Advantages Very efficient and knowledgeable staff, good layout and painless service
Disadvantages Not the most friendly service - emphasis on efficiency, prices nothing special
|Value for money|
|Layout & presentation|
|Selection & range|
|In store customer service|
These new Vision Express Optical Lab places seem to be popping up all over the place these days, don't they? Walking around a shopping mall, bam! There's a big shiny white temple of eyewear where you'd normally see the Gap or something. Well, I broke my glasses the other week, so I had to take them back to Vision Express. So here's my opinion on the chain.Appearance and Layout
As I said - shiny white temples of eyewear. The first thing you notice is how clinical and, well, white the shop looks. The reception desk along the front rather puts me in mind of a health spa or something of the sort. Two walls are abolutely stuffed with glasses - at a guess, I'd say there must be about five or six hundred pairs of specs - quite a few. In the middle (on full display, unusually) is the lab, where the lens-making takes place. There's consultation desks on either side of this, and the actual eye exam rooms are up the back. But wait! It catches your eye, because it's the only thing you can see that isn't white or shiny - a children's play area in garish primary colours. It really is bizarre to see a splash of colour like that in the hospital-like environment.
The clinical note continues not just in the appearance but in all aspects of the shop.
An unsettlingly cheerful 'consultant' meets you at the front desk. They get you sit down and fill in a questionairre - a bit of a pain, but it's not that long. it does ask some pretty weird questions, and some about your family's optical history, which you're unlikely to know on the spot. Oh well, they don't seem to mind if you leave a couple of blanks anyway. Incidentally, at this point, you are told you can take a free drink of coffee or tea from the machine in the shop if you like - a nice touch. After this you are sent into the eye exam room.The Eye Exam
It's all the basic stuff, in a very cramped room, which is very dark and very hot. I've had the exam bit three times now, and the opticians tend to go for efficiency rather than friendliness, which is fine, since it gets the whole thing over with quickly. It'd be nice if they got a balance between cheerful and speedy though. You do all the usual tests, like the letter chart, the green and red dots, and the light in the eyes. Then they put on those annoying plastic frame things (the ones they put lenses in to test them) and there follows ten minutes of sheer boredom as they put lens after lens into the frame and say "better? ....... or worse?" which wears patience extremely thin. But soon it's all over, like a light going on (which it does) the optician suddenly seems to realise what the perfect lenses are. So out you go.
As you can tell, the treatment follows the clinical appearance.
Well, you've got the prescription, now for the frames. There's a monstrous selection. But as any glasses-wearer will know, they never have the ones you want.... anyway, the downside of the massive selection is that you see the basic cheapo frames alongside the expensive designer ones - which just makes you want to splash out £100 or more to get far better frames. It has to be said, the designer frames in Vision Express are absolutely top notch. When I got my last pair of frames I still qualified for NHS discounts, so I could afford to get designer frames, thankfully. Anyway, Vision Express beats other opticians hands down in the selection department. Oh, one more thing - before you're done you get offered all the different special lenses, scratch resistant, tinted, that kind of thing. It's all up to you at this point. They also offer insurance - I would say don't do it, but I just broke my glasses and had to pay to get them fixed because I didn't take the insurance. Draw your own conclusions.The Waiting and the Getting
They've got the one hour thing, which is pretty standard these days, and it has to be said they manage it commendably. In my experience they always have the glasses ready within the hour. Then one of the lowly consultant people does the touching up, making sure the frames fit your head. This is done quickly and effectively - almost clinical, you might say. Then you get stuck with the bill.The Price
Not cheap. Vision Express clocks in at about average on the price scale for opticians. Nothing special, but not hideously expensive either.Aftersales
Great - they'll tweak your frames if they don't fit, put a screw back in, or even a lens if you're stupid enough (like me) to lose one. It does cost for the new lens, but it's all done very quickly.The Verdict
Vision Express is my favourite optician - because I like to get it done as quickly as possible. If you prefer a more personal, friendly service, I wouldn't recommend Vision Express. But I have to say the clinical appearance and efficient service appeals to me. The prices are ok, and the selection of frames is great. So, it's a thumbs up for Vision Express from me, but in the end it comes down to what you're after.
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