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Thread: How badly are we being ripped off on eyewear? Former industry execs tell all

  1. #26
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    "In the meantime, Dahan and Butler told me, federal authorities should step up and prevent price gouging for eyewear — just as they’ve done with other healthcare products, such as EpiPens."

    Epipens. Yes, poor consumers who can't afford $450 Oliver Peoples frames and $300 Oakleys will go blind, they have no other options! GOUGING IN OPTICAL will make America Go Blind. Make America See Again. OLIVER PEOPLES BAD. An optometrist posts an article for discussion (wait, was it posted to an optical forum for discussion? maybe I misunderstand the point of optiboard - Steve, am I missing something here?) with an actual line that equates Oakley prices with the pricing of Epipens, therefore federal authorities must act urgently, or else....the public will have no choice but to switch to Foster Grants?? Are you effing serious? Please, tell me you are not a real optometrist, that you are just a troll, and you got through the sign up filter and are just having a laugh, right? I mean you posted this article as farce, and your "experience" in the eyeglass industry is non existent, right?

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    Quote Originally Posted by optimensch View Post
    I will further add, on this sleepless night, that articles such as this, which are so lazily crafted and inane, ought not to be read with too keen an eye and with too much attention because it can make you stupid. Keep it to some sort of meta analysis. Like a psychiatrist listening to a mentally ill patient, once the doctor establishes psychosis, it doesn't matter what the exact details in the story are, just that the person telling the story needs medication. Sometimes you should look with a microscope and sometimes with a telescope. Someone who reads this and believes it provides proof of an eyewear monopoly situation either at wholesale, retail or just in their mind is the person with a dysfunction of their reading comprehension or some other dysfunction. Back to True Detective Season 3, and see y'all at vision expo east where we will play a game of avoiding all booths connected to Essilux.
    We will all one day require the charity of the giant behemoth in many ways, so perhaps it wouldn't be a bad idea to embrace those booths.

  3. #28
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    "I noted that if you wear designer glasses, there’s a very good chance you’re wearing Luxottica frames."

    And what is that chance? How important is the designer brand for eye health? Are there designer epipens? Don't tell me folks can only get boring generic epipens, no more Gucci? Does this mean there is a dangerous monopoly in optical, or just in the designer frame market? What is the permissible "markup" on designer goods anyhow, is there a federal agency to check in on the prices of Gucci and Chanel handbags? is this also a matter of national security, just like epipens? I wonder if any optiboarder can think of ANY designer brands which are not luxottica owned. What constitutes a designer brand anyhow? Someone tell Kering, Safilo, Marcolin, Marchon others that its all over, all the brand names are gone and it is time to fold the tent. Brand name eyewear frames seem kind of expensive - call the TIMES, get their TOP MAN on it NOW. Bernstein and Woodward.

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    So here, in sum, we have a hit piece on optical which cites 2 guys, one of whom refers to the other as a real go-getter. These two "experts" cast light on the dark shadow of Luxottica and seemingly most of optical retail and the reporter (A real Mike Wallace obviously) couldn't get a response from Luxottica, so no counter point was offered, no fact checking, cross checking or any rebuttal whatsoever. I guess that means in the entire optical world outside of Luxottica, (or even a Luxottica insider who would speak off the record), no ECP, no one from a Luxottica competitor, no industry spokesperson at all in the whole world, was available to this "reporter"to offer any sort of opposing insight. Not a single statistic or any documentary piece of evidence of ANYTHING to support either price gouging or a monopoly. A total and complete POS useless article - and for an optometrist poster to just post this crap (which is perfectly fine) but DEFEND it as indicative of his or her her experience in our industry with no critical analysis, is very odd to me. Maybe the OP ought to reread the article, and if no questions arise in his or her mind about the quality of the journalism (and the conclusions) well, I'll leave that to others to address.

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    Quote Originally Posted by optimensch View Post
    ... generalized glob of crap about 18$ getting marked up to 800, with ZERO explanation of how this is evidence of a monopoly. Are you SERIOUS?
    Your argument that the article is bunk seems to rest on the premise of semantics. Replace "monopoly" with the words "insufficient competition" in your post and see if you still agree with what you wrote.

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by optio View Post
    Your argument that the article is bunk seems to rest on the premise of semantics. Replace "monopoly" with the words "insufficient competition" in your post and see if you still agree with what you wrote.
    NO. My argument that the article is BUNK rests on the fact that IT IS NOT JOURNALISM. It is a One-sided HIT PIECE with ZERO FACTS presented and most importantly without the other side of the argument. At most it is a frustrated opinion piece, but certainly NOT in any way a researched investigative journalism piece. What THE F does Insufficient Competition mean? What are you talking about? Answer any single question I've posted, and I've posted plenty for you to choose from. Show me ANYTIHNG that looks at like insufficient competition at ANY level of optical retail or wholesale. You read a stupid article like this and eat the pablum? Is that the best you've got?

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    Eaton's was a dominant player in canada. Sears was a dominant player in North America, TOYSRUS was a big player in toys, America On Line was a big player in internet access. General Motors was a big player in cars. The ground is ALWAYS shifting. There is NOTHING special about eyewear that makes Essilux invulnerable. The day Jeff Bezos decides he likes eyewear, watch out. A technology will emerge that will change everything overnight, who knows. But this tired old nonsense fairy tale, oft trotted out by the media-loved Warby Parker talking heads about the evil empire controlling every pair of glasses sold on the planet and how they price gouge people with their Chanel Frames is a total joke, and for an optometrist to basically barf out the same talking points is a bit sickening.

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    So given that the competition bureaus around the world green lit the merger - I suppose they are all on the take? I mean obviously they looked at the competitive landscape, they analyzed everything and they all came to the conclusion that either a) there is sufficient competition therefore ESSILOR and Lux can merge or b) there is a monopoly but there is a pay off, conspiracy world wide and the evil empire cabal has illegally subdued the eyewear market world wide. So which is it? Why is this not addressed in the article, I mean the 2 know-it-all insiders you admire are asking for investigation, but you see, there was one to greenlight the merger. SO let's see, why did the journalist not mention this or perhaps ask a government agency for clarification? He only points out that Essilux declined to comment. Now you, experienced OD, claim there is insufficient competition. Again, I ask you, where is this manifest? In your local mall? Where is the problem specifically please, I really look forward to your insight.
    Last edited by optimensch; 03-10-2019 at 09:11 AM.

  9. #34
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    Insufficient competition. There are thousands and thousands of independent retailers NOT controlled by luxottica, hundreds and hundreds of suppliers, online glasses, offline glasses and you can buy glasses for basically ANY price and from ANY source your could possibly imagine BOTH AT RETAIL AND WHOLESALE. Yet there are 2 political parties in the USA. Yup. The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz. Let's just compare eyewear with telecom - what a JOKE it is so ridiculous I cannot believe anyone with even a drop of research into the subject would take this seriously. If it takes you more than an hour to conclude otherwise, you are willfully blind and/or have some other agenda.

  10. #35
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    - what a JOKE it is so ridiculous ..........................................

    Quote Originally Posted by optimensch View Post

    - what a JOKE it is so ridiculous I cannot believe anyone with even a drop of research into the subject would take this seriously.
    If it takes you more than an hour to conclude otherwise, you are willfully blind and/or have some other agenda.

    .........................................one large source for research on the subject is right here on optiBOARD, which contains dozens of posts, that talk of lower priced retail sales than at the standard mega markup for at least the last 14 years.

    This is not a new subject, but it is now wide open, and published even in daily newspapers. So you can not hide behind silence anymore, specially when the largest optical manufacturer of lenses and optical eyeglass frames is officially jumping into the discount retail market and in direct competition to the established retailers.
    Chris Ryser
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  11. #36
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    I think a big piece to this confusion is that many in the industry do not know, or care, that many labs and suppliers are under the Essilor blanket. What may seem to be an independent, is not. Does that matter? To some, it does, but the main point is this, if a conglomerate owns, or has a share of over 50% of worldwide supply chain, they can basically fix prices, and consumer opinions. Plus, they can cripple the independents by effectively cornering the raw materials, real estate and supply logistics if they want.

    Let's look at two favorite darlings of our industry. OptiSource and Dynamic Labs. On the surface, both look like independents, both sell similar items for less than Hilco, Grobet or Western, but reality is, Dynamic Labs is independent, where OptiSource is an ESS subsidiary. National Optronics/DAC and SatisLoh are both under the Essilor umbrella. Your local wholesale lab is most likely under the Essilor umbrella, as well.

    Good thing is, Essilor allows many of these entities to self manage. Bad thing is, taking LensCrafters into consideration, Corporate will eventually pressure the CEOs of these "entities". Pricing goes up, service goes down. This is what conglomerates do to appease their shareholders.

    In short, I do agree with you, but also want you to know that the independent that you deal with may not be independent at all. Yes, we have choices, and many of us choose to support independents. We will also end up supporting the conglomerates, as well. My lab is mostly SatisLoh and NatOpt, with a few MEI, Coburn and Luneau thrown in. Coating is Ultra and Quantum. Our LMS is an ESS subsidiary. Many LMS systems are. So yes, I lament EssiLux, but I also support them in many ways. My biggest concern is with frames and lenses, our basic commodities. Consumers are driven by marketing, and ESS is the King of marketing. Consumers equate this marketing with quality. Many of us in the industry know better, but not your average VSP client.

    The biggest thorn is that conglomerates throw money around at mass advertising. Think about Varilux and Transition ads on TV. Oakley at sports events. Makes me wonder why Essilor has not yet bought Red Bull. Red Bull and Oakley seem to go hand in hand at these events, yes? Smith, MJ, WileyX, Costa, all make better sports products, IMO, and at better price points to the ECP and consumer, yet, consumers are driven to Oakley. Power of advertising, and the bigger the budget, the more consumer-centric adverting. Hence the power of the EssiLux empire.

    So again, yes, we professionals have options, and it is up to us to make the best decisions to support and sustain our businesses. The fast growing Asian market for lenses, hopefully, will change the landscape. Problem here is the supply chain logistics and minimum qty orders. Many small labs rely on just in time ordering for commodities. Asian suppliers typically require bulk orders that tie up too much capital up front. Then there are customs and tariffs to consider. It is so much easier to order from existing European and American suppliers, as they have distribution networks here in the US.

    My greatest pipe dream is that the independent optical scene will blossom like the craft brew scene. It may not drive prices down, but quality, choices and availability will rise. Better quality products at the same pricing as BO wholesale. Wouldn't that be nice?

    These journalists are out to make a few bucks with an easy "shock" article. Quit with the Consumer Reports and tabloid laziness, instead, provide real journalistic integrity. If they took time and really researched our industry, perhaps they will find that VSP, EyeMed, Davis, UnitedHealth and other vision insurance providers are the ones that drive consumer prices up, just like they do with healthcare. And while at it, they need to do a deep dive into the frame and lens wholesale industry, not just EssiLux, but other players as well. They give Pharma a free ride because of the amount of claimed R&D. What about the Lens industry? There is quite a bit of R&D here, too. As for frames, do we really need Dickies, Harley Davidson, Skechers, Champion, Pink by VS? Yet the market is full of these unnecessary brands that are over priced due to the licensing fees. Consumers aren't requesting these brands, manufactures are marketing these brands. Why?

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    and other vision insurance providers are the ones that drive consumer prices up......

    lensmanmd, ....................................What a beautiful and well well written post, that just about says it all.


    These journalists are out to make a few bucks with an easy "shock" article. Quit with the Consumer Reports and tabloid laziness, instead, provide real journalistic integrity. If they took time and really researched our industry, perhaps they will find that VSP, EyeMed, Davis, UnitedHealth and other vision insurance providers are the ones that drive consumer prices up, just like they do with healthcare. And while at it, they need to do a deep dive into the frame and lens wholesale industry, not just EssiLux, but other players as well. They give Pharma a free ride because of the amount of claimed R&D. What about the Lens industry? There is quite a bit of R&D here, too. As for frames, do we really need Dickies, Harley Davidson, Skechers, Champion, Pink by VS? Yet the market is full of these unnecessary brands that are over priced due to the licensing fees. Consumers aren't requesting these brands, manufactures are marketing these brands. Why?

    ..................these brands let the importer the freedom to purchase a model from anywhere he desires and have his own brand added to the frames he orders from some 25 different suppliers, to make it look as that they have been made in the same kitchen.
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    I'll admit I tried reading a few of your stream of consciousness posts, but it was clear it was going to take an effort I wasn't willing to make, so I stopped.

    What I will say though, gets back to reading comprehension. The article is about a claimed Essilux "monopoly". It is not about you, (I presume) a private practice optometrist. The word "optometry", nor any of its derivatives appear anywhere in the article. A search of the article for the root word "optom" yields zero hits.

    This is (to use your words) a hit piece on Luxottica. It's not an expose on rip off private practice optometrists who sell eyewear. Now, you may also sell eyewear in the "same" competitive environment as Luxottica, but the article isn't about you or optometrists like you (as an aside, something makes me wonder why you get so defensive about a hit piece on Luxottica ripping people off). It's about the fact that when the journalist goes into the Eaton's Center, he sees Sunglass Hut near the entrance, an LC halfway down the mall, and a Sears Optical at the end. They are all controlled by Luxottica/Essilux. He's also told by an industry insider of absurd markups for the stuff in those stores. So that's what he's trying to report.

    Quote Originally Posted by optimensch View Post
    Do you get an income statement at least yearly from your accountant? Have you examined your COGS?

    This illustrates my point exactly. Why are you asking me about MY income statement? I'm not Luxottica nor do I represent them in any way. I presume you don't either. So who cares what my (or your) COGS is? What does that have to do with anything the journalist has said? It all gets back to reading comprehension. This article is about Luxottica, not the private practices of optometrists who sell eyewear.



  14. #39
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    How I see it:

    1. Journalism is dead
    2. Essilor is probably approaching monopoly status in the lab world
    3. Luxottica is hardly a monopoly.
    4. Luxottica retail is a snooze fest. Who cares?
    5. EyeMed, like Lux frames, is huge, but has competition.
    6. Oh, and the concept of frame prices being "too high" because of "Luxottica's Monopoly" is pure, unadulterated garbage.


    So what do we have? Mainly, Luxottica is fine. Essilor is bad. Who knows if Essilor is hiding behind Luxottica, when it comes to this monopoly stuff? There is certainly a case to be made about the Essilor division, but can they tease out the two? I don't know.

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    Quote Originally Posted by optio View Post
    I'll admit I tried reading a few of your stream of consciousness posts, but it was clear it was going to take an effort I wasn't willing to make, so I stopped.

    What I will say though, gets back to reading comprehension. The article is about a claimed Essilux "monopoly". It is not about you, (I presume) a private practice optometrist. The word "optometry", nor any of its derivatives appear anywhere in the article. A search of the article for the root word "optom" yields zero hits.

    This is (to use your words) a hit piece on Luxottica. It's not an expose on rip off private practice optometrists who sell eyewear. Now, you may also sell eyewear in the "same" competitive environment as Luxottica, but the article isn't about you or optometrists like you (as an aside, something makes me wonder why you get so defensive about a hit piece on Luxottica ripping people off). It's about the fact that when the journalist goes into the Eaton's Center, he sees Sunglass Hut near the entrance, an LC halfway down the mall, and a Sears Optical at the end. They are all controlled by Luxottica/Essilux. He's also told by an industry insider of absurd markups for the stuff in those stores. So that's what he's trying to report.


    This illustrates my point exactly. Why are you asking me about MY income statement? I'm not Luxottica nor do I represent them in any way. I presume you don't either. So who cares what my (or your) COGS is? What does that have to do with anything the journalist has said? It all gets back to reading comprehension. This article is about Luxottica, not the private practices of optometrists who sell eyewear.


    So. Have you reread the article you posted. It is about "ripoffs" in our industry, including, apparently, Warby Parker. He says frames are a few dollars and lenses are a couple of bucks. The fact that the fellow interviewed was a Lenscrafters man and later a supplier to lux is an aside. The article is about the Industry. Please read it again and see and see for yourself, this is OBVIOUS. People are paying $800, so it is told, for glasses worth 15$ or so, at most. This is NOT only a slap at Lux. When I suggest you read an income statement I meant, and wrote, to ALSO read Luxottica's. And Newlook's. Why? Because they are both optical retailers and if the $15 becomes $800 story is the least bit newsworthy or true, this would be reflected in either company's COGS. It is a total and complete misrepresentation. I do not want to defend Essilux, I could not possibly care less about them. I care about our industry, and about keeping things truthful. A news story shows at least some effort to vet what is being said by the person being interviewed. It is a garbage article full of misrepresentations. That is my only point. That you choose to post it is NOT at all a problem, as it is good to see what is being said. I am merely pointing out that it is totally flawed, offers absolutely nothing but bs propaganda by a seemingly frustrated former "insider". The article is about the Eyewear industry via an interview of someone who was a Lenscrafters man and then a Supplier to Luxottica - that is his background. He is swiping at all of us. READ. ARTICLE. MAN> before you attack my reading comprehension, examine yours. Please. Thank you.
    Last edited by optimensch; 03-11-2019 at 12:33 PM.

  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by drk View Post
    how i see it:

    1. Journalism is dead
    2. Essilor is probably approaching monopoly status in the lab world
    3. Luxottica is hardly a monopoly.
    4. Luxottica retail is a snooze fest. Who cares?
    5. Eyemed, like lux frames, is huge, but has competition.
    6. Oh, and the concept of frame prices being "too high" because of "luxottica's monopoly" is pure, unadulterated garbage.


    So what do we have? Mainly, luxottica is fine. Essilor is bad. Who knows if essilor is hiding behind luxottica, when it comes to this monopoly stuff? There is certainly a case to be made about the essilor division, but can they tease out the two? I don't know.
    1. Agree
    2. Agree because you said so and generally i will take drk's word for anything
    3. Agree
    4. Agree
    5. Agree
    6. Agree
    7. Agree in advance to your next comment

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    https://www.marketwatch.com/investin...loy/financials

    I mean - I am not an accountant and claim only slightly more than ZERO expertise in stock analysis. I see a COGS which is somewhat less than 97%. Can someone more knowledgeable on the subject than me opine? Where are !5$ glasses getting sold for $800 in this statement, and if the statement says otherwise, please feel free to opine on the news article aforementioned. I suggest you examine NewLook (bci.to , you can see their numbers if you check on yahoo finance canada for example) and Luxottica. My point is that if I, a simple optometrist, can IMMEDIATELY see the flaws and lies in this "news" article, why can't an investigative reporter. Again, if we (or Essilor or Luxottica) can, through occult, alchemy and malfeasance, convert $15 into $800 on a sustained basis, thereby threatening the eyesight of america (hence the epipen alarm in the story) via monopolistic tendencies in people of an optical persuasion, why do those pesky numbers is financial statements, prepared by bean counter nerds, not reflect this?
    Last edited by optimensch; 03-11-2019 at 12:59 PM.

  18. #43
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    7. You're awesome.


    I'd really like to see a guy like LabInsight or others on the lab end validate or invalidate my take on their near-monopoly status.

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    Quote Originally Posted by optimensch View Post
    So. Have you reread the article you posted. It is about "ripoffs" in our industry, including, apparently, Warby Parker.
    It's about Luxottica. Can you show me where he mentions Warby? I see it once, when he says this:

    “You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8,” Butler said. “For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you’d get from Prada.”


    So his reference to Warby is to imply that Lux is a ripoff.
    After all, if you're going to say someone is a rip off, you need to define an alternative. And so he does. He makes his point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by drk View Post

    How I see it:

    1. Journalism is dead
    1b. However it still is being published and read by the masses.

    2. Essilor is probably approaching monopoly status in the lab world
    2b. Essilux is already in a monopoly status in the world and is working hard
    to make it also in
    frames + retail within the next few years.

    3. Luxottica is hardly a monopoly.
    3b. Luxottica is now part of Essilux which is working hard to become THE
    monopoly of the optical retail world.


    4. Luxottica retail is a snooze fest. Who cares?
    4b. It was only the largest frame manufacturer, world wide, before the mega merger
    and still is.

    5. EyeMed, like Lux frames, is huge, but has competition.
    5b. However it is already part of the Essilux family

    6. Oh, and the concept of frame prices being "too high" because of "Luxottica's Monopoly" is pure, unadulterated garbage.
    6b. It looks more that the Essilux monopoly "in waiting" tends more towards selling frames in retail for a lot less than today's standard.



    ..................maybe it should look like this
    Last edited by Chris Ryser; 03-11-2019 at 01:04 PM.
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  21. #46
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    Well, Chris, your points are well-taken.

    If I may summarize your line of thinking:

    1. If any one part of Essilux is a monopoly, all parts are a monopoly.

    That's a great question, and I would imagine a corporate lawyer would be needed to hash that out. Someone like Fester would do.


    2. The future is scary.

    Yes, Essilux is poised to do some serious damage. They're big and scary like Google or Apple or Amazon. I agree.


    The argument, however, to put a fine point on it, is what they are RIGHT NOW, not in the nebulous dystopian future.
    Last edited by drk; 03-11-2019 at 01:11 PM.

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    I'm not sure who's using a 1,000% mark up but I don't know anyone who is, and we indeed aren't. Plus, it's tiresome that this article fails to acknowledge the cost of R&D in digital lens design, along with all the other apparent expenses involved in running a business. We are no different than any other industry. It takes a lot of people and steps to get a frame and a pair of lenses to the consumer. Sure online companies can do it for cheaper, but the quality is subpar in most examples. David Lazarus did a lousy job investigating the optical industry as a whole. Did he ask to look at any of my optical invoices to see how much I am paying for premium lenses? How about you? Just another poor investigative reporting example by an industry which has grown lazy and biased. It's now wonder readership is down on most major newspaper organizations. Also, Luxottica/Essilor is a giant, yes, but come on people, we in the industry have many options available to us. I don't carry any Luxottica products on my frame boards, and I'm doing surprisingly well, and there are some great progressive designs by Shamir and others besides Essilor. ]

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    Quote Originally Posted by optio View Post
    It's about Luxottica. Can you show me where he mentions Warby? I see it once, when he says this:

    “You can get amazingly good frames, with a Warby Parker level of quality, for $4 to $8,” Butler said. “For $15, you can get designer-quality frames, like what you’d get from Prada.”


    So his reference to Warby is to imply that Lux is a ripoff.
    After all, if you're going to say someone is a rip off, you need to define an alternative. And so he does. He makes his point.
    Again , With Peace and Love. This article is about the ripoff eyeglass industry, it is NOT about Essilux. Essilux, being the beastly presence, is an easy target to point to for there being a monopolistic situation in eyewear. This super hero defender of the masses (did he make a profit back in the day?), robin hood, WORKED FOR AND WITH luxottica, hence his being the "expert" witness for the "journalist" (I mean you have to pretend at least to be doing some sort of reporting, right?). The title of the piece is .....WE ARE BEING RIPPED OFF IN EYEWEAR. THERE IS NO COMPETITION ANYMORE. It is a hit piece on all of us. Are you still not getting this? Please, I can take a joke, and don't mind being the butt of your joke, if in fact you are playing me. Just let me go already, enough.

  24. #49
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    Question for the group.

    "Yet those same frames and lenses might sell in the United States for $800."

    a direct quote from the farticle. Either the guy is referring to only Lenscrafters based in the usa (why would he all of the sudden do that, since he never distinguishes American domestic lenscrafters from overseas lens crafters) or he is swiping American opticians, optometrists and other riff raff like us peddling glasses.
    Last edited by optimensch; 03-11-2019 at 03:14 PM.

  25. #50
    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Silver Supporter lensmanmd's Avatar
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    Back to hiding under the Essilor blanket, Shamir and Kodak are subsidiaries, and no longer fully independent.

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