Hey. Is That Squid on Your Face? The Italian Eyeglass Mafia…

Italian Eyeglass Mafia

I’ve been wearing prescription eyeglasses since first grade. Calculating one pair per year and accounting for lost or broken pairs as a kid; plus some years as an adult when I had two or three pairs; plus prescription sunglasses, I have had about one hundred pairs of glasses.

My life with eyeglasses dragged me through horrifying 1960’s when flesh-tone-sparkle-laden cat eyes were one of two options for girls. The other option were those wire and plastic gender bending numbers worn by accountants, government geeks and nuns. You know them. They’re back again as the ugly things that hipsters now pay a month’s rent to wear because they are suddenly cool and not just the state issue monstrosities you would have gotten with your orange jumpsuit before entering the penitentiary.

The 1970’s brought some better styles and totally groovy rose lenses or sky blue; wire frames like John Lennon or a big girl cat eye from Rayban. I lived in the Phoenix area then and I bought my glasses from Gatesh Opticians. Suffice it to say they were most famous for being Elton John’s favorite eyewear purveyor. R.I.P, Gatesh brothers, now selling outrageous eyewear to touring angels in galaxies far and wide. Mine from that era didn’t hit the same crazy level Elton’s did but I definitely pushed the envelope.

In the 1980’s I had leather glasses, wooden glasses, purple glasses, navy blue glasses, green glasses and others that frighten me now when I see them in photos. I also traveled a lot that decade and had the chance to buy an eyeglass wardrobe in Hong Kong for a song, some of those my most favorite frames.

In the meantime, I’ve tried conservative, dressy, mom-glasses, edgy frames and non-descripts and have settled into a few styles now I can live with but do not love.

There are a few things about glasses that I will never understand. Lots of insurance policies do not cover eyeglasses. If you need an eye exam it’s $100 and up. A pair of frames will set you back $90 to $300 and up. Prescription lenses? Another $150 and up. Don’t want them to look like coke bottle bottoms? Another $100 charge. Not wild about bifocal or trifocal lines that cut horizontally across your line of vision? Add $200 and up. Your purchase is going to cost you somewhere in the neighborhood of $1300 for one pair of glasses. If you can’t see, you’re going to have accidents that will hurt you and maybe others so isn’t it incredibly stupid that insurance companies would rather roll the dice that you won’t get hurt instead of coughing up our own money to give us glasses?

If you pulled apart a pair of glasses, the entire amount of material you’d have is roughly the same amount of plastic, wire, screws and polycarbonate that many tiny children’s toys have. Those shaped plastic things sell for less than $15.00. Total.

Back in 2012, CBS News did a story called Sticker Shock about why eyeglasses are so darn expensive. Apparently, there’s a company in Italy, Luxottica, and they are like the mafia of eyewear. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/sticker-shock-why-are-glasses-so-expensive-07-10-2012/  They sell billions of frames around the globe under hundreds of different brand names and control the market keeping the price of eyeglasses sky-high. Like vision-crack, we poor sighted humans just keep going back for more and they just keep getting richer.

This year, as I wade back into the alligator pool to look for a new pair of glasses, I’m going to roll the dice on a website I just found
called www.SpiffySociety.com. They have a virtual try on area for their eyeglasses that uses your webcam to slap a pair onto your face and once it’s there, you can change the color options to see if you like them. It’s kind of genius.

I’ll order a new pair again this year and I’ll wade in that murky pond knowing full well that I’m going to be royally screwed by that Italian conglomerate…again. Yeah, I see you over there counting your money, Guido Scungilli. At least you could buy me dinner.