Shopping in a global economy

So I need to replace the lenses in my glasses to match a new prescription from the eye doctor. Thanks to the globalization of lens grinding, I am having to fill the prescription twice.

That’s because in all of metro Birmingham (pop. 975,000), there is not a single optician who makes lenses on the premises. Even the ubiquitous Dr. Schaeffer, with his fashion commercials, his civic prominence (the Crawfish Boil, etc.), and his TV tours of his high-tech facilities and eager-to-please staff — even he sends the lens orders off to parts unknown.

What this means for the customer is that it takes seven to ten business days to fill a prescription. Hope you weren’t in a hurry to see clearly.

If, like me, you want to put new lenses in your old, still serviceable frames, you need a backup pair to wear for a week or more. If you were so abandoned as to donate your old glasses to the Lions Club, then you will now have to order a cheap pair of glasses to wear while you wait for your real glasses to get new lenses. And it will take, of course, a week to ten days for the cheap pair to arrive.

In the meantime I’ll amuse myself wondering what exotic parts of the world my glasses will have seen by the time they reach me. Are lenses being made by robots in some vast underground plant in Nevada? Or are opticians being hired in India, like computer programmers, to grind through the night so results can be shipped to the States the next morning? Too bad lenses can’t be sent over the Internet.

So in this case, the globalized economy is costing me both time — two weeks or longer, for an item that used to be ready within a day — and money, namely the cost of an extra pair of glasses. If the lenses have a flaw, or are incorrectly made, I’ll have yet another wait on my hands. The anonymity of the transaction between me and the lens maker tends to reduce the latter’s accountability to me.

Someone remind me again of the benefits of globalization. I keep forgetting.

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