ClearlyContacts / CoastalContacts and buying glasses online

Getting the best value for your money when it comes to eyeglasses, sunglasses, eye exams, and contact lenses.

Postby Mango » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:00 pm


tl;dr:
I bought frames from ClearlyContacts.ca. They are very nice.

Full version:

I wear single-vision glasses. My prescription is moderately strong (-8.50) so I like to select frames that are as small as possible, and rounded, to make the lenses appear thinner. Buying glasses in a store is difficult for me because there are very seldom frames as small as I need, (in an adult size) and it usually involves five or six hours in a shopping mall and finally compromising on something I don't really want. (Apparently I don't keep up with the latest styles.)

A neighbour told me about ClearlyContacts.ca (Lensway in the UK / CoastalContacts in the US) and I was astonished. You mean I could actually order my glasses online!? I discovered ClearlyContacts.ca has a mix of their own brands and designer brand frames. Their own brands are: Kam Dhillon, Ltede, Joseph Marc, Love, and Michelle Lane. Their own brands were very nice, though I ended up selecting a Halston frame. To do so, I went to their website, filled in some information about the frames I wanted, such as the size and shape, material, and intended gender, and in a few minutes' time was shown a list of all their frames that matched my criteria. Out of the 830 frames on their website, there was...exactly one. But one was all I needed. By far, this was the shortest amount of time I have ever spent selecting frames...and as a bonus, I got exactly what I wanted.

I got a lecture...

I mentioned this to my ophthalmologist. Predictably, she was unimpressed. She explained to me what prism was: a situation in which the image is displaced. Sometimes, this is done on purpose in order to compensate for muscular imbalance. However, if it's done accidentally, it is not a good thing and will cause eye strain. She also stated that frames should be fitted properly, and that the PD should be measured by the same person that makes your glasses. Upon interviewing several opticians, I found out that prism is a risk no matter who makes your glasses, though it is "very small". (Keep reading to find out what could cause prism.) They stated that frames are fitted for comfort - as long as the lenses are made properly, there should be no eye strain. Finally, I was not able to find an optician who could make 1.74 high index lenses - they all sent them to an outside lab. (Not to say they don't exist, just that I didn't find one.)

...but she has a point.

I can see a reason that an ophthalmologist would not approve of online opticals, that she did not mention. In 2009, ClearlyContacts.ca donated $10,000 to the BC Liberal Party. In 2010, laws in BC were changed so that people can now order glasses online without having to give a copy of the prescription to the seller. While this gives more freedom to customers, I read in professionals' forums that they are worried this will reduce the incentive for people to have their eyes checked and potentially cause serious conditions to be unnoticed. Frankly, I agree with this, and I still intend to have my eyes examined as often as recommended.

Comparing apples to apples:

I found plenty of consumers who refused to buy glasses online out of principle, which I can completely respect. Out of all the people I communicated with (again, anecdotal evidence here) who had actually bought eyewear online, I was surprised to find that every single person was delighted with their purchase. The most common reason I hear aginst ordering glasses online is that people are afraid they will be of poor quality. I'll best be able to speak on this subject in a year, but I have already owned two pairs of glasses that did not perform properly. In one pair, the coating partially rubbed off the lens after 18 months. (I typically keep my glasses for two years.) The pair that I am wearing as I write this had a beautiful gunmetal finish that only lasted six months. Now it is silver. (One optician said to me, "Well, it must be nice to have a change!" ...but I wanted a gunmetal finish!) My point is, poor quality lenses and frames can be found in traditional shops too. Both of these were high-priced glasses from large, well-known opticians.

Money well spent:

I went to an optometrist to measure my PD since MDs are exempt from the new regulations and are not required to measure it. I paid for the exam. ($65 at Walmart.) To my chagrin, the optometrist did not measure the PD (the regulations require it to be given to the patient whether or not they ask for it) and told me to ask the optician for it. The optician measured it, but attempted to make me feel guilty about it. I have the greatest sympathy for professionals who feel that online opticians are too much competition. Because of my high prescription, I have been quoted as much as $880 for lenses and frames. I don't wish to participate in a debate, though I will say I make every effort to support local, owner-operated businesses whenever I feel I am able. The fact is, $880 is far more than my insurance covers, and with a kid on the way, I decided on the vastly less expensive and more convenient option. I genuinely hope that there is enough room in the industry for both business models.

Stuff about lenses:

ClearlyContacts.ca does not state online what brand of lenses they use, however they were happy to tell me when I called them. I wasn't surprised to hear they didn't use a brand name like Essilor, which appears to be the gold standard, but the lens that they do use for 1.74 high index appears to be a relatively good one. It's from SOMO Optical. The COLTS report on their website (thanks George for telling me to look for that!) was curiously several years old, and the 1.74 high index lenses are newer than that, so they weren't in the report. I reviewed the COLTS score for their other high index lenses and was pleased to find scores as high as 4.67.

I decided to get the frames I wanted from ClearlyContacts.ca with no correction, and get lenses from Eyeglass Lens Direct. My primary reason why is that my face is apparently not entirely symmetrical since my pupils are slightly different distances from centre. ClearlyContacts.ca does not accept a monocular PD, but Eyeglass Lens Direct does. Since the amount of prism induced is based on the strength of your prescription and the amount that your PD is off, I decided to play it safe, since I have no concept of how much prism would be induced in my specific case.

Arrival:

My frames arrived a day early! The nose pad arms were not symmetrical so I needed to adjust them. I can't seem to successfully make delicate adjustments to glasses by hand and I do not own a nose pad adjusting plier. I asked my wife to lend me her round nose pliers that she uses for jewellery. These worked better than the flat nose pliers I use on electronics - since the jaws are circular and smooth, they didn't leave any marks on the frames. For anyone that's a purist, nose pad adjusting pliers may be found on eBay for about $15. I think if I ever have a spare set of round nose pliers, I'll coat the tips with Plasti Dip so that it will be even less likely to scratch the frames.

I also needed to reshape the temples since they were too tight stock. I lined them up beside my old frames and shaped the new ones so that they matched. It took more time than I expected to get them even. A word of caution - don't make any bends very close to the opening of the temple tips as you risk splitting them that way.

Here is an article about how a professional would adjust frames: http://www.2020mag.com/LT/ViewLTIssueCo ... fault.aspx

The price:

I used a coupon from RetailMeNot for the frames and got $20 off. This brought the frames, which were on sale for $38, down to a very reasonable $30 after shipping and insurance. I'm pleased to say I'm delighted! Their measurements must have been accurate because I searched for frames that were the same size as my old ones, and the new frames are indeed just as comfortable as before. In other words, they are exactly as I expected based on ClearlyContacts.ca's photos and description.

Guarantee:

ClearlyContacts.ca's return policy is very generous: you may return an order for any reason within 30 days...and they'll even pay for the shipping! They'll also price match and if you find a lower price on an identical item within 10 days of your purchase they'll refund 110% of the difference. I haven't needed to take advantage of either of these but it's nice to know I can if necessary.

Random other minorly important stuff:

As far as usability, I noticed a few minor issues with the ClearlyContacts.ca website. However, it still had my favourite user interface of everything I tried.
- The "Nose Pads" option didn't work perfectly and hid some frames that actually had nose pads.
- It would be nice to be able to search by frames that are "full frame" "rimless" or "half rimless".
- It is not possible to middle-click a frame and have it open in a new window, for ease of comparing multiple frames. Their web developer redeems himself or herself, as it IS possible to use the back button in spite of the fact that searches are done by AJAX. Nicely done.

Since I paid by Visa, and my Visa has Extended Warranty Protection, it appears as if I receive an extra year of warranty on my frames. I have not ever attempted to make a warranty claim through Visa. However, glasses do not appear to be on their exclusions list.

If you've come this far...

...thank you for reading all the way to the end! Also, thanks to the powers-that-be for this excellent discussion forum, and to George for all the valuable information that he's posted. (IS George the powers-that-be?) My name is Mango and I am chronically verbose.
.
Mango
 
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:57 am

Postby george » Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:21 pm

Mango,

Thank you very much for the thorough review and discussion! While I am not the administrator the of the forums, I am a moderator. I love reading reviews from other people and I'm glad to hear that you had a good experience with ClearlyContacts. I'm very curious to hear what your experience will be with Eyeglass Lens Direct too. I look forward to seeing your comments in that thread once you've gotten your lenses.

I found your comments on "prism" very interesting and I'm going to look into that a little bit more.
george
 
Posts: 260
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:23 pm

Postby george » Thu May 19, 2011 10:36 pm

Someone just posted a thread which includes an offer for free glasses (just pay shipping and handling) from Coastal Contacts. The offer is only good on 5/25, but it seems to be offered every month or so.
george
 
Posts: 260
Joined: Fri Apr 11, 2008 8:23 pm

Postby Mango » Sat Jun 18, 2011 11:42 am

A quick update: I needed new glasses and wanted something cheap while I was trying to figure out where to get something good. I ordered the cheapest glasses I could find on Clearly Contacts' website. This included a 1.5 index lens with anti-reflective, UV, and scratch resistant coating. I was surprised to discover...

...the cheap glasses are awesome!!

Seriously, these are the best glasses I've ever owned. While I've had an "adjustment period" for any glasses I've ever worn, these took a respectably short amount of time. I wear them for my usual 16 hours a day and have no eye strain, vision problems, or other ill effects. I have a high prescription, but the lenses don't seem that thick since I chose small frames. They're even easy to clean. After wearing these for a few days I declared my quest for glasses (without having to step in a shopping centre) complete.

The only advantage I noticed to the Crizal Avance that I tried briefly is that my Clearly Contacts glasses have a very very slight brown tint. The Crizal Avance did not. However, I don't say this to deter you from Clearly Contacts. I probably wouldn't have even noticed this had I not been looking for things to compare with. Further, I think it is worthwhile to note that my old glasses from Pearle Vision have the exact same tint. I don't see it unless I'm looking for it, and it's WELL worth saving the hundreds of dollars.

Clearly Contacts is currently aggressively promoting their "free glasses" campaign. One needs a coupon code for this, but they're relatively easy to find. "freeglassesonus" should work for the next few weeks. A recent difference is that you can now choose between AR, UV, and scratch resistant coatings - they were always included before. The coatings now cost $10 each or $20 for all three. The "free glasses" now do not come with these coatings, so you'll end up paying $35 or so after the coatings and shipping. (Curiously, you can't choose a tint and the AR coating at the same time.) While I'm in favour of customer choice, I hope this won't cause a flood of people who don't get the coatings to save $20, and then are unhappy with their glasses - time will tell.

Yes, for me this is a "quick" update. This may explain why I never get asked to give speeches.

m.
Mango
 
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:57 am

Postby Mango » Fri Aug 29, 2014 9:50 am

Kind of late, but I just found out about this:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/clearly ... -1.2553349

Essilor bought CoastalContacts in February.
Mango
 
Posts: 13
Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2011 11:57 am




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