Why Are Glasses So Expensive?
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Why Are Glasses So Expensive?

You pay $200 for $20 worth of plastic. Why?

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Why Are Glasses So Expensive?

I don’t wear glasses, but I had the opportunity to try out the bespectacled shopper experience for myself this summer when I accompanied my friend to LensCrafters to buy new frames. We walked out of that store with a pair of Vogue eyeglass frames that had been on sale for $149.95, That’s $150 for what is essentially a piece of plastic that could not have possibly cost more than $20 to make. And let’s not even mention the prescription glasses - those can run up to $400. Hell, I could probably walk into a gas station today and buy a pair of eyeglasses that serve the exact same purpose (and probably look pretty similar to the Vogue glasses) for $10. So, why are glasses so expensive?

Well, surprise! It all comes back to a big corporation abusing its power. Today’s winner is an Italian company called Luxottica, and you can essentially blame them for the $200 charge on your credit card that you had to pay to see. Sure, there might be a flood of different brands in the mall, but it doesn’t really matter which one you pick; Luxottica probably owns them. Ray Bans, Oakley, Prada, Vogue, Chanel, Tiffany, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Armani, you get the idea. Forbes reported that Luxottica controls 80% of the eyeglass brands available today (though that number is disputed), which means that they get to set the prices and determine value basically without competition.

Ok, but what about the brands that Luxottica doesn’t own? Surely they could undercut the corporate giant by charging reasonable prices for glasses and set a new precedent? Well, no, not really. Luxottica’s main competitors are companies like Wal-Mark or Costco, who don’t have the cool factor working in their favour, and who’s brand names tend to be associated with cheap glasses anyway. And when a ‘cool’ brand tries to dispute Luxottica’s prices and set a new precedent, it tends not to go very well for them.

See, on top of owning practically every brand of glasses, Luxottica also owns practically every store selling you those brands. That LensCrafters store I went to over the summer? Yup, that’s Luxottica. Sunglass Hut? Luxottica. Pearle Vision? Luxottica. Target Optical, Sears Optical, even glasses.com. So, if a company starts acting up and not charging a price that fits the Luxottica narrative, they can simply stop carrying that company. That’s exactly what they did with Oakley in the mid-2000s. Then, when Oakley’s stock price plummeted, Luxottica bought the company out, and now you pay $200 for a piece of plastic that makes you look like an ass.

Oakley’s might look pretty awful, but they are nice glasses. Maybe they’re worth that $200 price tag? Well, no. No, they’re not. Most of Luxottica’s brands are made in the exact same factory, and the company reports making 64 cents for every dollar you spend on glasses. That’s a crazy-high mark-up for glasses that really don’t do anything special. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Jay Duker, chair of ophthalmology at Tufts Medical Center, explains that a $40 pair of sunglasses will give you 100% protection from UV rays. Anything more than that and you’re just paying for the brand. So, the next time you have to go out and buy a nice new pair of glasses, maybe think twice about how much you’re actually paying, and what you’re getting in return.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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