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The optical trade is a very lucrative business. Opticians essentially have a monopoly on dispensing prescriptions, for which many of them bulk-bill the government. They have a monopoly on making lenses for spectacles, which carries a large profit margin. But opticians make a fortune in the area of selling spectacles.

The cost of spectacles, especially what opticians like to call "designer" glasses is beyond outrageous. We hear of massive profiteering in the jewellery industry, where goods are often marked up by up to 10,000%, but it seems that the optical trade is just as rapacious.

In the photo below, there are two pairs of spectacles.

What's the difference?

So disregarding the lenses, what is the difference between these two eyeglass frames? The truth is that essentially there is no difference between them at all except for the price. The top spectacles are cheap reading glasses that were purchased at the Reject Shop for $5.00 complete with metal case. The bottom frames were on display at a national optical dispenser with a price tag of $299.

A quick piece of arithmetic reveals that the black spectacles were a whopping 60 times the cost of the cheap pair from the Reject Shop, however in most respects, both spectacle frames were much the same.


Like so many other consumer goods, just about all eyeglass frames these days are made in China, including the very expensive "designer" frames. A number of Chinese optical manufacturers have very similar spectacles to that $299 model on their websites, but for around $5 per frame. So knowing how the importing business works, it can safely be concluded that if those $299 spectacles were made in China, they probably would have cost around $5 each and could have been landed in Australia for around $10 each once freight and duty were paid.

These $299 spectacles are branded with the national optical dispenser's name, so assuming that this company imports them directly, the mark-up on them would be a whopping 3000%. If so, that is a monstrous ripoff.


There are many websites in China and other places that sell eyeglass frames on-line. So just go into some of the larger optical dispensers and select the frames that you like. See if there is a brand on them, usually found inscribed on the side-pieces. Take a photo of these frames and if possible, the width of them. Often the frame size is printed on the side arms. in three numbers, such as 49-20-140.

Then get on-line and search for the same or similar frames. It would be most surprising if you cannot find the exact or very similar frames on-line for a fraction of the price that Australian optical dispensers charge. Just order them and when they arrive, take them to your optical dispenser and order lenses for them according to your optical prescription.


An even better trick is to go into discount stores like the Reject Shop and check out the cheap reading glasses on sale. Many of them have excellent and fashionable metal and acrylic frames. Buy a few pairs of the same frame for around $5 each and then remove the reading lenses from one of them. Take that eyeglass frame to your optical dispenser and order your prescription lenses to be fitted to it. Even if the first frame breaks somewhere down the track, you will be able to easily remove your optical lenses from it and fit them yourself to one of the spare frames that you purchased.

So don't be fooled by the marketing baloney about "designer" glasses, because most of them are no different or any more special than the cheapest frames. Some of these so-called "designer" glasses cost over $1000 at Australian opticians, when they were probably made in China and could have been bought on-line directly from there for $5 each. The whole business of marketing spectacles is a whopping scam with massive mark-ups, so don't fall for it.