/ Health, Shopping

Do you find special offers on specs confusing?


2 for 1, free prescription sunglasses, 25% off for over-60s, free anti-reflection treatment… there are 16 special offers on Specsavers’ website this morning. But do they offer value for money or just confusion?

When we surveyed over 5,000 Which? members about optician stores, two in five said they’d used a special offer when they bought glasses or contact lenses. And nearly one in three of these still found it more expensive than they expected.

Customers of Vision Express – one of three stores rated poor for special offers – were much more likely to spend more than they’d bargained for (43%) than Asda shoppers (just 3%). One of their customers said: ‘Their staff weren’t sure which offers could be combined with which other offers.’

Plus, value for money is about more than just price and special offers. Independent stores were also rated poor for special offers, but were rated good value for money overall, with comments such as: ‘The local opticians take so much trouble… They don’t have many special offers and their prices are higher, but good-quality eye care is more important than a “BOGOF” offer.’

Extras when you buy glasses

I fully admit that a special offer drew me through the door when I bought my last pair of specs, but I felt suspicious when I was offered ‘extras’ such as an anti-reflective lens coating which I turned down. Our expert optometrist said that this is a shame, as anti-reflective lenses can have a real benefit, allowing people to see your eyes rather than the reflections on your lenses.

Four in five Which? members were offered ‘extras’, with 9% feeling pressured into accepting them, and 25% feeling they bumped up the cost more than expected.

Do you take advantage of special offers when you’re buying glasses? Do you think they offer good value?


I use a local optician for spectacles and contact lenses. No “special offers”. Rarely does anyone give anything away, and certainly not en masse – you pay for it somewhere.
I am sure I could pay significantly less elsewhere, but as my vision and eye health is vitally important I prefer to play safe. They give a very extensive eye test by knowledgeable people each year, including retinal images and 3D scans (I take it on trust that these are worth it – common sense says “why not?”) and they do not try to sell me new lenses unless either they are worn or my prescription has changed. Although I have varifocal contact lenses I still occasionally use reading glasses in low light – essentially magnifiers – and their recommendation was to buy those from e.g. Boots, rather than pay for expensive prescription ones.
So I would use an established local business where I can see the same practitioner each year – rather than risk the lottery of a chain. Peace of mind.

Deborah says:
23 June 2014

I’ve been going to the same optician for over 20 years, and get fantastic eye care. I have a fairly complex prescription and I want someone who understands my eye condition and who can detect changes over time. I’m suspicious of the ‘offers’ of the large chains, and don’t fancy seeing a different optician every time I have my eyes tested. I will admit though to ordering contact lenses on line now and again, mainly for the convenience as they arrive next day by post.

The table in the report does not mention that Rayner Opticians is now part of the Vision Express group. Oh, joy!!

Graham Smith says:
26 June 2014

Having just purchased a new pair of glasses I was particularly interested in your review of buying glasses (july2014 ).

It is clear that selling “designer” frames is big business for high sreet stores.

If your existing frames are in good condition they con, in most cases, be re-glazed for a small fee of about £10. If your optician won’t do this, go to one who will and save between £50 and £150 – I did .

Graham Smith

i used to wear glasses and never felt the need for two pairs of exactly the same prescription and when i refused the second pair the optician assistant just looked at me like I was weird.

biscuitbum says:
11 September 2014

many years ago, I placed my only pair of glasses where they could be sat upon, which I unfortunately did. I had to get out the Sellotape!

I have just been to a local independent optician, for the first time in years, to buy a pair of prescription sunglasses, and the service (by the owner) was exceptional. He had the latest equipment, and advised me to choose from a range by the top lensmaker he uses, which saved me about £150.00.

I don’t know why the report ignores buying glasses online. The last time you looked at buying them online the report was very short of detail. It mentioned that many members were very happy to buy glasses online, and did refer to one sample where 8 out of 9 glasses were found by experts to be dispensed as prescribed. However, the conclusion was that online purchasing should be avoided. The conversation was full of opticians who thought that every online retailer was a rip-off.

I have bought several pairs of glasses from Spex4Less and found their service to be very good and the prices excellent. I will continue to use a high street chain for the eye test and buy online. I object to paying the high prices from the chains.

The last report had lots of detail, 30% were made incorrectly. The OCCS has had a massive increase in compaints all from unregistered online sellers.
I can tell you your high street optician doesn’t want you as a patient if your buying online why should they? Your giving a medical professional a fee that’s less than you pay a car mechanic.

Brendan says:
21 August 2014

Just bought on line for the first time – worn specs for 50+ years – I was amazed and very satisfied with the price and professionalism and especially the ease with “Glasses Direct” being able through the post try at a time four frames and send them back with no cost to me. I eventually chose a frame I liked at an excellent price – I was given as part of the deal a second pair of my choice and with which I could change the prescription too – which I did – I also added reactolite – all additions were clear to understand and very very good value – they even do varifocals and have optometrists on line to talk to if you have a complex prescription etc. The two pairs were such good value costing £130 in total -really cool frames too. To top it all they took another £20 off because may daughter had recommended me – they then gave me £20 voucher for recommending someone else. The only thing they don’t do is the eye test on line!

they don’t measure the pupillary distance online either which is fundamental to the making of a pair of spectacles. Which hasn’t ignored online either the last study they did showed 30% were made incorrectly.
The optical consumer complaints service has seen a massive increase in complaints over the past 2 years and it’s all from unregistered online retailers.
Online is definitely cheaper though, no professionals.

Steve says:
27 November 2014

Good point Andy, I would be interested to know who these optometrists are, it would be interesting to check their General optical council registrations as they are overseeing and therefore responsible for these sales from an unregistered optical business.. Bet their not really optometrists.

I’ve used Vision Express twice in the last 6 years and found their frames poor quality both times they broke on me. I complained to customer service online and found them poor quality too,I shall never go back to them. Specsavers have better choice of frames that last and better customer service !I’ve been wearing glasses for over sixty years so I know what I’m talking about.