Hello and… Good Buy. I’m product addicted, and even though I’m aware there’s a spot reserved for me and other oversatiated consumers in Dante’s inferno, nothing’s ever going to stop my pursuit of material goods. So with the opening of an actual Warby Parker optical shop in Soho within sight of 20/20, it was a destined venture.

If you’re going to start complaining about WP and their e-commerce, and online PDs and cheap product, and their marketing and PR… STOP right there. Eyewear is currently at a super high-profile level and more-than-some of it has to do with WP, and THAT’s a good thing for everyone in optical right now. Consider it a blessing your retailing doesn’t involve PCs or cupcakes (with both those markets tanking and mobile devices and doughnuts surging).

Strongly committed to the dispensing process that partners an eye exam to the acquisition of well-fitted glasses, I’d hesitated doing online “secret shopping” for frames but the opportunity of an actual store pushed my button.

Subsequent parts of this story will be further animated about the actual store (with its library setting, great music and consumer-friendly product displays) but the main issue here and now is the opportunity of an eye exam by an OD. When I initiated my interest in a purchase, the WP sales associate (NOT an optician) asked for my Rx. I declined. She then offered to actually call my doctor for it. I noted THAT was equally creepy and asked for an exam. Initially told the wait could be very long, I was put face-to-face with a receptionist who gave me a specifically timed appointment two days away with a qualified OD at a cost of $50.

I gave my name and e-mail address asking if I should pick out eyewear in advance of the exam.

Nope. That whole “pick ’n’ choose” process could follow the exam but I was invited to stay and browse, trying on any of the hundreds of frames (from a surprisingly limited number of styles) on the wall displays. The displays also held books, some for sale and some a bit too preciously color-coded, reinforcing the lounging theme. Prices were clearly marked at $95 for a completed single-vision frame with lenses.

So now I’m asking you to lounge with this 20/20 for the next month. I’ve had my exam. I’ve picked out my frame. Delivery is expected in two weeks. Full reports next month. Be assured, we’ll chat more about your new brick-and-mortal competition… next month.

Hopefully we are ALL in this with open minds, much to learn and cooperative teamwork as everyone takes time figuring out how to keep eyewear as a respected “need” and “want” product and experience.

James J. Spina