Thursday, November 10, 2011

Explain it to Me

My longtime sunglasses are not too far from collapsing into tired worn out pieces and there’s nothing to be done about it. They have weathered the vicissitudes of casual daily use for close to eight years and everything says they’ve done their job long and well, but have reached the end of the line. Asking about repair or restoration, several professionals explained that the frames are too old and brittle to do anything with. Buy a new pair of the same frames, someone suggested. Problem is, the online Ralph Lauren catalog, lists no Italian-made tortoiseshell frames to match the old ones.

Hard to accept this bad news and content myself with a new pair of sunglasses different from the ones I have loved and cherished for so long, but there didn’t seem to be any other alternative. Dashing out to the eyeglass shop right away and choosing new glasses is not anything I was eager to do. Over the course of a week or so I remembered another pair of glasses—reading glasses—that I once used for a few years, knowing they had to be somewhere around the house in this or that box. Something told me those glasses might be the closest thing to the old Ralph Lauren frames…tortoiseshell, a little rounder perhaps and made by Hugo Boss, another pair bought in Tokyo some time back.

Tuesday morning I took the Hugo Boss frames to the local optometrist, a business called Total Vision located on historic Canal Street in New Smyrna Beach. Extremely nice, friendly and efficient people in white coats and big smiles. I was introduced to a young woman who listened to my needs and set the wheels in progress. Because the new glasses are to have prescription lenses an eye exam was necessary to determine whether a new prescription is necessary. I was told the doctor could see me in a few minutes if I had time. I explained that I had another appointment in thirty minutes, but… No problem at all, I was assured it wouldn’t take that long.

A technician did the first half of the eye exam and then the doctor came in to check for things like degeneration, cloudiness and cataracts. It was a thorough examination with good results, but showing the need for a slight adjustment in my distance prescription. The next step was a sit-down with someone else to discuss the new sunglasses. The pretty young technician was so engaging I thought of asking her to marry me, but rushed as I was and her full of technical descriptions of this or that lens, I let her click the keyboard and ask questions. Can’t really say that I understood all her abbreviated explanations (time was an issue by then) but I let her finish and blithely handed over my credit card. Seeing as how I supplied the frames and was purchasing only two new dark-tinted prescription lenses, the price seemed high, but by then I was hurrying to finish and get somewhere else in time.

I sat down last night to go over the receipt and try to figure out if somewhere in the list of technical terms and abbreviations I could make sense of two tinted prescription lenses (minus the frames) costing $457.00. Two pieces of plastic the size of a silver dollar costing $228 each? Even the obscure abbreviations on the receipt couldn’t add up to that much, surely. I called a friend and explained the situation, asking if $457 sounded like a reasonable price. Like me, he thought it closer to insane than reasonable.

On Wednesday morning I returned to Total Vision with the aim of getting a clearer picture of why I was paying so much for two small pieces of plastic. Smiles, apologies, assurances and all the other modern day rigamarole used to justify that ancient condition—GREED. “This is the finest material made for prescription lenses, and as the doctor indicated, your condition requires the use of an XYZ type lens. In addition we are providing a two-year warranty against the slightest and tiniest of scratches, not to mention the glare-proofing. Oh, this material is the cream of lightweight plastics. You won’t even know you’re wearing glasses! And unfortunately we had to charge you for fitting the lenses into the frames you provided…Apart from that were there any other questions?”

Remember the name: Total Vision in New Smyrna Beach, Port Orange, Deland, DeBary and Palm Coast, Florida. Need new glasses or contacts? Better look elsewhere.


  1. On a trip home, my mom gave me an antique family photo with cardboard-like backing, that developed a long crack in my suitcase. Horrified, I took it to a photo studio to be restored and left my credit card information. When I got my picture back, I'd been charged over $300! (No frame; that was extra.) Not long after that, everyone, including me, had a computer, and could have done it easily. I feel your pain.

  2. Oh, yes, fell for the "buy one pair and get an extra pair (even sunglasses!) for free" line of bull. By the time it all added up, the $99 special was in the $500+ range. Talk about masters of hiding costs. Got just one pair for $250 and a few months later glaucoma had changed my vision. I will be the old man on your beach with contacts on and a large magnifying glass dangling from around his neck.

  3. Here in UK we have a cheapo chain of clothing stores called Primark. They sell pilot style sunglasses at £1.50 [around 90 cents US?] a pair. They fit over my prescription glasses too.Frankly, who cares about the brand name as they all probably begin life in the same Chinese factory.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America