60 Minutes ran a piece last Sunday night about a near monopoly on an eye glass company. The story highlighted the largest company in the industry, Luxottica; they severely inflate the cost we pay for eye-wear for corporate profits. Eye glasses and frames cost the manufacturer only about $30 but our end cost can easily hit $300 – $500 from their companies (below).
I’m all for profit-making capitalism, but when a company such as Luxottica controls the market, I get pretty angry, especially when I see so many families scratching to get by in this global economic crisis.
Consider that Luxottica owns:
- Pearl Vision
- Sunglass Hut International
- Sears Optical
- Target Optical
- JC Penny Optical
- 10 other retail establishments, AND
- EyeMed Vision Care insurance
This past summer I got new prescription sunglasses and lenses for my regular glasses from Pearle vision. My wife’s employer has EyeMed, and they pay a premium for the coverage. EyeMed paid for part of the lenses and we had to pay the balance. It seems pretty crazy to me that the same company that controls the insurance also sells the glasses–at exorbitant rates.
A year ago, I got a great deal with Pearle. They were running a frame, lens and coating special. When I went there this year the prices were double. I should have gone to Walmart, Costco, or a store front discount chain as I have done in the past, and I would have paid much less, even considering the insurance. There are many Internet companies that sell great frames and lenses for a great deal too.
Luxottica also owns Ray-Ban and Oakley. They purchased Oakley after Oakley’s stock price plummeted. And oh, yea, their price plummeted because Oakley didn’t sign a contract with Luxottica that would have required them to pay Luxottica a large percentage of their profits, so Luxottica no longer allowed Oakley to carry their frames in their stores; they do now.
Also, the Ray-Ban frames that I have are only 1-1/2 years old and a screw fell out. I went back to Pearle to get a screw popped in. They didn’t have any of the special very tiny screws. They referred me to an eyeglass repair firm. This independent company couldn’t acquire the special screws because they were not an authorized Ray-Ban dealer. I had the glasses repaired with new temples for $50. I will never buy Ray-Bans again.
It is time to break up this monopoly. In the meantime I will only purchase from non-Luxottica establishments.