Aug. 14, 2017 -- If you bought your solar eclipse glasses from Amazon.com, keep an eye on your email.
Some shoppers got a disappointing notice from the company Saturday.
The message warns customers that it could not verify the glasses they bought met safety standards. In other words, the glasses could be fakes.
“We recommend that you DO NOT USE this product to view the sun or the eclipse,” the email says.
When Bridget Cerny read those words, her heart dropped.
“I bought them weeks ago because I wanted to be prepared,” said Cerny, 63, an accountant who lives in Lexington, KY.
Out of Stock or Out of Reach
She says people are driving hundreds of miles to come to Lexington, which is right in the path of good viewing for the Aug. 21 eclipse. Hotels in the area are booked.
MORE FROM WEBMD ON THE ECLIPSE: During Eclipse, 'Your Eye Can Scorch'
“I just wanted to be able to say that I was here, and I’ve seen it,” Cerny says. She last saw an eclipse when she lived in Africa, more than a quarter-century ago.
Even though her plans were suddenly in jeopardy, Cerny says she didn’t panic. She went back on Amazon to try to find another pair from a reputable source.
“The prices had jumped incredibly high,” she says. One seller offered to send her 500 pairs of glasses for $6,000, or they were just out of stock.
“That’s really the most annoying thing,” she says. “It’s one thing to send an email warning not to use the glasses, but then they allowed this price gouging, which isn’t fair.”
Counterfeits On the Market
She spent hours over the weekend scrambling to find a new pair. Every local store she called was sold out. She even emailed the company listed as the brand of her original glasses. It assured her that its own glasses were safe but said other sites were selling counterfeit versions with its brand name on them, HomeStarry.com. There was no way to tell if she’d gotten real or fake ones.
Amazon refunded the price she paid for her glasses, which will probably wind up in the garbage.
“I’m really disappointed. I’m a Prime member,” she says of Amazon’s popular membership program.
Amazon said in a statement to WebMD that out of an abundance of caution, the company has asked independent retailers selling their glasses on Amazon.com to share documents that their products meet safety standards.
“The offers from sellers who provided this safety documentation remain available to customers. The listings from sellers who did not provide the appropriate documentation have been removed and customers who purchased from them were notified last week,” the statement said.
Safe Glasses Meet International Standards
The company would not say how many customers had gotten the emails or why customers were being told about the problems so close to the big event.
The company also pointed us to this page from the American Astronomical Society, which explains how to tell if your glasses are safe. It has also compiled a list of reputable vendors.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology warns that it is not safe to view the sun through homemade filters, ordinary sunglasses, glass, or unfiltered lenses like the camera on a smartphone.
Normal sunglasses block about half the light that strikes their lenses, but properly manufactured protective glasses used to view an eclipse will block all but a thousandth of 1% of that light. They’re required to meet an international standard, known as ISO 12312-2, and that number is marked on the glasses.
For her part, Cerny says the experience has already changed how she shops on Amazon.com, which is the third largest retailer in the world, according to Forbes.
“I was going to order my usual vitamins today, but I decided to order them from a different retailer. If they were allowing fake glasses, how do they know my vitamins are safe?”