I must have read about Warby Parker somewhere, at some point in time, and was impressed enough to put the name on my list of things to try, places to see, restaurants to get to before they close down. But, for the life of me, I cannot remember where the tip came from.
With a scratch on my 7-year-old Prada sunglasses, right in my line of vision, I finally decided it was time to get another pair and, in a bout of laziness (or internet comfort), I checked out Warby Parker’s website. This online company was started a few years ago by four friends “as an alternative to the overpriced and bland eyewear available today”. Not sure about bland but overpriced is an apt description of an industry that can set you back hundreds of dollars when in need of a pair of frames. Part of the reason for the high prices is that the industry is controlled by a few (two) large companies (both Italian by the way) and operates a bit like an oligopoly.
The founders of Warby Parker circumvented the problem by buying polycarbonate at the source, designing their own line (they have 27 frames currently available) and having them manufactured by the same Chinese factories all the other eyewear companies use. The result is a high-end product at a fraction of the price, as licensing fees and all the mark-ups along the commercial chain are eliminated. Somehow, you know certain products are not costing that much to make but who has the time to stop and figure out why? Well, these four dudes did. But, wait, that is not all. One of the founding members used to work for VisionSpring, a non-profit that gives free glasses to people who need them in developing countries, where being able to see can seriously contribute to a better standard of living. In partnership with VisionSpring, Warby Parker makes sure that for every pair of glasses they sell, one pair goes to a person in need. Neat?
But, as good as all this sounds, I wouldn’t have gone ahead and given them a try if I didn’t like what I saw. All glasses are $95 (+ shipping) and the site couldn’t make picking them any easier. I was initially troubled at the thought of ordering a product that, even more than clothing, has to be tried on. WP gives you two options: uploading a mug of yours and trying frames that way or picking five pairs they will ship to you at no cost, for you to keep for 5 days, try on, decide and order (and send back the original 5).
Because I needed sunglasses, I just picked a pair I liked and ordered them. They were on my doorstep in just 48 hours, in a very pretty case and…..I love them! They are light because completely made of polycarbonate, the lenses are clearly hight quality and the style suits me. More importantly, now that I discovered Warby, I will make sure to order eyeglasses when I next need them. All you need to do is have your eyes checked and fill out the prescription online. Just for kicks, I checked if they had any reviews on Yelp and I found a ton – 98% had 5 stars and a few 4 stars. Clearly, I wasn’t the only satisfied customer. I didn’t interact with a single person but I am told their customer service is impeccable. And if you really, really have to see them in person, they have a couple of showrooms in NY and LA.