Friday, May 19, 2006

Reply from Second Sight Online

Just received a reply to my question to Second Sight Online about shipping: "With regards your query regarding shipping. Our shipping costs are Free Delivery.

Thank you for your constructive criticism regarding the site design. We are infact right in the middle of a relaunch of the site using a e-commerce package. This is imminent. I shall drop you an email once we are live and would appreciate it if you would update the comments on your site.
"

I'll keep you up to date...

Lens Wear

OK, I'm still investigating the new companies I got from PriceRunner, but it seems that Lens Wear is a legitimate one, so I've added them to the price survey. Note that I've also adding Google Page Rank (to give you an indication of how Google rates the site in importance - higher is better), shipping charges, and comments (indicated by *s).

Some general comments on Lens Wear: their page has problems in FireFox (my main browser), but otherwise has a decent shopping experience. They have a quote which says "The price you see is the price you pay with no hidden charges, extras or taxes". I ASSUME this means that taxes are included in the price, but guys, come on - if you say the price has "no... taxes", you might want to think about rewording ;-> I BELIEVE that taxes are included in their price.

Acuvue 1 Day Boxes of 90


1 Box 2 Boxes 4 Boxes 8 Boxes Page RankShipping Cost
VisionDirect.co.uk£ 42.5£ 84.99£ 168£ 3154£ 3 *
Lensbase£ 42£ 84£ 167£ 3280 **£ 0
PostOptics£ 42.25£ 84.50£ 169.50 £ 335 4£ 0
GetLenses£ 44.25 £ 88.50 £ 174 £ 336 4£ 0
Costal Contacts.co.uk£ 43.14£ 86.27£ 172.53£ 345.065£ 4.99 ***
Lens Wear£ 45£ 89.99£ 178.99£ 357.950£ 0
TheContactLensShop£ 49.45 £ 98.90 £ 188.89 £ 359.90 4£ 0
ContactLenses£ 49.50 £ 99 £ 192 £ 372 4£ 0
Specsavers£ 51 £ 102 £ 204 £ 408 0£ 0
UK Contact Lenses£ 54. 50£ 109 £ 204 £ 408 3£ 0

* = Free Shipping on Reorders
** = Page Rank zero since it's a new site, but very trustworthy
*** = Free on orders over £69

Bye Bye Second Sight Online

Second Sight Online's web site (the worst of the site's that we've seen) is still down, my email from Wednesday asking about shipping prices has gone unanswered, and calls to their number are going unanswered. Although they have great prices, they are not a reliable site to the best of my knowledge, and I will now remove them from the survey. Objections (on any objective grounds), anyone?

Costal Contacts.co.uk

I received the following email from Costal Contacts.co.uk today: "I had a look at your site and noticed that the information provided to you by Ellie [Ed: Ellie is a support person that I contacted yesterday] was actually inaccurate.
While we do ship from outside the UK, our prices do reflect the addition of the 19.5% for tax and duty. This is because we import the lenses to ourselves (from our local facility to our European branch) and then put the packages in the Royal mail to the customer. The customer will not have to pay the duty and taxes as we pay them on import."

This information is confirmed by this document on their site (see the shipping information: taxes section).

I will be keeping my eyes and ears open to see if the above is accurate, but to the best of my knowledge, it is, so I will remove the quote from Ellie from my post yesterday (which seemed to indicate that they did not include VAT), and include Costal in my new price list (which I'm working on now).

Thursday, May 18, 2006

PriceRunner

PriceRunner found a number of contact lens companies that are not on the UK price survey, including a couple of non-UK companies. I will check how import duty works with them, and include all the non-customs-problems companies in the next price list (hopefully tomorrow).

You can clearly see that their original sorting is highly payment dependent - why isn't the default sorting by price? Simple, because some companies pay more for higher ranking.

PriceRunner also has customer reviews for contact lens web sites, so post your info up there and let us know what you think about their services!

Second Sight Online has been down all afternoon. So far, I'm not really impressed with the site. They also have not replied to my email about shipping charges.

Since Costal Contacts has not replied to my email, I called them up. I talked to "Ellie"... [rest of paragraph removed since further information from Costal Contacts indicated that the information I quoted was untrue - see my newer blog entry on the subject].

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Acuvue Stuff

Johnson & Johnson have their own Acuvue web site for the UK, including Five Clear Reasons, FAQs, Demystifying Contact Lens Myths and Your Eye Examination - Why You Need One.

I have updated the price list, including a couple of new companies I added by digging around (please leave comments if you know of any other shops that should be included in the price survey). I am still waiting for info from coastalcontacts.co.uk, which APPEARS to be a US company with a .co.uk domain but shipping from the US. I'll let you know what they have to say.

Second Sight Online has GREAT prices, but a really poorly designed shopping web site. I can't tell what they charge for shipping, and their checkout process is stone aged. I've written to them to ask for their shipping charges, and to recommend a redesign (always sticking my nose in where it doesn't belong ;->).

This version of the price list is still hand made, but I've set up the MySQL tables to auto-generate the info. My IDEA is to generate XML data from the DBs which can be freely accessed, so that anyone can create whatever mashup they need of the data. I will then use XML stylesheets to generate HTML for the site from the XML data.

Finally, sorting is a little arbitrary here, since e.g. VisionDirect.co.uk is cheaper than Lensbase on 8 boxes, but more expensive on 1. Therefore, to decide the pricing, I use the cheapest price per box, where VisionDirect.co.uk (which has a decent shopping experience) is tied with Second Sight Online (with SSO going to first due to a lower price on 1 box). In the future, I hope to allow YOU to sort by your most important criteria.



1 Box 2 Boxes 4 Boxes 8 Boxes
Second Sight Online£ 40£ 80£ 160£ 315
VisionDirect.co.uk£ 42.5£ 84.99£ 168£ 315
Lensbase£ 42£ 84£ 167£ 328
PostOptics£ 42.25£ 84.50£ 169.50 £ 335
GetLenses£ 44.25 £ 88.50 £ 174 £ 336
TheContactLensShop£ 49.45 £ 98.90 £ 188.89 £ 359.90
ContactLenses£ 49.50 £ 99 £ 192 £ 372
Specsavers£ 51 £ 102 £ 204 £ 408
UK Contact Lenses£ 54. 50£ 109 £ 204 £ 408

Friday, May 12, 2006

Buying Lenses from the USA

I reported earlier that 1 out of every 4 or 5 packages of contact lenses purchased (without VAT) from the USA get flagged at customs. In this case, you will pay an extra 2% import duty, and additionally an extra 17.5% in VAT. In addition (although we've never heard of this happening), you "may be liable to financial penalties or criminal prosecution". Read the note about "unscrupulous overseas suppliers" in the HM Revenue & Customs "Shopping on the Internet" page.

DO NOT BUY from US companies unless they clearly state that they will charge you VAT and import duty and will correctly fill out the customs declaration!

They compete favorably on prices, but do not mention that what they are doing is basically leading you into illegal activity, which only YOU are responsible for. In the end, you may get lucky... or maybe not.

UK Lens Price Comparison

While setting up the code to do my UK Contact Lens Price Comparison, I found a site that ATTEMPTS to do the same. Be warned, however - the prices are VERY much out of date.

I hope to avoid this by writing code to automatically retreive the prices. I will even set up an RSS feed with the data, in case you want the results sent to you. Promises, promises...

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Shipping & Forum

When you order lenses online, another thing to consider is shipping costs. All the companies on the price list yesterday have free shipping within the UK. Make sure your online provider offers the same.

A further consideration is whether they have the item in stock. This information could (and should) be provided by all the online shops, but they do not do so. I say that you should start demanding this.

Finally, while looking around, I noticed that Contact Lenses has a forum, which is a really nice idea and very informative.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Price Comparison

OK, let's start some price comparisons. Note that there are already price comparison sites (e.g. PriceRunner). However, online shops must actually PAY to get on there, and your ranking and your presentation can be changed according to how much you pay PriceRunner, so they're really not the useful.

One of the most popular contact lens brands is 1 Day Acuvue , so here is what the UK online lens shops are selling it for. I took all the online shops on the first page of Google's search results for "Contact Lenses" UK.



1 Box 2 Boxes 4 Boxes 8 Boxes
Lensbase£ 42£ 84£ 167£ 328
PostOptics£ 42.25£ 84.50£ 169.50 £ 335
GetLenses£ 44.25 £ 88.50 £ 174 £ 336
TheContactLensShop£ 49.45 £ 98.90 £ 188.89 £ 359.90
ContactLenses£ 49.50 £ 99 £ 192 £ 372
Specsavers£ 51 £ 102 £ 204 £ 408
UK Contact Lenses£ 54. 50£ 109 £ 204 £ 408


WOW! Lensbase rocks! Up to 25% cheaper, with PostOptics a close second. Question: who is dumb enough to pay the prices at UK Contact Lenses?!?!? Or the even higher prices at the high street shops, when it's a commodity product?!?!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Lensbase

Lensbase has launched a new "price matching" service in the UK. It aims to have the lowest prices in the UK market, and "will price match any product that is more competitively priced than ours!". They have a large stock backing them, which means same day shipment of most products.

Contact Lenses Price has price comparisons, but only for the U.S. market. Buyers in the UK should be aware that about 1 out of every 4 or 5 packages get "flagged" for import duty if you buy from the states, which will GREATLY increase your purchase price. Since LensBase is shipping from the EU, this is not a problem.

So far, I have not found something similar to Contact Lenses Price for the UK market - perhaps I should do that myself.