We are often asked to review new eyewear, new sunglasses, new lenses, pretty much anything optical. As you can imagine, it’s sort of fun trying out the latest and greatest or any product. Sometimes the samples are wonderful and exciting and sometimes they are just plain awful. Like anything in life, not everything is a home run.

We were asked recently by an online retailer of reading glasses to test out some of their pieces and being that I am a good number of birthdays north of forty and still a somewhat voracious reader, readily agreed.

I was sent a dozen various premade reading glasses, the kind you buy online or in grocery or drug store for somewhere between $10 and $30. I excitedly opened the box when it arrived in my office and thumbed through the various sample styles of readers, most with a single vision lens and a couple with a plain lens up top and the reader below in a traditional bifocal layout.

I put the first pair on and was shocked at wearing a pair of true reading glasses for the first time in maybe 10 years. Yes, if I held the book 12-14 inches from my face, everything was perfectly focused. However, everything closer or further away was a total blur. “This can’t be right,” I told myself. I tried on another pair and the focus was a much more comfortable 16-18 inches from my eyes. It turns out the first pair were clearly marked at a slightly higher plus (+) prescription that I normally use.

I tried on another pair and another. I couldn’t get over how limited the field of vision was. I kept thinking to myself, how can anyone wear plain old reading glasses? They have such a limited use, no wonder people buy several pairs, they can’t be used for anything but reading…or close up work.

Theoretically, the lenses in the majority of ready-made reading glasses are centered in the frame opening. Your eyes might perfectly align with that centering, more than likely they do not. Most buyers of reading glasses don’t know this and get by with whatever they have bought. Out of the 12 pair I was sent, one pair of metal frames had not been buffed smooth and scratched my head putting them on and taking them off. I tested a total of 7 pairs on a lensometer to precisely measure the powers and axis of each pair.  While the powers were within 10% of the stickers, one pair was a whole diopter off in verticle indifference and another pair were the same horizontally. Another pair had a pupil distance somewhere around 63, which would be great if I doubled my size, but even then, these weren’t extra large frames. Another pair were cut 2 millimeters difference from the center for the same pair.

Those sort of errors are something you would never see an optical shop run by professionals ever release to a customer. They would be remade before they ever left the lab. However, drug stores and grocery stores don’t have lensometers and trust the reading glasses they buy are optically accurate.

Of course no one reasonably expects a ready-made reading glass you purchase for $10-$30 to be anywhere near the quality of a pair of glasses custom crafted for your eyes but aren’t your eyes worth doing right by? If you don’t want to have reading glasses made just for your eyes and want ready-made reading glasses, my suggestion is to buy them from your local Optometrist or optician who can fit them correctly to you and for you and make certain that they work right for you. That’s much easier than buying aspirin month after month for the headaches the cheap reading glasses are sure to cause.