As a child I sat too close to the TV and strained to see the blackboard at school. But since bad eye-sight was a norm for me, I never knew I didn’t see as well as others. It wasn’t until I was in the sixth grade that a teacher took notice and informed my parents that I needed my eyes checked. From then on, glasses were my constant companion.
I’ll never forget the first day with my new glasses. Dad and I took a walk through a pasture with a pond nearby. This familiar setting became for me a strange and beautiful new world. I stood in open-mouthed astonishment. The leaves on the trees were a brighter green and I could see their shapes clearly. I could see a bird way up in the sky and marveled at it. I could see, with crystal clarity, the iridescent dragonflies hovering over the water. Dad was smiling a great huge smile. His eyes, a luminous light blue, smiled, too. That twinkle and pride in my dad’s eyes came through those magic lenses to my own — in vivid, loving color. These were my first impressions. It was like I had been given new life.
Our family lived on the low-income level, even though dad had a high work ethic. Buying eye-wear for me through the years was a sacrifice, but one my parents readily made. I was the oldest of five children, and the only one with poor vision. At this late date for all of us, I’m still the only one to wear glasses.
Now, in an economy that beggars the middle class, eye glasses have become a major investment. And it is now, as age starts taking its toll on us baby boomers, that ocular health plummets, and sticker prices on glasses soar.
But I had never really thought about why glasses should cost so much, as everything seems to chip away at income these days. That is, until I watched a segment on CBS news called, “Sticker Shock: Why Are Glasses So Expensive“, reported in-depth by Lesley Stahl. It was an “eye-opener”. I learned that, world-wide, the price on glasses and sunglasses is controlled by one company out of Milan, Italy — Luxottica. And anyone who dares stand in their way is promptly gotten rid of or bought out. It’s a monopoly in every sense of the word. There is no real competition. The big name brands, which I assumed were separate companies, no longer are separate. These include: Ray-Ban, Prada, Persol, Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Vogue. International retailers of prescription glasses such as LensCrafters, and Pearle Vision, are all subsidiaries owned by Luxottica. They are even the second largest owner of an eye-wear insurance company.
The excellent reporting by Stahl, who beards the Luxottica CEO lion in his den, draws out the damning evidence step by step, never allowing herself to be intimidated and never backing down. Here is the CBS news segment:
- 60 MINUTES Sticker shock: Why are glasses so expensive?