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Four weeks with Jet (aka 'My month without Amazon')

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I placed my very first order on Amazon.com for two very popular albums back on June 20th, 2000. I'd later go on to place about 230 orders, including everything from a mattress (no wait, make that two mattresses; don't ask) and soap -- lots and lots of soap. I loved Amazon so much that at one point I remember saying it was the kind of brand that could do no wrong. But, soon after that second mattress order, my romance with the company began to fall apart, thanks to shoddy logistics and problems with Amazon's renowned two-day Prime shipping.

In order to keep costs at bay, Amazon uses the cheapest available shipping carrier in a given market (for me, that's a combination of OnTrac and USPS, both of which are less reliable than UPS and FedEx). And when I'd contact the company's customer service team, it would often take four or five emails to get a resolution when one used to do the trick. After a point, the frustration wasn't worth it anymore. I needed to find other ways to shop and keep my sanity -- until, perhaps, Amazon circumvents third-party delivery services with its own drones.

Enter Jet

Jet is aimed at people like me -- frustrated Amazon customers -- and is in fact run by a former Amazonian with a slight chip on his shoulder. What sets the company apart from Amazon is that it's "part Costco, part mall and all anti-Amazon," as Bloomberg put it. Prices on Jet are advertised as 10 to 15 percent lower than other online stores, and indeed, the website shows its prices side by side against Amazon's. Jet encourages shoppers to buy more items to further trim the prices in their cart. (You can net additional savings by waiving the ability to return an item and/or paying with a debit card.)

The "part Costco" piece is that Jet is also a membership club. Members can try it free for three months and then pay $50 a year to enjoy the savings. This is how the site will turn a profit, not in the individual transactions. Yep, pretty similar to how Costco makes money.

Jet, in real life

I set out to spend a month shifting my online shopping habits from Amazon to Jet. In my first order, I bought a replacement WiFi hotspot with a listed shipping window of two to five days. Imagine my surprise, then, when it showed up in less than 48 hours -- with a "from" address listed as a Walmart store about 20 minutes from my home. In my second order, I purchased a replacement Apple keyboard, which arrived within three days from a Musician's Friend in Kansas City, Missouri. Unfortunately, the keyboard was defective so I needed to return it to Jet. Luckily, at least, the process was as easy as it is with Amazon -- where despite my other issues, returns usually go through without a hitch.

Jet doesn't have a litany of warehouses like Amazon (at least not yet; it currently has just three). Instead, it farms out orders to an assortment of distributors across the country, with the idea that at least one of them is reasonably close to your shipping address. While this can work fine for one item, it presents a problem for larger orders, which are encouraged as part of Jet's "buy more, save more" philosophy.

After two single-item orders, I wanted to step it up to really experience the savings. I set out with a list of items I could only find online and some I could easily get at my local Target. As I searched and added items, the savings grew and grew. I headed to checkout and placed the order, expecting to see my bounty within the two- to five-day window quoted. But, my order of 11 items would go on to show up over the course of 10 days in eight different packages, all from various distributors and shipping providers. Notably, a single roll of $2 paper towels arrived in a large 12 x 8 x 8 box.

The logistics might've been a small nightmare compared to Amazon, but I did indeed save money. The total came out to $112.77, which reflected a $31.94 savings for adding more to my cart. For the same list on Amazon, my total would've been $186.64.

Changing my expectations

Looking back at my own order, it wasn't straightforward; it included a wide selection of items that, put together, wouldn't be available at a local store (especially my precious gallons of hand soap). Jet doesn't cater to a "get it now" culture that's accustomed to two-day guaranteed free shipping or even same-day delivery in some cities; it's for those who plan out shipments of everyday products or aren't in a major rush to get something they want.

Jet is for those who want the best price and indeed, it taught me to adjust my expectations to focus on savings, not shipping. And, since Jet offers both its prices and Amazon's up front, there's no loss in starting with Jet before looking elsewhere. In the end, whoever can get what I need to my door in the fastest time for the best price will always win the sale.

Have you tried Jet, or had issues with Amazon? Sound off in the comments below or write about it on our Public Access channel!

[Image credit: Jet]

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