In EyeCare Blog


“What is the difference between Relf EyeCare Specialists and  <insert your favorite retail optical here>?”

This question is expressed frequently by our patients and, I  feel, justifiably so. Glasses offer a dizzying multitude of designs and options to choose from; which ultimately culminates into becoming an important and major purchase for you! Because glasses are a necessity for so many, and there are so many decisions to consider (not only price), shopping around has also become a necessity.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work in both private practice and retail/chain stores and although I do believe there are bad apples in every orchard, I’ve noticed marked differences between the two and so would like to present the argument for buying from your local private practice. Please bear in mind, my sentiments are by no means gospel! These are simply observations and experiences I’d like to share in hopes you’ll think about us the next time you need new glasses (shameless plug, I know)!

Your Experience & Quality of Care

Typically, chain stores operate as two separate businesses sharing the same location. The retail side sells glasses and contacts; and an independent doctor does the exams. This model works well within a corporate structure, but I feel that it can cause disconnect between the eye doctors and store staff, and confusion to patients.

With a local private practice, the optometrist and/or ophthalmologist is an integral part of the business working closely with their Technicians and Opticians to ensure a quality customer service experience seamlessly flowing from the initial exam and concluding with picking out your glasses or ordering contact lenses. Private practices rely and focus on providing the highest quality of care, not selling large volumes of frames or attaining weekly sales goals. I feel that this is an important point to make because there isn’t underlying pressure to sell product, and I think that the absence of pressure naturally cultivates a more relaxed atmosphere that patients are aware of and appreciate. I’ve noticed this both as an Optician, and as a girl on a seemingly never-ending quest to find that perfectly trendy and fabulous pair of frames to call mine! Eye health is more than just contact fittings and glasses and I’ve always appreciated the personalized care I’ve received in private practices both as a patient and as a consumer.


While we are on the subject of options, let’s discuss! As I previously mentioned, there is no shortage of both lens and frames options to choose from, and finding the right lens and frame can be daunting. One of the aspects that I absolutely love about private practice is our access to our local Optical Lab and the ability to collaborate with them to offer the patient exactly what is right for them! Whether it is a specific type of no line bifocal or computer glasses or prescription goggles (That’s right! We sell RX-able swimming goggles!), most private practices work closely with a local lab to find the best fit for the patient, and typically they are only a phone call or quick car ride away! This also makes for a quicker response time if issues arise and an expedited turnaround time to get your new fabulous glasses in your hands!

The last time I ordered glasses from a chain store, my order took approximately 2 weeks to get into my eager little hands, which seems to be the average turnaround time. As an Optician working in a chain store, the communication between us and our lab was limited at best and could be frustrating. I’m sure the experience is different if the lab is onsite, but you do pay a bit more for that privilege.

Another difference I’ve noticed is the variety of frame choices private practices have access to. Corporate chain stores do not typically have much if any voice in what type of frames they are able to sell as stock is predetermined and sent to them. In private practice, we are able to hand pick the frames that go on our boards. All of our frames are chosen with you, our patients, in mind.

Pricing & Costs

Ah yes! Pricing and costs. I feel like this is potentially one of the biggest deterrents to people walking in our door. After all, we don’t have those fantastic sales or deals you always see advertisements for. But are you really saving money? I am constantly surprised at how competitive our prices are. We are even lower in some instances…for the same or better product! The bottom line is, read the fine print and do your homework! Know what you are purchasing, because ultimately, you get what you pay for.

Glasses are a big decision; and with so many options to consider,  I hope I’ve shed some light on some of the differences between private practice and chain stores. In your quest to find that perfect pair of glasses our fingers are crossed that you’ll keep us in mind! We’ll be here waiting and ready!


Has it been awhile since your last appointment? Ready to schedule an eye exam? Call (218)720-3553.

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