Lion of the Blogosphere

Zenni Optical: Chinese eyeglasses

I discovered the secret to Zenni Optical’s low low prices. The eyeglasses are made in China. This is not mentioned anywhere on the website. The only hint is a picture of their factory floor where you may notice that all of the workers are Chinese.

If you pay extra for the faster shipping, which I did, then they ship your eyeglasses directly from China. I presume that the slow shipping is so slow because the eyeglasses are sent in a bundle from China using a cheap and slow method of shipping and then re-mailed from California (but I’m not certain about that).

This makes sense. I bet that Chinese opticians get paid a fraction of what U.S. opticians get paid.

You save a lot of money by ordering from them. I am sure it would cost me FOUR TIMES as much for eyeglasses if I bought them locally in Manhattan, even when you take shipping into account.

Am I a traitor to the local economy for wanting to save a few hundred dollars? Every big corporation is taking advantage of cheap Chinese labor costs, so why shouldn’t I?

Another advantage of Zenni is that they don’t require a verified prescription. I believe that with this trial lens kit at you would have everything you need to diagnose an eyeglass prescription, which you could then order from Zenni Optical, saving yourself hundreds of dollars. (However, if you are over the age of 40, they say you should get glaucoma air-puff tests every two years, because glaucoma has no other detectable symptoms until it damages your eyesight and it’s too late.)

* * *

This blog post demonstrates how cheap Chinese labor impacts skilled high-prole occupations like opticians.

* * *

A Google search reveals that Luxottica, which has a MONOPOLY on eyeglass frames, is making its frames in China. What a HUGE MASSIVE markup they have thanks to a monopoly. Talk about value transference!

Most of the lenses are now being made in China too. Essilor, for example, manufactures in China.

The lens fitting work is done locally. The optician orders lenses from a supplier, and then they cut them to the frames. That’s local high-salary labor.

So Zenni saves money by doing away with middlemen like Luxotica and Essilor (who just manufacture in China and then rip off the consumer with huge markups), and additionally by moving the labor cost of cutting the lenses to the frames to China as well.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 23, 2016 at 9:59 am

53 Responses

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  1. It’s a bit like when people criticize Warren Buffett for calling for higher taxes rather than ponying up himself, whether through taxes or through charity. If everyone else isn’t doing the same, he’d be an idiot. Any system which depends on people paying more has to level the playing field and get everyone to do it, or else people will sit on the sidelines, and nothing will change except some idealistic fools handicapping themselves.

    So the change has to take place at a governmental level, not a personal one.


    February 23, 2016 at 10:14 am

    • Warren Buffet isn’t asking for taxes on unrealized capital gains.


      February 23, 2016 at 10:48 am

    • It’s more that Buffett goes over and above most efforts to avoid taxes while simultaneously complaining that taxes are too low.

      Worse his annuity products are ideally positioned to sell to high income individuals to avoid taxes (annuities are tax shelters). He’s welcome to lobby the government (just as anyone else is) but it’s equally fair to point out that he stands to benefit from higher income taxes in ways that most will not.


      February 23, 2016 at 10:48 am

    • His attitude is basically “I know how to spend my money better than the governments does, but you don’t.” He might be right to an extent, but it is still rather hypocritical to call for higher inheritance taxes and then setup a charitable foundation to avoid paying any himself.


      February 23, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    • When Warren Buffet starts getting paid in dollars and not in stock options, I’ll take his calls for tax increases seriously. Any tax increase he’s proposed wouldn’t touch the bulk of his compensation.

      Half Canadian

      February 23, 2016 at 3:12 pm

  2. Yes, you are a traitor.


    February 23, 2016 at 10:37 am

  3. No, you are not a traitor. This is a systemic problem not a personal failing.


    February 23, 2016 at 10:48 am

  4. AARP members can get a routine eye exam for $45. They have a large network of providers, both chains and independents, but call ahead to verify the provider honors the AARP fee.

    Mark Caplan

    February 23, 2016 at 11:06 am

  5. Eyeglasses are close to a monopoly because the Italian company Luxottica controls a huge percentage of the US and world market. Nothing wrong with a bit of competition under those circumstances.



    February 23, 2016 at 11:23 am

  6. Is there any product with a greater markup from production costs than frames? I browse the shop and it seems belligerently arbitrary. Plastic and two tiny screws: this one $750 and this one $300, meanwhile the ones at the reading glass bin at Walgreens are $10???


    February 23, 2016 at 11:34 am

    • The markup is HUUUGE. A few dollars is surely what even good quality frames would cost to manufacture in a Chinese factory.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 12:00 pm

  7. “Am I a traitor to the local economy for wanting to save a few hundred dollars? Every big corporation is taking advantage of cheap Chinese labor costs, so why shouldn’t I?”

    Not a traitor, but certainly a hypocrite given that you support Trump, who wants to make these sorts of deals harder for you to do. Trump wants to impose giant tariffs on Chinese goods in order to cancel out the sort of savings Americans currently get from buying foreign-made products.


    February 23, 2016 at 11:36 am

    • You’re not a hypocrite if you take advantage of an existing undesirable situation that you would prefer to change but have no power to change yourself.


      February 23, 2016 at 12:31 pm

    • Here is how the situation currently works. I buy a product from China and import to America. America charges me (say) 7% import duty. I make the product in America and export to China, China charges me 40% import duty. This is called “free trade” because USGOV signed a trade agreement to agree to this.

      They did so because ChiGOV agreed to allow (at first, large) American corporations to buy land and/or set up American owned factories in China to take advantage of Chinese slave labour. Corporations have done well. The American worker has been screwed over.

      Chinese labour cost is still vastly cheaper and you have other Chinese government provided incentives supporting exporters, like V.A.T. refunds to export manufacturers. However, America based manufacturers are much more productive and can actually compete on price in the mid-to high end, while providing better quality and service, and innovating faster. The Chinese government knows this and wants to give it’s own manufacturers an unfair advantage. The US government lets them get away with it because it benefits large American corporations, i.e. political donors, who are localised in China, so sell there without the import duty handicap, a burden that potential startup challengers at home cannot avoid.

      So if Trump just mirrors Chinese import duty rates, he removes the handicap on American factories and workers and the only people who suffer in America are shareholders of large corporations and foreigners. The costs of certain goods will go up a bit, there will be collateral damage. Your short lived garden solar lights, harsh-sounding floating swimming pool loudspeakers, tacky Christmas tree lights, poisonous pet food and toxic dry wall may go up a lot. However, overall, there will be a large benefit to AMERICANS.

      Ulick McGee

      February 23, 2016 at 11:40 pm

  8. Thanks for the info – I may give them a try. BTW, as part of the aging process, I now need reading glasses. I found the best buy at Sam’s Warehouse, where they sell four pairs for about $24.

    And yes, you should be tested for glaucoma (elevated intraocular pressure) every year or so after age forty. It’s like high blood pressure – no symptoms until disaster strikes – in this case, damage to the optic nerve, which is irreversible.

    Black Death

    February 23, 2016 at 11:55 am

    • The custom-made Zenni glasses are actually quite superior to off-the-shelf drugstore reading glasses, especially if you select all of the coating options.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 12:03 pm

      • Zenni custom-made reading glasses cost about the same as drug-store reading glasses in Canada, and the Zenni glasses are much better. The lenses are better and the frames last much longer.

        I have also ordered several pairs of progressives from Zenni and have been very pleased with them. In Canada the cost from Zenni for progressives with good lenses is about $200 compared to, say $700 or $800 locally. I intend to get my next pair of glasses from Zenni , but I feel conflicted about it.


        February 23, 2016 at 5:53 pm

  9. Yes, you are a traitor because you could’ve gotten free glasses from Medicate and American workers make a few dollars. How much did you end up paying?


    February 23, 2016 at 11:59 am

    • Like I said, one-quarter the price of buying glasses in Manhattan.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      • I wanna real number. Incidentally, like most Medicate recipients you chose and can afford to pay out of the pocket for the glasses of your choice.

        Get that glaucoma screening for free.


        February 23, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    • That’s an interesting idea. But I suspect the coverage is limited. For example, you would not be allowed progressive lenses instead of bifocals, advanced coatings, high index of refraction lens material, etc. Also, you’re not allowed to buy upgraded glasses and pay for the difference, you have to take the crappy medicaid glasses or nothing.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      • Beggars can’t be chasers.


        February 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      • Choosers


        February 23, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      • Incidentally, Medicaid glasses are just fine. I have them and you can get a new pair every six months. Bifocals make you stand out as no one wears those anymore. This gives you a chance to distinguish yourself as a proud Medicaid recipient while looking retro cool. Totally worth it.


        February 23, 2016 at 2:39 pm

      • Are you on medicaid because you’re totally great everyone should get into it HVAC business is in the dumps or because you’re a scam artist?

        Lloyd Llewellyn

        February 23, 2016 at 8:42 pm

      • Why does Yakov get Medicaid? Another immigrant scam artist.


        February 23, 2016 at 8:46 pm

      • Same reason that Lion is, lol!


        February 24, 2016 at 12:24 am

      • I’m on Medicaid because I qualify, obviously. Same as our friend Lion, but unlike Lion I appreciate the the benefit of prescription glasses. I don’t think that the government needs to go beyond providing the basic product. It’s perfectly adequate for the people who need it. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, or so they say and I agree with that.

        HVAC is doing fine, thank you. Instead of spitting venom be rational and look at what it costs to live in this city. Housing, food, living expenses, private schooling, summer camps, higher education, wedding expenses, retirement, medical insurance, etc. I don’t set these prices and am in no way responsible for what’s going on. I have to make it and this is how people do it. 30 years ago I could afford the best Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurance while earning $8 an hour in a hardware store and my son’s tuition was a laughable $100 a month. This cannot be done today. A house on my block used to cost $60,000 and it’s over a million today. My first 2 bedroom apartment rents for $1,600 and it used to go for $300. I have no control over these forces, obviously. Why should the regular folks live like slaves? I don’t think they should. A minimum that you need is about $500 a day before we can start talking taxes, or at least this is what I think. After you make $1000 a day, you can relax. Tell me it ain’t so?


        February 24, 2016 at 6:34 pm

      • Also, before the irrational ranting starts, I would like to explain that $500 a day is arrived at by multiplying $8 by 10 hours and adjusting for the real, not the fictitious government, cost of living inflation for the last 30 years. I think its fine to work a 10 hour day to get things done without ridiculous 1.5 time for overtime regardless of the law. I do it every day.

        So a $1000 a day is $160 in 1985 dollars. I was there and I know regardless of what any economist, statistician, politician or moralistic has to say.

        To make things more clear for the mathematically challenged, assuming 250 working days $500 a day is $125,000 a year and this is not a lot.


        February 24, 2016 at 6:52 pm

  10. this is where I disagree with trump–he would make these glasses expensive…I say DO NOT tax imports –cheap goods like these glasses are good for us…..but instead stop almost all immigration except doctors and nurses…in fact, we should fund overseas training hospitals and take in most of their grads.

    • It’s hard to argue against the global mobility of labor but not the global mobility of goods. At least on purely economic grounds.

      It just occurs to me that a Trump v. Hillary race could be quite bizarre, because you would have neither candidate making the argument in favor of globalized capitalism. Union-protectionist versus nationalist-protectionist.


      February 23, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    • Free trade provides cheaper goods, but will cost the home country jobs and, in some cases, eliminate entire industries. Protectionism, on the other hand, will raise the cost of goods, but saves jobs (at least in the short term). Ideologues on both sides of the equation refuse to acknowledge the shortcomings of their respective positions.

      Lewis Medlock

      February 23, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      • Lots of things can save jobs in the short-term. As England entered the Industrial Revolution, followers of an unemployed artisan named Ned Ludd (the original “Luddites”) would break into factories and smash up all the machines. That saved jobs in the short term, I guess.


        February 23, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    • Don’t allow doctors or nurses with degrees from the 3rd world. In Canada we have a lot of 3rd world doctors and because there is such a shortage of certain types of specialists (especially away from major centres) they let them practice “conditionally” even if they haven’t written Canadian exams. I have had bad experiences involving a specialist from India and one from Nigeria, both practicing conditionally. I would never intentionally seek the care of these doctors but if you end up in the emergency room you might have them inflicted on you.


      February 23, 2016 at 5:45 pm

      • Yes, there have also been many horror stories in the UK and Ireland due to these act of love doctors and nurses. Besides the fact that you might die, there is another angle to this.

        In order to protect the fat salaries of project managers and other non-productive bureaucrats in bloated socialised medical systems, the poorest countries in the world suffer a double blow. Some of their smartest people leave forever taking their high performance genes with them. These places cannot afford a brain drain. Secondly, they already have abysmally low percentage of doctors per capita so keeping these doctors at home is literally a matter of life and death.

        However, obese cat ladies in Canada and Britain want to be able to retire at 55 after a career of combatting boy energy with Ritalin and taking children away from their non-politically correct parents. Feminists can’t fight the Patriarchy if Nigerians and Indians don’t make sacrifices.

        In other words, importing doctors and nurses from the 3rd World is rayciss.

        Don’t mention cat ladies, pretend that those parasitic project managers are pale, stale and male and you can troll the SJWs deliciously.

        Ulick McGee

        February 24, 2016 at 1:48 am

  11. I am sure it would cost me FOUR TIMES as much for eyeglasses if I bought them locally in Manhattan, even when you take shipping into account.

    Most likely those “American” glasses are also made in China, but the “American” firm pockets the extra profit from charging the “Manhattan” price instead of the “China” price.


    February 23, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    • A Google search reveals that Luxotica, which has a MONOPOLY on eyeglass frames, is making its frames in China. What a HUGE MASSIVE markup they have thanks to a monopoly. Talk about value transference!

      Most of the lenses are now being made in China too. Essilor, for example, manufactures in China.

      The lens fitting work is done locally. The optician orders lenses from a supplier, and then they cut them to the frames. That’s local high-salary labor.

      So Zenni saves money by doing away with middlemen like Luxotica and Essilor, and additionally moving the labor cost of cutting the lenses to the frames to China as well.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm

  12. Monsieur Lion,

    The hypocrisy is delicious.

    Just like every other Walmart shopping prole who complains about Chinese competition destroying American jobs, families and communities, you aren’t exactly bashful about your support for Señor Trumpo and his USA isolation, anti-immigration and anti-trade agenda. And now you brag about how you also enjoy the benefits of international competition and globalization.

    I’m not criticizing your decision to take advantage of the fruits of globalization only the inconsistency.

    As an economist who had focused on international trade I’m keenly aware of the benefits. As a part of a larger ethnic white “prole” family with plenty of relatives in the troubled Great Lakes Rust Belt economies, think Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo, I’m aware of the consequences. As much as I value my relatives, I’ve been insulted at family gatherings for being involved in international trade, having been the target of the “clever” pun international trader = international traitor. That said my experience with the decent people abroad and fine newly minted American citizens makes me a little less likely to sacrifice for a bunch of entitled jerks who expect a quality of life merely by dint of the blue American passport they could get if they ever had the motivation to see some more of the world.

    I’m not exactly decided either about my position on trade and immigration. I know many excellent newcomer Americans who are really great characters and excellent integrated part of the community. But my eyes are open to the fact that the non-Hispanic white population will have gone from more than 85% in 1960 to less than 45% in 2060. Did we really consciously choose this? Why? Is it really so wrong to be so “racist” to find a change of that magnitude regrettable?

    Thin-Skinned Masta-Beta

    February 23, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    • It’s impossible to buy American-made glasses. If you buy $500 eyeglasses, the American optician probably only gets $25 of that. The rest is for the expensive frames and expensive lens, which are actually made in China anyway, with huge profits going to the Western companies which outsourced the stuff to China. And the biggest monopoly profiteer in the purchase is Luxottica which is Italian and not even American.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 4:20 pm

      • The fact that it’s “impossible” doesn’t disprove his point. American-made glasses would obviously be more expensive. You are benefitting from globalized trade.


        February 23, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      • American-made safety glasses are readily available and cost less than $20 a pair. Perhaps this is thanks to contract clauses from industrial unions and government agencies, or maybe safety glass production just doesn’t require much labor input. Uvex actually offers several fashion options, even ones with reading glass lenses. I’m not going to wear safety glasses 24/7 just to be patriotic, but I think there are still some contact lenses made here.


        March 15, 2016 at 7:42 pm

  13. Lion

    Steve Denning’s writings often focus on similar idea to your value transference idea: the maximization of shareholder value over customers, employees and products


    February 23, 2016 at 2:53 pm

  14. For those who prefer their affordable prescription eyewear prepared in the United States, there’s, where orders, according to the website, are custom made (though presumably from Chinese parts) on Long Island.

    I’ve only purchased from Zenni and the usual places — most recently from a Luxottica-owned retailer, when I needed a new prescription and glasses, quickly. They ended up not having one of the necessary lenses on hand, so I had to wait three or four days for it to arrive, probably from China – about as long as the wait for my last pair of Zenni specs to come from there (express shipping).

    I like the Luxottica glasses more than the Zenni ones, which look similar but are heavier and less comfortable, but hate that I spent so much on them, even after two promotional discounts. If only I had it in me to order another cheap pair of glasses online and take these back before the thirty-day return period is up.


    February 23, 2016 at 4:09 pm

    • If you want REAL premium frames, I recommend that you buy some Matsuda frames on eBay. They are the best. Don’t waste money on Chinese-made Luxottica crap with fancy brand names.

      (Of course, Matsuda eyewear was made in Japan and not the U.S., but you just have to acknowledge that some stuff the U.S. isn’t good at.)

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 23, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    • I have also had good luck with 39dollar glasses.


      February 23, 2016 at 6:39 pm

  15. I recently bought two pairs of glasses; one frame says “Made in Italy,” the other “France.” At the time I had no idea where they were made, nor did/do I care. They were quite pricey, but such things are an infrequent purchase and something I use every single day.


    February 23, 2016 at 6:10 pm

  16. A childhood friend of mine is an ophthalmologist, but insists on including the honorific “doctor” even outside of the office. He works for a local chain that sets up shop in places like Wal-Mart (he might be a minor partner now). I wonder how long it will be until his job is entirely replaced by technology. Last time I visited he had me run through the whole “three or four, four or five” routine, I stared straight ahead as he pointed a light at me, etc., then he filled out a prescription. At the last second he put me on a machine where I stared out to a hot air balloon, which recalibrated into focus. Whatever the machine spit out, he decided to change the prescription.

    The store offers all kinds of frames, but my cheap-ass said I would order them online. (Plus I used the “friends and family” discount for the exam.) I guess he’s high-prole and I’m low-prole. Still, store bought eye-glasses are for suckers.


    February 23, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    • Ophthalmologists are physcians whose residency training includes eye surgery as well as eye examination and vision correction. It sounds like your friend is an optometrist.


      February 23, 2016 at 10:50 pm

      • That’s part of my gripe. I had always known optometry, but he made a big deal out of calling himself an “ophthamologist.” Yeah, but you work in Sam’s Club… He prominently displays his degree from Berkeley. I’ll be sure to check it next time.


        February 24, 2016 at 2:04 am

  17. I’ve worn glasses virtually my whole life.
    I wear Armani round, horn-rim, very thin “tortoise shell plastic” glasses, with spring temples.
    This is a hard style to find – It is not easy to stay thirty years out of fashion.
    Thankfully I’ve managed to stockpile a lifetime supply of new-old-stock, at reasonable prices, from eBay.

    Giorgio Armani 877 tortoise

    Anyway, these and earlier Armani iterations of this style were always handmade and hand polished in Italy
    and made of the best handmade Italian Zyl cellulose acetate.
    Alas,those days are over – Luxottica now owns the brand and even the Mazuchelli acetate is now being manufactured in China.

    Much of the cost of buying glasses in Manhattan is the rent and taxes the optometrist, or optician has to pay. You can buy custom fitted glasses here in rural New England for less than half of what my sister has to pay, and she’s in Rockland County, 45 minutes outside of NYC. This is true for the rates of veterinarians, plumbers and electricians, also.

    Would I trust my prescription to an online lab? I guess if the money was critical, I would have to.
    I wear progressive lenses and have astigmatism in both eyes. I’m not sure how good the results would be.
    My optometrist saved my sight when he correctly diagnosed a newly torn retina and got me right in to see a top retina surgeon. He also diagnosed a blocked carotid artery in my wife.
    So, he’ll have my business until he retires .

    Because my frames are new-old-stock, I buy my eyeglass frames online and my optometrist does the progressive lenses for me.

    Here are some eyeglass links you may find interesting:

    60 Minutes – Luxottica. Do you know who makes your glasses?

    My pathetic attempt to buy non-Chinese eyeglass frames

    Why Are Glasses So Expensive?

    The Bespoke Dudes Eyewear is a collection of handcrafted in Italy sunglasses and glasses

    Four Steps to Higher Frame Profits

    100% Handmade in Italy – LGR

    Seeing Through the Lens: American-made Eyewear

    An Italian Rivalry Born of Expertise in Glass

    A short documentary on how Mazzucchelli makes his incredible acetate’s sheets, a glimpse about a family business that shaped the eyewear industry, a story about an industrial process which is still “handmade” in all its aspects.

    What Is Mazzucchelli Zyl Acetate?

    Nedd Ludd

    February 23, 2016 at 7:05 pm

    • Thanks mate, tons of good info.


      February 23, 2016 at 8:53 pm

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