Is Walmart Vision Center a Good Choice?

A Review of Products, Services, Quality, and Price

The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart's sign hangs above one of its soon to be opened locations September 21, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Many people have discovered the convenience and cost-effectiveness of Walmart Vision Center for their eye and vision care needs. Considering that Walmart now offers services for photography, automotive needs, nails, banking, and beauty needs, it's no surprise that the mega-giant retailer offers eyeglasses and contact lenses, along with eye exams by licensed doctors of optometry.

Walmart Vision Centers and its competitor Sam’s Club serve more than six million people each year. They are today the second leading provider of optical goods in the United States. 

It's fair to question, however, whether size matters when it comes to your individual eye care and if using Walmart places you at risk of cut-rate care. The answer may surprise you.

Product Range and Quality

Besides being conveniently located for most people, Walmart Vision Centers are tastefully decorated and offer nice selections of eyewear at reasonable prices, including wide varieties of frames and lenses. Many people appreciate the ability to walk in without an appointment and find a popular name-brand frame, including Baby Phat, Phat Farm, and Body Glove.

You may, however, find it difficult to special order certain items, such as brand name progressive lenses or high-profile brand frames.

As a discount retailer, Walmart generally emphasize value-for-price over high quality. As such, many of the lesser known brands are lacking in quality as well as some of the lenses.

Quality of Doctors

Don't feel like you must visit a private practice eye doctor in order to receive a thorough basic eye examination. Both independent optometrists, as well as Walmart-employed optometrists, offer complete eye exams to diagnose vision conditions as well as eye diseases. Rest assured, every doctor that Walmart hires or contracts is licensed and a fully certified optometrist, and in some cases ophthalmologists. '

However, if you have a detailed prescription, you may want to stick with your existing optician who knows your history and whose skills to take extremely accurate measurements have been personally tested and approved.

Because healthcare laws vary from state to state, some doctors are employees as Walmart employees. However, most are independent doctors of optometry who lease their equipment, staff, and office space from Walmart.

While the optometry staff at Walmart are in no way lacking in expertise, the turnover rate is high. If you prefer a relationship with your eye doctor, Walmart may not be right for you.

Services and Insurance

While some of their doctors provide ancillary services, such as treatment of eye infections or disease, their aim is mainly designed to provide routine vision care. More complex eye conditions may be better left to private eye care practices.

A bigger concern is that Walmart may not accept your vision insurance, including Medicaid and Medicare. Some do and some don't, and many Walmart optometrists work on a cash-only basis.

Pricing

Even though you may think of it as a low price leader, Walmart's prices of eyeglass lenses and frames are often about the same as those of many private practices. In fact, Walmart once boasted extremely competitive contact lens prices, with prices being slightly below those found in private practices or other commercial practices, such as Lenscrafters.

However, Walmart made an agreement with 1-800-Contacts for contact lens processing, purchasing, and sales, resulting in an increase in price. You may be surprised to learn that your private practice doctor is just as competitive on contact lens prices.

While glasses at Walmart start as low as $38 for a set of eyewear, you generally get what you pay for. Higher quality brands at Walmart are usually outpriced by places like Warby Parker where most of the product line is priced at $99.

A Word From Verywell

An annual eye exam is one of the most important things you can do to protect your vision and keep your eyes healthy. Keeping your prescription up to date is also important to maintain clear vision throughout your entire life. When it comes to choosing an eye care provider, do your homework and select wisely for the best deal and care for your situation.

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Article Sources
  • Walmart Fact Sheet, Walmartstores.com, 2009.