An Open Letter to

photo by Keith Tsui


I spent many hours in the mall in Columbia, Maryland, this weekend, trying to buy a pair of prescription eyeglasses. I started with the Oakley store, where I picked out the frames I wanted. I had actually decided from your web site which frames I wanted, but the Oakley store didn’t carry those frames in the color I wanted – they said their selection was very limited because they didn’t sell the prescription frames very well. I soon found out why.

Once I decided on a pair they did have that I liked, they told me that I would have to take the frames to an authorized Oakley dealer, of which there were three in that mall. They said they were no longer allowed to send the frames in themselves to get the prescription filled (I had my prescription with me) because they had gotten in trouble for that, apparently something to do with not having a doctor in their store.

So then I went to Pearle Vision. At Pearle Vision, they wanted to sell me their lenses instead of sending the frames in to Oakley. When I insisted on Oakley lenses, they made a show of calling Oakley (I have my doubts as to whether or not they actually spoke with Oakley on the phone, for the reasons I will illustrate shortly), and then they informed me that for the frames I had chosen, my prescription index was too high. The sales person claimed that Oakley told him that the frames only supported up to a total power of 5. They said they could put their own lenses in, but Oakley would not put in lenses at that prescription.

So then I went back to the Oakley store and told them what happened at Pearle Vision. The gentleman who had helped me looked up the frames in your catalog and found that Oakley supported up to a total power of 7 on those frames, not 5 as Pearle Vision claimed. They suggested that I try the other two vendors in the mall, Lens Crafters and Sterling Optical. They suggested I go to Lens Crafters first, because ‘sterling optical had lost their trust’. When I asked why that was the case, they told me that Sterling Optical had ripped off many of their customers who ordered Oakley lenses, substituting their own lenses instead and reselling the Oakley lenses for additional profit.

So then I went to Lenscrafters, where I faced a similar situation as I had at Pearle Vision. Only this time the sales representative wouldn’t even call Oakley – he said they would not send the frames to Oakley because Oakley would not fulfill my prescription. He was eager to sell me Lenscrafters lenses in my Oakley frames, however. He quoted me a price which turned out to be much higher than the price if I had gotten genuine Oakley lenses.

Finally I went to Sterling Optical. I told the sales lady what had happened to me at the other stores and I asked to her to check her Oakley catalog and call Oakley to confirm whether they would fulfill my prescription. She did that and she said that Oakley would indeed fulfill my prescription. She calculated the total power of my prescription to be sure – and indeed it was under 7, which is the limit Oakley set for those frames. She then proceeded to write up my order, which came out to $408 JUST FOR THE LENSES. Now, luckily I had done a little homework – I did notice on your website that you advertise a single online retailer. Through that retailer (Sports Vision Bend), comparable Oakley lenses are $189 plus $60 for the anti-reflective coating. So, Sterling Optical wasn’t going to rip me off by keeping my Oakley lenses for themselves (the sales lady made a point of telling me that I could tell the lenses were genuine because of the Oakley logo on the lens), but instead they were going to rip me off by charging DOUBLE the price of my Oakley lenses.

Why didn’t I just buy my glasses from the online retailer to start with? Because they only offer ONE of your vast selection of half-rim frames. That’s right – after I spent the time browsing through your great selection of frames online, I found that NOBODY actually sells them. I can’t order them direct from Oakley, I can’t buy them from the Oakley store in the mall, and even if I do find an alternate frame I’m happy with in the Oakley store, I then have to go to another retailer who is supposed to be a partner with Oakley, only to find that they really just want to sell me their own lenses (which void the Oakley warranty of-course, cost more, and don’t have any of the great technological benefits of genuine Oakley lenses), to the point that they will lie and cheat about it. I honestly felt like I was shopping for a used car rather than for glasses – such a dirty feeling. The sales person at the Oakley store seemed to think what these other stores was doing was illegal and in violation of their agreements with Oakley.

Do you see something terribly wrong here? What’s the point of having a great selection of frames on your web site, if they aren’t actually available for purchase, either online or in a retail store anywhere? What’s the point of having ‘authorized dealers’ if those dealers don’t actually want to sell your product, and just want to use your name to pull a bait and switch scheme? You really ought to allow your customers to send you their eye prescriptions directly, and order directly from your web site. You certainly won’t be hurting your partnerships with these so-called dealers since they aren’t selling your lenses, anyway.

In the end, I bought my Oakley frames and lenses from the online retailer – but I REALLY wish they would bother to carry more of a selection of your frames. Furthermore, Sports Vision Bend seems like a really small operation – I mean come one, they don’t even have their own domain name!

UPDATE: Sports Vision Bend actually contacted me, they were extremely courteous and professional, and it turns out they do indeed have a much wider selection of lenses than I originally thought – they just could use some uxd / nav improvements on their web site. Here’s a link to their full Oakley selection. Furthermore, they offered to check if the Oakley lab had a specific color they didn’t list on their site, but was listed on Oakley’s site.


Attribution: photo by Keith Tsui


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