Getting a new optical prescription, frames and lenses is not a transparent process

I have a history of problems getting my prescription lenses correctly made. My eyes are very sensitive and I notice if anything is slightly amiss.

It is difficult to find an optometrist who is willing to take the time to correctly assess my eyes to work out what correction I need. Just like doctors, they now seem to be on a tight schedule churning clients through as fast as possible. Even though I warn them when making my appointment, needing to take ‘extra’ time seems to frustrate them.

Unfortunately, the optometrist has complete control, and calls a halt to the appointment when they think that they have it right, justifying their prescription. Medicare will only fund one optometrist appointment a year, as far as I know, so I can’t then go to another optometrist for a second opinion, or even find another who might do a better job in that year.

Next, the dispensers have to accurately measure up the lens (whether in a new frame or old) for optic centre, how to transition the progressive lens, etc. Then, the lens has to be manufactured right.

When I finally get my new lens back, almost invariably there is something wrong. So the dispenser checks the set-up, the optometrist rechecks my eyes (and generally finds at least one eye is different to the prescription prepared a couple of weeks ago).

And then we try again. If still unhappy appeal to the business again. There does not seem any oversight body/authority (pardon the pun).

I expect that most people don’t have nearly as much trouble with their prescription glasses, but I would really like Choice review at least the major optical chains like OPSM, Optical Superstore, Specsavers, etc. to see what the quality of their service is and if at all possible, test the products they provide.

Other questions are:

  1. are we getting what we pay for? Do we actually get high index, or aspheric, etc lenses that we pay extra for, or are we just getting basic plastic lenses? Would the average punter know the difference?
  2. Are the mark-ups in the frames excessive? (I just bought titanium spectacle frames from China for $10 these same sort of frames would cost in excess of $300 from a dispenser here.)


I agree. I had many problems getting good specs - I now buy 2x from China - $2+gst delivered. They aren’t great, but my wallet feels better. I know this won’t work for many people …

I wouldn’t know the difference. I’d suspect most of what people are wearing is a standard unit simply cut to fit the frame. And the coatings?

I knew someone in the industry some years back. Simple answer is yes - the mark-ups are incredible, even more so when you consider how small and easy to transport they are.

My personal feeling is the whole industry is a rort.


I’ve been putting off new glasses for that same logic.

I have a perfectly good frame and just need new lenses after 5 years. One eye has changed just a bit or was it just an inaccurate prescription in the first instance.

When talking with the staff at my partners optometrist I was informed they could order reading prescriptions to suit what ever focal length I required.

The big brand business that supplied my current lenses said this can’t be done and had me hold a book test page at what they call the standard distance. That’s not how I work! They will not need supply new lenses to fit the old frames. It’s new frames or nothing.

There are certainly some concerns that might need to be considered?


It has been documented that one company essentially controls the world-wide frame business as well as owns what is arguably the best lens manufacturer.

They transformed what was originally a medical optical device (remember only round eye glasses?) into a bit of jewellery. Frames are priced as jewellery, simple as that. The lens business is following suit, although there remain enough competitors to keep those prices from going into orbit.


The other question is why can’t the consumer reuse old frames if the consumer choses to. Optometrist tend to say they can’t be reused and make excuses such as the frames get fragile over time (including ‘expensive’ metal ones), the new lenses won’t fit into the new frames etc. This sems s ploy to make more money out of the customer andnisn some ways could be considered a legal scam.

If a consumer choses to reuse ones own frames, they should be allowed to to save not only the consumer money, but more often than not, their health fund or taxpayer funded medicare system (for those where glasses are covered by medicare).


Interestingly my partner purchased a new frame, being fashion conscious. No lenses. The OEM box included a template that the lense makers use to match the frame. No problem with her local optometrist to arrange lenses to suit!


AFAIK the only time a lens “won’t fit” is when the prescription mandates a weight or thickness that cannot be accommodated as a practical matter, or us oldies with progressives where there has to be a minimum vertical measurement to allow for the near to far regions. In the latter case they could put the lens in a frame, but why do when it would essentially be destroyed in the process.


A related thread that may be interesting to some reading this one is at


That may explain the apparently limited competition.


I work in the industry, not as an optometrist. There are a few points here.

  1. The big chains make their money on the spectacles, not on the consult and if the optometrist does not work fast enough, he/she is in trouble with the business. They do not receive much support for referring a patient about whom they are concerned and are given warnings for taking too long with a patient and are required to give scripts even if they feel the patient does not need to change their specs. They have certain targets to meet.
  2. We happily will fit your new lenses to your old frames. As will most independents. There is a caveat here, though. If you chose a plastic frame before, they get brittle and tend to break on fitting. If you have a metal frame (with nose pads) the springs and fixings do gt metal fatigue over time and whilst we have replaced lenses in people’s 5 year old frames, we won’t accept responsibility for the frame. Additionally, several of the health funds will not give you a full rebate on lenses only.
  3. There are about 200 different multifocal lense designs available. The same script in 2 different lenses can create different visual issues, often unforeseen. So you might cope well with your script in one brand or type of lens, but not so well if it is a different type. Usually, this is part of the guarantee.
  4. Setting up the glasses, specially for you, is an art, which is dying. In the fast paced retail spectacle big suppliers, they do not always measure correctly, or set up specs correctly. It is one of the greatest failings and causes the most issues with patients we see, who have been elsewhere.
  5. Medicare allows you to go as often as you like for exams. We bulk bill, which is not unusual for the bigger retailers, but is unusual now for the smaller independent. We are paid $56.00 every 3 years for a full exam on a person under 65 and $28.00 for any visits in between. (I have rounded these figures). If you are over 65, medicare allows a full price visit every year. We do not ask for extra for the times we are not paid the full amount and since we deal with many people who do not have any fallback position financially and often need a few visits because we need to monitor specific problem, the optometrist is receiving less money for the same amount of time.
    6.Coatings are a money spinner and an upgrade. A new type of coating came out and was purchased as part of new specs for the optometrist, and the wholesale cost of the coating, to us, was $170.00. Brilliant if you can afford it, or are trying out new products, where we get a rebate from the supplier. Not so great if you have limited means. As a rule, if you are not on a computer all the time and you hate having to clean your dirty specs all the time, ask for a hard to scratch coat only. The multicoat, reduces reflections for office workers, but is annoying for people who work outdoors, as it seems to attract dirt like a magnet. You can ask about this. We make this part of our discussion when we sell a pair of specs.
  6. Don’t let the hype about photos be the attraction to see an optometrist. The photos cannot see as much inside your eye as the optometrist can. And unless there is someone actually paying attention, much can be missed and in our experience, often is. We refer many people who should have been referred earlier, but they were pushed into new specs instead. And in one large retailer’s case they shove people into the wide field, as they have to pay for these expensive pieces of equipment. In one case, trying to push a 9 year old into having the photo. The optometrist with whom I work was appalled and has vowed to never locum for these people again.
  7. Suppliers - yes, Essilor is the largest supplier worldwide, but there are smaller suppliers and most practices spread their orders across several suppliers, as in there past there have been problems with one supplier for various reasons. If you have a specially ground lens, because of a problem script, and only one of your eyes is a problem, check to see if they are able to supply a standard script for the eye that does not have a problem. This is the hardest part to generalise, as scripts are a highly personal thing. And making sure that you don’t have one thick lens and one thin lens is something that needs to be considered.

Someone recently asked if CHOICE would look into the costings of multifocals. This is almost impossible. With so many on the market and with some of the big budget retailers supplying their own product (often an older less able lens to cut costs) it would be very difficult to investigate this thoroughly.
I have had the budget experience and had to throw my multifocals away, as they were never measured or set up correctly and I wanted to throw up, 4 weeks in. Generally, it takes around 2 weeks to adjust and I had already had multifocals. So I understand how people can be frustrated with the process and disinterest shown by the big groups.


Thanks for the discussion all. I’ve passed it on to my colleagues working on health issues for consideration :eyeglasses:

@isellev, thanks for sharing your perspective on the issue.


Hi @isellev - I am actually just writing a new optical buying guide - and your post seems most informed - would you be happy to talk? This can we fully off the record if you prefer - please send me an email to if you’d be happy to have a chat. Kind regards, Uta


One of the options available to us is a private optometrist also provides specialist eye surgery. One option other than treating serious medical issues such as cornea damage etc, it laser correction.

While this does not medically suit many of us, for those that have low risk and a stable deficiency how does that stack up on a cost basis vs prescription glasses? My perception is that as my deficiency is slight each time I have gone for a consult the optometrists move the reading a minimal amount to justify new lenses. While they have refused to reuse my old but perfectly ok expensive metal split frame glasses, I can now compare the current set with the previous two sets for distance. The previous sets work fine. The coating system on my none polarised glasses is failing. I’m embolden by the posts here to look elsewhere for a simple low cost solution.


I have been going to a small, one man business for about 25 years. No problem with reusing old frames - I kept one pair for about 15 years, renewing lenses when necessary. The new frames, BTW, cost around $50, way below what I was expecting. Unfortunately he will be retiring in the near future, so I don’t know what I’ll do. Seems you are better off not going to a franchise.


Interesting discussion. I have just had new reading glasses only as had both eyes renewed after cataract surgery. Greatly improved sight but cant read small print on paper etc. So off to get script and saw frames I have had prior via China priced at $199 and I had had mine for 5 years and paid $6.73 for the metal frame back then - so said no to having frames and lenses done at the Optimist. Had to almost demand a script then as used to always write one out and then send you out to someone else to pick the frame and for them to do the lenses etc.Cut to chase - got the script unwillingly and told the lense wont be any good if going offshore etc. Anyway the frames which were $6.73 now cost $13 with plain lense. So added excess postage and got them within 5 days from China. Now got me wondering as in the meantime I went to local chemist and got a pair off the rack a 1.5 and could read - when I got the new ones - hardly any difference to these my script was left eye only filled 0.25- 45 add 2.75 mainly no PD etc which you can do yourself but they show you so no problem and but the script was missing other bits usually there and so I scanned and emailed it with order for them to sort out.
And if I knew the off the peg ones would do - could have saved the postage which was additional $16.89 to cost of specs.
I could have added all sorts of non scratch etc plus thinner lenses and would still be a lot less than in store.
I reckon they are marking the frames up by something like 750%-1000% and likely the rest of the special bits.
And their businesses are being hurt by these overseas suppliers in China. Big ones anyway
Surely they are pricing themselves out of the frame and lense supply.

Prior to this surgery I had to have 3 sets distance, reading and computer and for the distance - I had always bought frames nice trendy from offshore but the rest plain and cheaper.
The ones I got for $13 complete are just like the ones on the ads for various Optometrists in Australia. Tortoiseshell all different colours - trendy - plastic . Makes you think eh! These like the metal frames I bought in 2013 and 2015 were also $13. Plastic so wont last years but at cost - no worries. Not needing expensive distance for show like before but they had these for $109 or a bit more. Have a look . Good if on pension with cost of living so high -can save on specs.


I would love to know where you work! Are you in Melbourne? I had a great optometrist, but she retired and have no idea where to go next.
She was willing to re-use frames; and also made a point of trying to keep my lenses as thin as possible.
I do think that we don’t have much choice, we are stuck with the optometrist we happen to pick. I do have friends who buy their glasses online, but I really don’t understand how one can do that, given that correct measurement is so important (not just the script)
BTW, I was once talked into “non- smudge” lenses, (by another optometrist) which were the worst lenses I have ever had in my life, as far as attracting dirt and smudges were concerned
BTW, could you please explain what “photos” mean? I haven’t heard of that.


I support you request for an investigation. I know with the changes in law Optometrists no longer have to employ trained depensors. This allowed SpecSavers to enter the market a few years ago. There’s an underlying message to make money without the time consuming quality care.


That is educational! For grins I looked at some job advertisements for dispensers and voila - the criteria from one company ad is (bold added in all cases)

About the opportunity:
Your role is to provide an amazing retail fashion eyewear experience that will inspire our consumers to wear great eyewear and receive great eyecare. There is potential for future personal career growth.

About you:
Love retail and passionate about eyewear, fashion and giving great customer service
Optical experience is a must
Have solid retail experience, ideally in a fashion related or optical boutique related area
Have a proven track record in sales with a consultative and natural sales approach
Have a driven sales technique
Have a natural flair for styling customers & creating the ultimate fashion look
Proven experience in building strong customer relationships
Contribute to creating a collaborative, fun and result-driven team environment
Available to work evenings and weekends

and for their management position, it includes the above with a slight change per:
Must have optical experience or a optical dispensing qualification as a pre-requisite

Another ad for a dispenser:
You will have the following skills and attributes:
A passion for providing the highest patient service and aftercare
Able to build a rapport & adopts good interpersonal skills when dealing with patients
Strong computer literacy
Good standard of personal presentation
Initiative, punctuality and reliability
Able to work cohesively and productively within a team
Flexible to work retail hours which may include some late nights and weekends

and would you go here?
We are a new start up built by experienced professionals who wish to revolutionise Australia’s dated and clinical optometry industry, creating a business that is fashionable, friendly and fun. We are now offering this rare opportunity to join us and develop your career!

Role description
All positions requirement:
Fashion focused optical sales role
Provide friendly customer service
Conduct eyewear adjustment/minor repair
Manage bookings (Phone + online)
Understand and able to manage prescriptions
Customer relationship management
Maintain product & store cleanness
Support and training will be provided to you
Career development opportunity
1 x full time and 2 x casual positions available

A number of pundits diss Costco, but Costco’s (manager/dispenser position) add states:
To be successful in this role you will be a Qualified Optical Dispenser who understands that providing A class service to customers is crucial to growth for our business. You must also be computer literate with excellent communication, both written and verbal. Retail management experience and skills are preferable. Experience in Sunix and practice management is desirable.


I have just had my routine eye test done and it always makes me suspicious of the process. I go to a national chain and the visit is bulk billed. After the test you get immediately taken to the display to select your frame from a range of categories of frames on display. Whenever I ask if I could keep my perfectly good existing frames the reply is no with some reasons given. The frames seem to be quite expensive seeing that they consist of wire and plastic and must be manufactured automatically so I assume the markup is huge.
Ideally I would like the optometrist to give me my prescription and then let me shop around for frames to fit that prescription. I might prefer a frame that the chain does not have or perhaps I can bargain a better price somewhere else but that never happens.
In the medical profession you are given your results as they are your property and you can take those results to get a second opinion. This is not the process in optometry, or at least for the crowd that I go to. They have my history and I am not sure if that would be available to another optometrist if i changed.


You are entitled to your prescriptions and this should include notes. Some businesses are somewhat loathe to provide this information but they are legally bound to provide it.