Website design occasionally shoddy, no shipment tracking, but overall satisfactory
Jun 29, 2008 (Updated Jul 2, 2008)
My husband and I needed to re-up our contact lens supplies, and neither of us had bought contacts for over a year, so it was a good chance to start afresh and find the best prices. We both wear Proclear Toric lenses, but I've been thinking about trying FreshLook ColorBlends torics. I also wanted to see if there was a significantly cheaper toric lens around; it looked like that would be Acuvue Advance for Astigmatism or Soflens Toric, so I compared prices for all four lenses, just for future reference. All those lenses are monthly disposables that come in boxes of 6 lenses each.
Because we both need separate prescriptions for each eye, our minimum order would be four boxes. That's good, because four boxes is the minimum for getting the $30 rebate (running through the end of 2008) on Proclear Torics. (Comparing contact lens prices can be kind of a pain because there are always things like an online rebate, then a mail-in rebate, but only if you buy four or sometimes six boxes . . .)
I narrowed the choices down to three sites immediately, because for big purchases like this I like to get Alaska Air miles. I use "mileage plan shopping," which I only discovered recently. They don't make it easy to find! It's at mileageplanshopping.com, but I suppose that's a separate review. :) Anyway, the three available sites were Lenscrafters, 1-800-contacts, and VisionDirect.
I use a spreadhseet to find the best prices available, taking into account the miles I get from different sites. You can buy miles from Alaska Air directly: $25 for 1000 miles, which means a mile is worth 2.5 cents. (We're planning a trip and will most likely be purchasing miles soon, so I feel like this is a good comparison for us.) So for the Proclear contacts, four boxes would cost $179.96, which is 630 miles, at 3.5 miles per dollar from Lenscrafters. Those miles would be worth $15.75. Subtracting that from the total price and dividing by four gives a price per box of $41.05. This was the lowest price available.
(Well, I did see that the Proclear lenses cost $39.99 on iBuyLens.com, but I don't like to buy from sites I've never heard of, so that ruled that out. If anyone reading this has shopped there, review it, please!)
Of course, not everyone does the mileage calculation. If I were just going by stated price, the best deal would have been at VisionDirect, with 15% off for new customers. I don't think I need to go into detail, since the price comparisons would be specific to my situation, and wouldn't be directly applicable to the fact that I'm reviewing LensCrafters. The take-home message is always do price comparisons, since no one site always had the lowest prices. (VisionDirect actually would have won in three of the four types of lenses I compared, except for the larger mileage bonus offered by LensCrafters. I've used VisionDirect before, but it was a couple of years ago. I was quite happy with it then, but I want to rack up some miles now.)
Oh, and if you're curious, both of the other toric lenses were substantially cheaper than the Proclears, so I'm going to ask about them at my next appointment. At over $40 per box, the Proclears are on the expensive end of the spectrum.
Discounts and Insurance
Also, I noticed while cruising the LensCrafters site that they have a couple of different discounts available: if you're a member of AAA or AARP, you can get a 10% discount on your contact lenses.
Here's what they say about insurance:
"LensCrafters accepts EyeMed Vision Care and most major vision insurance plans, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Cross of California, UniCare, AIG, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina."
Of course, you can also use your Flexible Spending Account at LensCrafters.
I like the clean design of this site: no popups, and no distracting ads. The downside was that there wasn't a lot of information about the lenses. I like sites like 1800contacts.com that give product information like manufacturer, lens material and water content. The Lenscrafters site doesn't even tell you if the lenses are designed for weekly or monthly replacement.
Another thing I didn't like about the site was the "contact lens selection guide." I thought it would be a tool to find the best contacts for me. But it's just a promotion of individual contact lens brands. For example, you click on "colors," and it gives you a description of FreshLook contacts. Not much of a selection guide if you want to consider any of the other like 20 brands of colored lenses!
These weren't huge drawbacks to the shopping experience for me, since I already knew what I wanted and knew all the information about the lenses. But someone who's trying to compare lenses won't get much help from LensCrafters.
Ordering your lenses is straightforward if you have your prescription with you. Many contact lens sites will contact your doctor for you to get your prescription. LensCrafters says, "If you do not have a copy [of your prescription], we will contact your specified eye doctor and confirm your prescription." However, it's not possible to place an order on this site without typing in your prescription information. I guess you could just type it in wrong, and as long as you provide your doctor's information they could correct your order. I didn't have to mess around with this, but I think other sites are more helpful about this situation.
I placed my order at 11 AM on a Saturday morning and used free shipping. which is USPS Priority 5-7 business day delivery. That was June 21, and on Monday, June 23, I got an e-mail saying that my order had shipped. My credit card wasn't billed until June 25.
I was less than thrilled with the tracking options available. First of all, on the lenscrafters site there's an option for "my account." For some reason this is not where you check your orders; to do that, you go to the contact lens menu and sign in.
(Incidentally, if you try to use the "my account" link, it causes Internet Explorer to give you a big red "x" and say, "The security certificate presented by this website was issued for a different website's address. Security certificate problems may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server. . . . If you choose to ignore this error and continue, do not enter private information into the website." I'm sure the website is fine, but it's not very professional to have your security certificates messed up.)
Once you've navigated to your contact lens account, you can check your order status and see when your order was shipped, but you don't actually get tracking information. Well, there's a tracking number, but clicking it just takes you back the main screen for your account. I cut and pasted it into the USPS website tracking feature, but got a message saying that online tracking was not available for that number.
Fortunately, I didn't have to worry about tracking, since the order arrived on June 28, five business days after the shipment notification. Everything was there, it was all well-packaged, and the prescriptions were accurate.
If you know all your prescription information and just want to reorder your contacts, LensCrafters Online will work well for you. I got a good deal from them because they give more Alaska Airline miles than other contact lens stores do. My order arrived promptly, with free shipping. As long as they keep it up with the airline miles, I'll continue to shop there, in spite of a few problems with the website design.
One more note: I went to put my new contacts in today, and realized that the boxes aren't labeled "left" and "right." So I had to go find my prescription to check which box was which. Not terribly important, but one more little thing reinforcing my impression that this website is best for people who are familiar with their lenses.