I have a vision benefits plan through my employer which costs me just shy of $9 per month ($108 per year) for both myself and Stacie. For some people, this plan is a luxury they don’t need. For others, it’s a necessity, especially if they have kids with glasses. For Stacie and I, we need to recalculate each year and plan ahead to see if the benefit will pay off for us the following year.
While I’ve gotten contacts in the past, I’ve found them to be annoying at best and just wear my glasses instead. But Stacie likes her contacts, and this year, she switched to Acuvue Oasys contacts. What I didn’t know back when we ordered the contacts through our local glass/contact store was that the Oasys brand is not covered under our insurance terms. But, our insurance does offer a $150 per year credit on these contacts anyway.
So we ordered 4 boxes (which Stacie stretched to a 6 month supply) for $180. That comes out to $45 per box. We paid the $30 difference, figuring we got a decent deal. However, had we shopped around, we would have learned how much we overspent.
Time to Reorder
In August, Stacie ran out of contacts and we figured we would just call up the same eyeglass shop to order more. He told me the same price of $45 per box, but I asked if our insurance would cover it. The guy said “we’ll take care of it when you come to pick up the lenses”. Uh oh. I’m not accepting that answer. I should also mention here before moving on that the shop ordered our lenses even though I told them to.
So I called my vision insurance company and asked what coverage we had left. This is actually the first time I found out that the Oasys weren’t covered and we had a $150 credit for the year. Well, turns out we’ve used up that credit with the first set of boxes, so now we have to pay out of pocket.
Now that $45 per box didn’t sound very good.
Let’s Try 1-800-Contacts
So we went to the web and looked up the price on 1-800-Contacts.com. The regular price, if we ordered 4 boxes or more, was $34.99 per box. But if we ordered a full year’s supply, the price drops down to $29.99 per box.
We were all set to order, but then we recalled that we had another option to research.
Buying Contacts at Sam’s Club
Some time ago, we tried to get contacts at Sam’s, but found out they didn’t take our insurance so we went elsewhere without even checking the prices. But since we had to go grocery shopping this weekend anyway, we stopped by Sam’s Club’s Vision Center and asked about the price.
$25.57 per box
Wow, they even undercut 1-800-Contacts!
The only problem, and this goes for all retailers, even online, is they needed a prescription before they would sell us the contacts. Ugh. That meant we had to get our eye doctor to fax it over to Sam’s, and that meant they would find out we were shopping around for a better price.
Getting a Price Match
So we called up the shady eyecare store and gave them the fax number. We told them we would be shopping and needed the prescription faxed in the next 30 minutes.
Before going to the refrigerated and frozen items, though, we stopped by to see if they received anything. Nope. So I called up the store again to see what was going on. Almost immediately they asked how much Sam’s sold contacts for. I read off the price in front of me, and he immediately replied that they would match the price.
So now we had the decision to either stay at Sam’s Club and push the eyecare store to fax the prescription (knowing they would take their sweet time), or we could just finish our shopping and drive to the shop and buy at their matched price.
Knowing it would be an uphill battle to get the store to cooperate, we finished our shopping, stopped at the house to unload, then went to pick up our lenses. We walked into the store, and in a much less cheerful attitude than normal, the shop owner completed the transaction at the much reduced price. We ended up saving $80 that day, just by shopping around.
Something else we learned was that it’s hard to find an eyecare provider, even among major retail chains, that will give you an open, honest answer to your questions. Listen people, I’m buying material goods, not a service, so you should be able to provide a direct response on pricing and availability if needed. Strangely enough, though, Sam’s Club seemed to be the most competent and honest of all my experiences. I would expect a big box store to be the least competent, based on experience.
What are your experiences with buying contacts? How about regular glasses?
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