Inflexible Flexon Frames

Customers see frustration through titainium frames.

By Kevin RR Williams

VISION If you have ever endured the inconvenience of having a pair of glasses break, you can appreciate the appeal of the statements within the Flexon eyewear marketing video. Its titanium frames are made from "durable," "bendable," “extremely flexible” alloy “memory metal” that “resists breakage” and can "remember and return to its original flattering shape.” If this lasts as long as two or three pairs, you may be able to justify spending 150% more for frames. "Flexon is made for people who are tired of dealing with problems of typical eyeglasses… inability to keep the original shape and lack of longevity." Flexon is the top-selling ophthalmic brand in the U.S.

The reality is that titanium alloys are not unbreakable. In case you can't read through the double negative, titanium frames are breakable. What consumers should be seeing is that these frames “are more durable than standard frames” that snap after a single bend. A quick online search reveals remarks from unsatisfied customers like these.

Online Gripes

Pneuma001: I bought a pair of glasses like this, though I'm not sure that they were exactly the same ones. I could bend them and just about touch the hinges together and they would snap back to normal with no evident damage. I wanted them because I've got 3 little kids that I thought might damage them.

Something happened (I don't remember what exactly) and the bridge of the nose broke after less than a year. I got an identical set of frames and had the same lenses put it. After just less than a year I was cleaning the lenses with my shirt and broke the second set of frames in almost the same place as the first pair; right in the middle of the supposedly ultra-flexible bridge.

naramura1: My wife had flexon glasses, thought they were great, around $450 lenses and frame. Thought they were unbreakable until one day she was cleaning them and they broke at the bridge. At the time they were about 1 1/2 years old, just out of warranty of course.

Peripheral Vision

The company profits from the perception implied by: “resists breakage.” Wait a minute, how is that different from unbreakable? “Resists” is a phrase that means it is less prone to… something. (Think water-resistant versus waterproof watch.) Nevertheless, who could fault you for thinking otherwise when the promotional video mentions that the alloy was discovered during missile development. Sounds powerful, right? So what happens if—strike that—when your perceived unbreakable frames snap?

Realize that the misleading “resists breakage” terminology has a finite duration. My frames lasted over three years. For this, the orginal retailer congratulated me. If more than a year has transpired, customers should prepare to get a lesson in flexible finger pointing. The manufacturer points to the retailer who then points a finger back to the customer. The disciplined customer resists the urge to return a finger back to the retailer. What can be done when the honeymoon is over and the vows have been, well, broken? Here are your choices:

  • Purchase color-coordinated duct tape to match accessories.
  • Have a jeweler spot-weld and polish frames.
  • Purchase a replacement frame that fits your lenses.
  • Buy new frames and lenses from Costco.
  • Get $59 "Bendable" titanium alloy classes from Optical4Less.

Is the illusion of unbreakableness implied in the Flexon training video below from which the durability quotations in this article are taken?

Perhaps Flexon Should Be Called "Flexoff"

While cleaning a smudge off my glasses at a traffic stoplight, I joined the club of the disgruntled and disillusioned Flexon eyewear customers. Fortunately I had a spare pair with my prior prescription that allowed me to drive home. (Thanks for your concern.) In my search for a remedy I discovered a place called All American Eyeglass Repair that accepts mail-order repairs. This is what they say on their website:

Eyeglass frames made from titanium and nickel titanium are awesome because they can be bent and flexed through a variety of angles and then slip back to their original positions. Some are [so] extremely flexible and long-term durable that mechanical hinges are not required because the metal is as flexible as a hinge.

Metal breaks through fatigue. This means that [if] it is been bent so many times[,] it eventually gives up and breaks. This is true of titanium and other unbreakable frames so it is a myth to say that frames are unbreakable. It is closer to the truth to say that these frames can last a lot longer than cheap frames, but you still need to treat them well.

The good news about titanium and nickel titanium frames is that they can be repaired permanently and easily by a mail-in repair businesses who can complete the work within 24 hours for a relatively small fee, compared to the original cost of the frames.

I take exception to the revelation that it is a myth to say that frames are unbreakable and then state that they can be permanently repaired.

Resolution Options

If you are with me so far, you should not be flexing your frames back and forth to test that they really do what the marketing material demonstrates. This stresses the metal and shortens longevity. The true stress test is customer satisfaction. No one likes feeling they were duped.

My frames, originally purchased from a local eyeglass boutique, can be replaced for $145 plus tax. (Fortunately, they are still available.) That’s a bit shy of what I paid for new lenses at Costco. I now wish I would have purchased everything at Costco. They do not cary Flexon but I would have enjoyed their legendary unending satisfaction guarantee.

At least with the presented options I may not have to pay for new frames and lenses. What is the cost for repair? All American Eyeglass Repair charges $59 plus shipping for a replacement OEM nose bridge (not a spot-weld). So I will be out about 85–90 bucks to repair my used frames with hopes that the rest of the frame will hold up. The duration of the repair warranty is the same as new glasses at most places (except Costco)—a year.

Alternatively, I can go ahead and get an entirely new frame with the anticipation that it will last at least another three years. This will leave me with my broken pair for spare parts if this design is discontinued. The third option under consideration is to have the old frames repaired and fitted with my computer prescription. I can then purchase the new frames for my driving prescription.

The most durable frames I ever bought were Guess brand with the bi-directional hinges. Since originally purchased over 20 years ago, the frames were filled with three prescriptions and I still have them as a backup pair today. The only reason I abandoned them is because they are better suited for small single-focus lenses. The Flexon frames I last purchased accommodate a larger multifocal lense now required but obviously do not last as long.

If you find yourself in my predicament, and don’t have time to waste, you’ll have some tough decisions to make. Hopefully the listed options can save some heartache. Which route would you take?

Tags: customer service, eyeglasses, eyewear, repairs, vision