For a few years now, my optometrist has been nudging me to consider either reading glasses or progressive lenses. For my last prescription, he split the difference between reading and distance; that mostly worked fine, but Hamilton convinced us to get season tickets for an SF musical company, I was a cheapskate, our tickets were in the back of the theater, and: the stage was blurrier than I would have liked.

So, between that and Miranda’s good experiences with a local Warby Parker store, I decided to get glasses that matched my distance prescription this time: if that worked, great, if not, Warby Parker’s cheaper prices would allow me to experiment with other types of glasses as a supplement.

And it was refreshing wearing my new glasses and being able to see farther as I walked around town. It was, however, not so refreshing to have a hard time reading things that were close up: books, my phone, and even my computer screen at work. I managed, and actually I learned something about practical optics: if I move my glasses further down my nose, then I can focus significantly closer than I can otherwise. So those glasses are workable no matter the situation; but they have significant flaws.


I decided to try out progressive lenses next. I’d assumed they’d be cheaper at Warby Parker than at my optometrist’s (especially without the insurance discount); I still assume that this is true, but they’re plenty expensive at Warby Parker, about twice the price of regular prescription glasses. But, at any rate, I needed them (or at least I needed something different), so I bought a pair.

And they were better than the distance glasses! Or at least, better on average, but there were a few problems. One is that they don’t go at all well with a 27" monitor: it was impossible for me to have the whole monitor in focus. (It seems like the cutoff for my prescription was around 21 inches; I ended up moving my windows to a smaller portion of my monitor, and that worked okay.) And the other is that my right eye never felt completely right: no matter where I looked I didn’t see an area that I was completely comfortable with for close reading. (Not sure if that was a manufacturing defect or a prescription defect.) Don’t get me wrong, it was usable for reading, but still: a little off.


So I decided to get reading glasses as well. Warby Parker again; I figured that, this time, I’d use their website rather than their store, their website must be good given how they position themselves in their advertising?

Not so much, it turns out: in fact, I’ve never seen a purchase flow that was offputting in quite this way. I selected the frames that I wanted (and that part of the flow was fine); the next step seemed to be to the checkout flow. So I went to check out, and saw an option for credit card or Apple Pay; that was nice, I selected Apple Pay.

At which point I hit the first problem: they wanted me to put in my fingerprint right then. I was not about to do that given that I hadn’t entered enough information for them to be able to even show me an accurate price! So I swiched from Apple Pay to credit card; from the look of the screen, I should have been able to input my prescription info before actually entering the credit card info, but they insisted on having me enter my credit card info before they’d let me enter my prescription.

I almost stopped right there: I have no idea why they’re requiring complete payment information before showing me a price and complete order details, but it’s ridiculous. I reluctantly continued, though, at which point I ran into the next road block: the prescription information.

They had my progressive lens prescription; I wanted to select reading glasses based off of that, but I didn’t see an option to do so. Which is fine, it’s a pretty niche case, but then they told me to put in a scan of my prescription. And that doesn’t work with my situation any better than using my prescription on file: again, no obvious way to specify the reading version of the prescription.

There were a couple of other options, e.g. have them call my optometrist, but nothing that actually helped: in particular no option to HAVE ME ENTER THE DAMN NUMBERS MYSELF. Like the payment situation, I have no idea why they’ve designed their checkout flow that way, but that’s where I bailed: I am not about to give them money if I don’t even know if I’m going to get glasses with the correct prescription. (Are glasses prescriptions legally restricted the same way drug prescriptions are? I would hope not, but if that’s the reason, then tell me!) So: two design choices that seem bizarre for a business that markets itself in internet-focused ways.


As anti-Warby-Parker I was at that point, I still figured: they’re going to be significantly cheaper than getting them through my optometrist, and Miranda has had good experiences with them. So I, somewhat reluctantly, ordered my reading glasses through their physical store. And the glasses were totally fine! (In particular, no problems with the right eye, which, on the one hand, lends credence to the “manufacturing problem” theory for the progressive lens pair, but, on the other hand, gives evidence that they can manufacture standard prescriptions well?) I continued to wear my progressive lenses most of the time while keeping the reading glasses at work, and now I have no problem using the 27" monitor there.

Except that I didn’t always remember to switch back to the progressive lenses when I came home. And, the second time I did that, I realized: not only are the reading glasses fine for normal use (not wonderful for distance viewing, but acceptable even then), but they really are more relaxing on my eyes than the progressive lenses.

So, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been using the reading glasses most of the time. I’m keeping the distance glasses in my backpack (while the progressive lenses are stashed in a desk at home, unused), and I’m trying to find excuses to wear the distance glasses every once in a while so my brain gets practice switching between the two prescriptions: I try to wear them when I’m driving a reasonable distance, when I’m doing Tai Chi, or when I’m going to a musical or a movie or something. And, so far so good.


I’m not entirely sure what I’ll do when 2018 rolls around and my insurance discount is available again. If you’d asked me a month ago, I’d say: I’ll get a set of progressive lenses from my optometrist, and then both eyes will work well. But, right now, I’m kind of against progressive lenses; maybe I’ll just leave things as is? Or maybe I’ll ask my optometrist to write me an intermediate prescription again, that’s usable for reading but doesn’t get blurry quite as quickly? (My vision doesn’t change much year-to-year these days, so I’ll still have my distance glasses available for situations where I want it.) Heck, maybe I’ll see if I can get old-school bifocals; I’m really not sure…

(And, no matter what: in the future I’ll get closer up theater tickets: a fairly crisp distant stage is better than a blurry distant stage, but it’s pretty small either way!)

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