Steve from Monticllo, Minn. sent in an e-mail wondering about a good place to buy eyeglasses. My first answer is Costco Optical. The warehouse club gets excellent marks from Consumer Reports for its prices and service.
I can vouch for Costco myself. I've purchased lenses from the warehouse club twice with excellent results. (I have a strong prescription--minus 7 and minus 9 diopters plus astigmatism and progressives). The price at Costco for my leneses was half of what an independent optical shop was charging. One caveat: Costco might not fill your lens prescription if you purchase the frames elsewhere. But that's generally only if they deem the frame to be flimsy or difficult to work with. Both of my frames were purchased elsewhere and Costco still did the lenses.
But the best deal is the one that Eagan blogger Ira Mitchell found. On his site GlassyEyes, Mitchell explains how he decided to quit paying $400 for ordinary glasses (average correction, no bifocal) and buy online instead. Instead of a single expensive pair, Mitchell now buys multiple pairs and usually pays less than $90 each. He lists some of his favorite sites such as 39DollarGlasses.com, EyeBuyDirect.com and Goggles4U.com.
But buying glasses online isn't as easy as buying a book. In the link in the upper right hand corner of his homepage, he explains the process in "New to online eyeglasses? Click here to start."
Buying lenses online isn't recommended if you have progressive or bifocal lenses, a correction of plus or minus 4 diopters or stronger, a high degree of astigmatism or prism correction or if you typically need a lot of frame adjustments, said Dr. Stephen Kaufman, director of cornea and refractive surgery at the University of Minnesota.
You also may not want the hassle of ordering online if you have insurance. But for the uninsured with simple corrections, it's a significant savings.
If you're not a member of Costco and don't want to order online, Twin Cities Consumers' Checkbook recommends several opticians for high quality at reasonable prices. Here are a few: Fridley Optical (319 Osborne Rd. NE., Fridley, 763-784-3997), Northwest Opticians (367 Wabasha St. N., St. Paul, 651-224-5621) and Southdale Optical (6533 Drew Av. S., Edina, 952-925-9550).
For the complete article, you can download it for a fee at Checkbook or call 651-646-2057. Most public libraries subscribe to the magazine where it can be viewed free.