If you're like me, you are doing more and more of your shopping online. It's far more convenient than trekking down to the store. You don't need sighted help to find what you're looking for, the selection is larger, and best of all, purchases are delivered straight to your front door.
Currently, Amazon is the king of online retailers, but recently a new player entered the online shopping arena. It's called Jet, and their model is a bit different than Amazon's. The Jet model factors in the location of the warehouse that stocks your desired purchases. It also factors in quantity. Since their shipping charges will be roughly the same whether you order a single item or a dozen, Jet increases your discount as you add more items to your cart. They also feature Smart Cart items, which are popular items available from the shipping depot nearest you. You can additionally add a few cents savings to each item by opting out of their free returns. Smart Cart items arrive in two days; the others take three to four days. Shipping is free with a $35 minimum order. Initially, Jet charged a $50 annual membership fee, but recently they removed this charge; membership is now free for all.
Accessibility of the Jet Site and Mobile Apps
Creating a Jet account was as simple as entering an e-mail address, zip code, and password. The site included a "Show password" option, which made things even easier. From here you can search for items and add them to your cart. Shipping and billing information is not required until the first time you check out. At the time of this writing, Jet offered 15 percent off your first purchase of $35 or more (this offer appears to be available until February 1, 2016).
The Jet site has not been optimized at all for accessibility. There is no use of headings or other quick navigation keys. I found the best way to quickly move to the search results was to do a text search for "sort by" which places the cursor just above the first entry. Above the cursor position are several search and filter options. Searching for soap, for example, I could filter the results by category, such as health and beauty, family size, brand, color, and specialty soaps, such as alcohol-free, hypoallergenic, and aroma therapy. I could also filter to view only those results that were available to me via two-day delivery.
Unfortunately, once you have clicked on an item, navigation is still not particularly easy. You must either Tab repeatedly or use your screen reader's search hotkey to find the product description and the Add to Cart link. The increase and decrease quantity controls are also unlabeled links located to either side of the current quantity ordered. Pressing either of these only refreshes the quantity number, however, the page does not refresh and cause you to lose your place.
As mentioned, as your order size increases, the price decreases. At the time of this writing a 15.5 pound bag of Beneful Original Dog Food costs $13.36. Order two bags and the total decreases by $.66; the discount for three bags is $1.35. Of course you may not wish to order three bags of dog food in a single order, but adding other items to your cart also increases your total savings, which is accessibly displayed near the top of the cart page. When you want to access your shopping cart directly from a page, look for the number of items in your cart, which displays near the top of the page just beneath your zip code—this is the actual cart link.
Returns are free for any reason. Jet even pays shipping. If you are willing to forego the free return option, you can save just a tiny bit more. This amount seems to be based on how likely you are to return an item. I am not likely to suffer buyer's remorse over a bag of dog food. Consequently, foregoing free returns only saves me a penny per bag. A stainless steel canister set costing $33 offers a $.41 savings for no returns. A $518 Acer touch screen laptop offers $11.40. Note: Items that arrive damaged can always be returned.
The site turns over merchandise quickly. A few items I had added to my cart displayed as no longer available when I logged into my saved items a day after I added them. Within a day, however, they were again available.
I was able to accessibly enter my shipping and payment information and complete my purchase. During one instance when I tried to enter a promotion coupon I could not get it to stick. Jet offers phone support, however, and this turned out to be a known issue; the representative, known as a Jet Head, activated the discount.
Most of my items arrived in the allotted time. A few arrived late, but only by a day or two. Items were exceptionally well packed, bottles and jars arrived inside plastic seal bags with jar lids wrapped in tape. My only objection to the shipping packaging was the company's tendency to pack items in the new, no fun here, unpoppable bubble wrap.
The iOS and Android apps were simultaneously easier to use and considerably more difficult. Running the iOS app with VoiceOver, the app had a tendency to crash when I scrolled rapidly, or when I neared the end of a results list that was 10 or more pages long. My saved items were still in the cart when I reopened the app, however. I did not experience these crashes running the Android app.
Both apps have a number of unlabeled buttons. Most notably, the iOS app's search button appears unlabeled just beneath the Categories heading, the actual "Categories" button just above. Once found it was easy to keep track of from that point on. Category and product searches are the best way to shop using the iOS app. VoiceOver could not access the home screen featured items; Android had no trouble with these controls. The Android app did not display the remove item from cart controls, however.
Basically, at this point shopping Jet using either the iOS or Mobile app is problematic at best. I did enjoy using the apps for browsing. Since they do not have affiliate stores, the selection is not as daunting as a typical Amazon "We found 3,145 results for your search." I also found the iOS app the easiest to use for editing the cart and making the purchase. Android users may wish to switch to the website for completing an order.
Tracking numbers were included in the shipped notification e-mails, so it was easy to add these shipments to my Shiprack package tracking app so I would know when to expect what.
Finally, it would seem, Amazon has some viable competition. This can only enhance service and help keep prices at their lowest. A few business analysts have opined that Jet is currently selling many items below their costs. Indeed, I do have to wonder how long free shipping will be available on a 20-pound box of cat litter. But as I recall, for years Amazon sold below their costs to build market share, so in the long run, sometimes this sort of model does succeed.
For me Jet is most useful for purchasing bulk items, or heavy items I don't want to carry home, such as paper towels, cat food and litter, trash bags and the like. If I were making a large purchase, such as a new TV or laptop, I would also use Jet as one of my price comparison sites.
Despite some serious accessibility issues, I am giving Jet a tentative recommendation. The apps are free, and if they don't work for you, there is always the web interface to fall back on for a test purchase or two.
Hopefully, the company is aware of their accessibility failings and is working hard to address them. If you'd care to give them a friendly nudge, here are a few places to get started.
Company Contact Information
- Holiday Shopping Using Your iOS Device by Janet Ingber
- More Holiday Gift Ideas for People with Visual Impairments by Janet Ingber
More from this author:
- CrowdViz: Remote Video Assistance on your iPhone by Bill Holton
- AudioEye: Providing Web Accessibility as a Managed Service by Bill Holton