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How badly are we being ripped off on eyewear? Former industry execs tell all

Charles Dahan was a leading supplier of frames to LensCrafters, before the company was purchased by Luxottica. Glasses that cost him $20 to make would be sold for five times that amount….  

Lenses, he said, might cost about $5 a pair to produce. With fancy coatings, that could boost the price all the way to $15.

He said LensCrafters would turn around and charge $99 for completed glasses that cost $20 or $30 to make — and this was well below what many independent opticians charged. Nowadays, he said, those same glasses at LensCrafters might cost hundreds of dollars.

Butler said he recently visited factories in China where many glasses for the U.S. market are manufactured. Improved technology has made prices even lower than what Dahan recalled.

“You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8,” Butler said. “For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you’d get from Prada.”

And lenses? “You can buy absolutely first-quality lenses for $1.25 apiece,” Butler said.

Yet those same frames and lenses might sell in the United States for $800.

Butler laughed. “I know,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s a complete rip-off.”  [  ]

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