Back in eighth grade, my English teacher introduced us to foreign words and phrases that are part of our lexicon. In one of our first lessons, we learned the Latin expression, caveat emptor—let the buyer beware.

This ancient admonition comes to mind as I think about the growing number of consumers who are purchasing prescription eyewear online. These eyeglass wearers are seeking out “e-tailers” offering convenience, a vast product selection and, often, low prices.

There’s nothing wrong with selling prescription eyewear online, as long as the seller informs the buyer that there is a difference between buying from a virtual dispensary and buying from a real one. The difference, of course, is that the real dispensary offers the services of a dispenser. Online consumers are sacrificing the skill and knowledge involved in expertly selecting and properly fitting eyeglasses that only an experienced dispenser can offer. It’s a paradox that the state-of-the-art in e-tailing eliminates the dispenser at a time when the state-of-the-art in ophthalmic lens technology calls for dispensers to be more involved in selecting lenses and fitting eyewear. That’s why ECPs who operate virtual dispensaries should encourage online customers to visit their dispenser to be properly measured and fit for their new eyewear.

Ultimately, consumers want choices. Some will be happy buying Rx eyewear online. But others, in their quest for
convenience, will end up with badly fitting, uncomfortable, under-performing eyewear. Before Rx eyewear shoppers click the “purchase” button on the screen of their computer or mobile device, we need to advise them, “caveat emptor.”

 —Andrew Karp