Many suburban stores are sold out of eclipse glasses, leaving people scrambling to find a pair before Monday's astronomical event.
Several suburban Lowe's and Walmart stores, which were selling eclipse glasses for around $2 a pair, said Monday they've been sold out since last week. American Science & Surplus in West Chicago put a "sold out" sign on its front door Monday, also announcing the news on its Facebook page and voicemail.
Catching the eclipseThe Chicago area won't get a total solar eclipse Monday, but it will still be a rare experience. Here's what you'll see:
• The skies will gradually darken beginning about 11:54 a.m., depending on your exact location.
• About 1:19 p.m., the moon will block 87 percent of the sun.
• The eclipse will end about 2:42 p.m.
Manager Megan Slaker said the store sold "thousands" of pairs of eclipse glasses in the past few months -- both the $2 cardstock version and the $17.50 wraparound plastic version. The 2,000 pairs the store had left on Saturday were gone by Monday morning, even though purchases were limited to four per family.
"We could have sold 10,000 more," Slaker said. "It's to the point where people are going on eBay and Craigslist and buying them for a ridiculous amount of money. I heard a pair of (the plastic glasses) was going for $80 on eBay now. It's crazy."
A quick check of Craigslist and eBay showed that, indeed, a secondary market has emerged, with many glasses priced at double their value or higher.
Adding to the stress is Amazon.com's announcement Sunday that it would refund customers who might have purchased solar eclipse glasses that do not comply with industry safety standards.
"It's kind of frustrating," said Arlington Heights resident Carol Ficks, who went to Jewel, Walgreens and a few other stores in search of a pair of glasses this past week but came up empty. "All of a sudden ... no one can find them."
Bill Hobday of Schaumburg has called several stores in search of a pair, but every place has been sold out. He's leery of buying them online and questions why retailers didn't have more in stock, given all the hype about the eclipse.
"They probably cost someone 10 cents to make, and the margin on these things has to be awesome," he said with a laugh. "I'm going to keep looking ... but I'll probably end up watching it on TV."
If you can't find a pair of eclipse glasses, what should you do? Don't assume your sunglasses will be enough, because experts say looking at the eclipse without the proper eye protection can cause permanent eye damage within seconds.
Here are several options:
• Shop online. There are legitimate businesses selling eclipse viewing glasses; just beware of fakes. A list at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters contains NASA-certified sellers. The extra-dark glasses need to meet the ISO 12312-2 international safety standards. Just remember that because the glasses say that on them doesn't mean they're authentic.
• Attend a viewing event in the suburbs. Places like Naper Settlement in Naperville, the Morton Arboretum in Lisle and the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe are hosting eclipse-viewing events that include glasses in the admission price. Limited numbers of glasses will be available during viewing events at suburban libraries, including Arlington Heights, Glen Ellyn, Itasca, Wheaton, Roselle, Lake Zurich, Libertyville, Prospect Heights and Lake in the Hills.
• Contact retail chains that are authorized sellers to see if they still have them in stock, including 7-Eleven, Best Buy, Casey's General Store, Circle K, Hobby Town, Love's Travel Stops, Lowe's, Pilot/Flying J, Toys "R" Us, and Walmart. The complete list, including online vendors, is at https://eclipse.aas.org/resources/solar-filters.
• Get a pair at the Adler Planetarium, or from an Adler Planetarium ambassador in Chicago. The ambassadors will hand them out from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday at Daley Plaza, from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday on the south end of Grant Park, and at Lagunitas Brewing Co., 2607 W. 17th St., from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday. There also will be glasses available to people who come to the Adler Planetarium's Eclipse Fest on Monday.
• Forget the glasses and make a pinhole projector using a piece of cardboard and a piece of paper. Instructions are at http://astrosociety.org/edu/publications/tnl/05/stars2.html. Harper College in Palatine will have pinhole viewer-making stations available during its viewing party at noon Monday.
• Try Chicago retailers and libraries. Some glasses-seekers report having better luck at city retailers. On Monday, Chicago Public Library branches began handing out glasses on a first-come, first-served basis.
For more options on where to get glasses, see the Adler Planetarium's page at www.adlerplanetarium.org/faq/can-get-solar-eclipse-glasses/
For more information on viewing the eclipse safely, see NASA's page at eclipse2017.nasa.gov/safety.