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Save Money On Prescription Glasses Online

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Americans spend more than $15 billion each year on eyewear.

Let's face it, eyeglasses aren't cheap and insurance often only pays for a new pair every couple of years.

CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist takes a look at a way some are finding clarity, by ordering their glasses online.

Instead of paying hundreds for prescription eyeglasses, what if you could pay less than $10? sells glasses for as little as $6.95.

Chris Sanders bought his glasses from the site, but chose fancier frames and lenses. He paid $23.

"I honestly thought they were gonna be pieces of crap and they're gonna fall apart. I thought they'd be really flimsy and the hinges would come off. I had no issues at all. They were my prescription exactly. These are really good," Sanders said.

So, CBS 2 intern Jamie Leary and CBS 2's Mary Kay Kleist thought they'd check it out.

Ophthalmologist Jose de la Cruz, from the UIC Department of Ophthalmology, tested their eyes and gave them their prescriptions. He also calculated the distance between their pupils. The website specifically asks for that measurement.

"I think we are going to end up with a non-stylish frame, and I think so long as the procedure of making the lens is average, just like everybody else you shouldn't have a problem as far as a visual component. But you know we'll see, I might be wrong," de la Cruz said.

Back on the Zenni website, Leary and Kleist "tried on" various frames. After choosing their favorite $6.95 pair, they placed their orders.

Leary's cost a bit more because of her astigmatism -- $15.95. A week and a half later, their glasses arrived.

Kleist's were not easy to wear. She could see clearly through the dead center, but if she looked to the side or down, there was great distortion around the edges, almost like a fishbowl effect.

Leary had the same vision issue, so they showed Dr. de la Cruz their glasses. He said the prescriptions were accurate, but thought the thick lenses could be causing the distortion.

Zenni sold thinner lenses for $35 extra and charged another $5 for anti-reflective coating. Asked if that would help, de la Cruz said, "It might get better."

So, Leary and Kleist ordered again, this time glasses with thinner lenses and anti-reflective coating. Kleist could see much more clearly with the new pair. Leary liked hers better too.

After the upgrades, Kleist paid $51 and Jamie paid $48.

After Sanders' success, his wife ordered from Zenni too. She needed a stronger prescription and ordered the upgrades. Her pair cost about $30.

"She said, 'Wow, these are really nice.' So she went and ordered another pair actually," Sanders said.

If you have thick lenses, it pays to upgrade the lenses to the higher quality, thinner lenses. It's also helpful to call Zenni's customer service if you have a stronger, or more complicated, prescription.

Even with upgrades, it was still a big discount over what you typically pay. Shipping was $4.95.

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