallel to the floor. The were at a 30º angle. I had her put the original lenses back in the frames and agreed to come in the next day to deal with the manager.

Lenses, Second Fitting Try

The manager had no more luck getting the lenses to work and agreed they needed to be remade. She said it would take another week or so. In putting my original lenses back in the glasses she managed to make a 3mm long scratch in the near vision portion of the left lens. Extremely annoying but livable for a couple of weeks.

Lenses, Third Fitting Try

When the second grinding of the new lenses arrived I returned to Walmart and the second clerk installed them for me. The width of the trifocal area was about half of what I'd had before. I had specifically requested that the bi- and trifocal portion of the lens be as wide as possible to match my current lenses. I look at a wide array of computer screens at work and wanted to swivel my head as little as possible. The trifocal area of my lenses is 34mm out of a lens that is 46mm wide.

And the clerk managed to mix up the old and new lenses so that at one point I had the scratched lens in the wrong side of the frames. They could make good use of some little colored stickers to keep track of which lens is which.

After 90 minutes in the store I gave up, requested my original lenses and a refund. To Walmart's credit they did return my money. But I still don't have new lenses and I'm reading around a scratch on my dominate eye side.

Lenses, Fourth Try

I am tempted to order new glasses and lenses online. The prices are far lower than from any of the local stores. However, you can't see and try on the frames ahead of time. The best you can do is look a pictures and measurements. Plus, only one site I've checked out of four so far, makes trifocal lenses. I'm not sure I'd be able to specify the wide trifocal area I want. So I am reduced to visiting all the eye glasses stores in town looking for a new frame and new lenses.

The nearest Lens Crafters (where I got many glasses over many years while living in Illinois) is 60 minutes drive away. And I'm not entirely sure they can make trifocals in the store in an hour meaning I'd have to make 2 two-hour round trips.

Maybe I'll just squint.

Author's profile picture

Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.