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Deciding Between Amazon and Temu: A Head-to-Head Review

Everyone knows what Amazon does, and I doubt there is one person on this Earth who is not aware of the Amazon brand. After all, it is one of the most valuable brands in the world. Forbes.com lists it at number 4 in The 2020 World’s Most Valuable Brands after Apple, Google and Microsoft but before Facebook, Coca Cola, Disney or Samsung. And for a very good reason. Amazon is a real powerhouse with over 500 billion dollars in revenue last year (yes, billions) more than Apple (390bn), Google (270 bn) and Microsoft (70bn).

Amazon however is no longer only the online retailer everyone loves (or hates), it has also many other lucrative businesses. The retail business generates only about 1/3 of Amazon income, i.e. 140bn (estimate) for 2022. Compared to the closest competitor I could find (walmart.com, 70bn sales 2022) Amazon is clearly the leader when it comes to online sales.

Or is it? Recently I noticed a lot (and I mean A LOT!) of ads in every game, on Facebook, on Google and everywhere I look for temu.com. “Shop like a Billionaire” seems to be their motto, and indeed the ads are catchy. The prices shown are great, and the product range they offer seems extremely wide. Moreover, I read on CNN that the Temu app is the most downloaded app in the US nowadays. Temu is definitely spending a lot of money to make its brand known in the USA.

Is it working?

Deciding between Amazon And Temu

Who is temu.com?

According to Wikipedia Temu is a Chinese owned new startup in the US which allows Chinese manufacturers direct access to the US market without the need (for the manufacturer) to maintain costly US warehouses or to deal with US shipping. Frankly, I do not think it really matters that Temu is Chinese owned or that the Chinese manufacturers try to access the US market directly.  Most things are manufactured in China anyways, including most things sold on amazon.com, walmart.com or elsewhere. Removing the middleman should translate into lower prices for customers, right? I decided to test this assumption and this article summarizes my findings.

From temu.com site, their own description:

Temu (tee-moo) connects you with millions of sellers, manufacturers, brands and logistic partners around the world to empower you live your best lives. Temu is committed to offering the most affordable quality products to enable you fulfill your dreams in an inclusive environment. At Temu, you can enjoy wholesale prices anytime, anywhere, and in any quantity from top suppliers and brands in the world!

First, I am very pleased by the performance of amazon.com. I have been a Prime member for close to 5 years now and I buy most of the supplies I need for my sewing on Amazon. I am maintaining (infrequently) a list of favorite items on Amazon here: Ageberry’s Amazon Page. I never had problems with subpar merchandise, or better said, when I received subpar merchandise, I could easily return it for a full refund. In my article 35+ awesome gifts for your favorite seamstress I have recommended the Prime membership to my US readers, this membership has really changed the way I shop. Deliveries are dependable and only rarely I had to return the merchandise.

Second, what follows is not the absolute truth. It is only my opinion, based on my experience with Amazon and Temu. Your mileage may vary!

How does Temu compare for shipping?

Well, Temu also has free shipping, and you don’t need a costly membership to get that. True, Prime membership gives you more than free shipping (for example, free movies, and I am taking advantage of that), but the reason I became a Prime member was mainly the free two day shipping. Kudos to Temu for realizing that free shipping is a big plus. Unfortunately, many Temu items come directly from China and my orders have been delayed two or three weeks so if you need something fast, Temu is not an option.

Many people complain that Temu orders are delayed, incorrect items shipped, etc. This was not my case, I always received all the items ordered and shipping time was within the window estimated when I ordered.

Does Temu have quality items?

The answer is: it depends. I have bought items that are excellent, I have bought items that are ok for the purpose, and I have bought items that are unusable. Let me give some examples.

I bought the shoes in these images, I paid for them under $10 each. My husband is wearing them daily and he is very, very satisfied with them.

They are exactly as shown, they are already a couple of weeks old, comfortable and – until now – still look relatively good. Very good value.

I also bought a number of small backpacks like the one below. This is how the item looked on the Temu site; quite nice, right?

Small plaid backpack on temu.com

Unfortunately this is what I got, all wrinkled, and the wrinkles seem to be permanent because the vinyl is not recovering despite my best efforts. They are also poorly made with threads coming out of seams. Quite unusable, really.

Moreover, the size of these backpacks is really small. I put my wallet near them (see the image) and you can see that they are about the same size as my wallet. But they looked like a good size on temu.com. The size was clearly specified on the site though, it is my fault I did not pay more attention.

Small backpacks as received, wrinkled

I bought a ruler for my sewing hobby and I had the surprise to receive an item that was used previously (it was scratched all over) and even broken! Image below, notice the crack in the plastic. This item was refunded without any problems. They allowed me to keep the item (I recycled it), I guess shipping back would have been more expensive than the item.

Broken ruler

Therefore my conclusion is: you may get very good things, you may get crappy things. The good part is that they are cheap 🙂!

What about items for sewing?

I have bought many items for my hobby: sewing machine feet, rulers, notions. Most if not all of them were good, I had a surprise with some manual needle threader which was much smaller than I imagined it but it is still usable.

My conclusion is that for small sewing stuff Temu is a very good option. Below is a collection of images of items I bought for sewing on temu.com: I bought more small items, this is only a selection  to give everyone an idea of what Temu offers.

For example, I like very much this stretchy ribbon lace – it’s an excellent find! It does not look like regular lingerie lace and appears more like a fabric. Its width and the addition of silver threads make it even more unique and special. This ribbon can be used for creating decorative accents on clothing. I think it might be ideal for creating unique and comfortable yoga pants.

lace ribbon I got from Temu

Does Temu describe its items correctly?

In general, yes. I did not find any obvious examples where the items were misrepresented in a way that would suggest intent to mislead. Even the small size for the backpacks is more my fault than Temu’s. However I was surprised to find out that some items (electronics) intended for the Chinese internal market only have instructions in Chinese. That is in fact normal, and will perhaps change in time if Temu becomes a permanent presence in the US market.

The images and description of the item are correct from what I have experienced. The sizes are shown, and all items for which I needed details, those details were provided.

Does Temu accept returns?

Temu’s return policy seems to be excellent, they promise (sort of) a 90 days return window. You can find the return policy following this link.

Return policy popup

I did read the full return policy and was a little taken aback by the wording:

If you are not satisfied with what you bought on Temu, you may be eligible to return it and get a refund by following the simple procedure set out in this Return and Refund Policy.

I was not expecting the “may be eligible”, which seems to suggest that in certain cases (unspecified) the return may not be available. However, I only returned one item (the broken ruler, mentioned earlier) and indeed I had no problems doing that. It is possible the “may be eligible” is just a misunderstanding.

Temu also offers free return shipping only ONCE per order. I understand this to work as follows: If you had, say, 10 items in the order and decide to return one, shipping for that return is free. But if a couple of days later (within the 90 days allowed) you decide to return another item in that order, you may need to pay for shipping back.

Does Temu have an app? Does it work?

Indeed Temu has an app on both Google and Apple stores (Google link, Apple link). There seems to be a marked difference between the two apps because as of the writing of this article (March 12, 2023) on Google Temu has a rating of 3.1 (very bad) with about 40% of the users giving it one star. On the Apple store Temu has a rating of 4.6.

I am not familiar with the Apple version but I have to say that I do not agree with the 3.1 rating. I have used the app and it does what it says it does, the “search” function works, images are clear and the page structure is good – I had no problems using the Android Temu app. It did not crash on me and I was able to leave things in the cart on one device and continue on another.

Nevertheless, if 40% of the users are not satisfied, there must be something wrong with the app, no matter that I can’t see what. I guess I am not that picky 🙂!

Here is a screenshot of the app on my phone after I searched for “sewing machine foot”. I find the result to be presented properly, all items shown are relevant and the sort options are good. In my opinion the app does what it is intended to do and does it well.

Temu app screenshot

✅ Note: Always limit permissions for an app to the minimum necessary for it to perform its functions. The Temu app does not need any permissions, so do not grant it any.

Is Temu safe?

A valid question. Temu is a Chinese company at its core and, while registered in the US, it probably shares data with its parent company. Even if it does not share the data as a matter of policy, your name, address and payment methods are necessary for order completion so they have to be shared. If, in turn, the parent Chinese company sells, or shares further the data, this is anybody’s guess but I personally would imagine that any Chinese company will always do whatever it is told to do.

Apple, Google (and probably many other US companies) complied with the Chinese government’s requirements in order to do business in China, as the following articles claim: Google: Dark day for internet freedom if tech giant accepts China’s extreme censorship, Apple Complied With 100% of Chinese Government App Store Takedown Requests in 2020: Report. It would be childish to believe Temu will not comply with all Chinese government’s requests.

You need to consider that whatever Temu knows, the Chinese government knows. Now; if it is relevant for the Chinese government to have my name and address (which are public after all), that is a different question. You should always restrict the app access to minimum necessary and monitor your credit card expenses.

Does Temu have unique items?

From my experience, no, Temu does not have unique items. I was able to find the same items (or very similar) on eBay, amazon.com, walmart.com or target.com. I will give some examples in the next section where I will compare prices on Temu and Amazon.

Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means I will receive a commission if you order a product through one of my links. I only recommend products I believe in and use myself. 

How does Amazon compare with Temu for prices?

Surprisingly, I was able to find on Amazon similar merchandise for similar prices!

Backpacks at Amazon: (please note that the Amazon backpacks are slightly larger than the ones I bought from Temu). The Amazon small backpack is above 10” high while Temu’s is under 7” (25cm and 17cm respectively). I paid about $5 for the small backpacks (each) on Temu while Amazon prices (at the time I write this) are between $9 and $10, again, for a bigger backpack.

Mesh shoes at Amazon: I paid around $10 for one pair of mesh shoes on Temu. Amazon sells similar below for prices between $12 and $16 (at the time I write this).

✅ Note: click on the images below to see the latest price on amazon.com, they change frequently

Needle threader. I paid about $1 on Temu for the 5 small plastic threaders. As you can see below, Amazon has similar items, priced about the same.

Ribbon. I paid between 30 cents and $1 per yard on Temu. Below are similar items from Amazon, priced similarly. However it is quite difficult to compare prices since the items are not identical.

My conclusion here is that yes, you CAN find similar prices on Amazon for almost everything Temu sells. When it comes to decorative trims though you may not be able to find the exact item and I really liked the ribbons I found on Temu.

Which is better? Temu or Amazon?

My conclusion is: with Amazon, you get slightly higher prices for some items, but a fast / reliable delivery and a good return policy. With Temu, you get a lower price sometimes and some items are really good, some are really bad to the point of being unusable. Frankly, it’s a crapshoot, pardon my French, and the old saying “you get what you pay for” comes to mind. Many items sold on Temu are already sold on eBay, and eBay is really prioritizing the buyers’ interests over the sellers’.

So while Temu may take a bite of Amazon’s pie, I personally doubt it will be a serious menace at least in the short term. Again, my own opinion.  But from my experience, if you have the time to look for unusual items on temu.com, you may get good deals.

Did you find this tutorial helpful? If so, save this pin (see below) on your sewing board so you can come to this article later when you need this information on Temu, and follow me on Pinterest for more tips, tutorials, and inspiration!

Deciding between Amazon and Temu

Sources:

Temu (company) – Wikipedia

Amazon Revenue 2010-2022 | AMZN | MacroTrends

Microsoft Net Income 2010-2022 | MSFT | MacroTrends

Apple Revenue 2010-2022 | AAPL | MacroTrends

Google revenue 2002-2022 | Statista

amazon.com: E-Commerce net sales from 2014 to 2022

Walmart By The Numbers | Walmart 2022 Annual Report

Temu: The online shopping upstart that’s become the most downloaded app in the US | CNN Business


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Lleo Oneiro

Saturday 16th of September 2023

🤡 I 'm sure many people have no knowledge of amazon. There are people who don't have electricity. And they're not bad dirty people.

Olga Balasa

Sunday 15th of October 2023

You are probably correct; however everyone reading this site has Internet already and speaks English, and Amazon has sites in most if not all English speaking countries. Temu is also expanding in Europe, my husband has seen ads while in Europe for Temu. So probably the subject is of interest for most of the readers of this site,

mike

Monday 11th of September 2023

Temu sellers steal from many American small businesses. Mine included. I employ 9 people here in America of which I pay good wages too. People that support Temu do not support the American economy. Choose wisely. People in America complain they want a liveable wage. When they choose companies like Temu they are a part of the problem of not supporting liveable wages.

Olga Balasa

Sunday 15th of October 2023

This is a thorny subject. Yes we exported jobs to China, sometimes entire factories. Don't forget that we exported some of our problems too, like pollution. But this was a political decision, free trade benefits the consumer at large even if does not benefit the workers affected. A similar job exodus happened in the 70s and 80s to Japan, that has ended when Japanese things were no longer cheaper. I suspect this will happen with the Chinese things too, and it is already happening. Temu has increased prices to almost double what they had last year. Items I bought for $5 are now $12, for example.

DM

Saturday 15th of July 2023

What is sad about the American consumer is that this excessive need to buy cheap goods is contributing directly to the demise of the American economy. And looking at gen z on TikTok they don’t even care!! It’s a buy buy buy mentality. What a shame to see. Meanwhile American consumers are supporting slave labor in China and chipping away at jobs in America because as efficient as Amazon has become, even they cannot compete with predatory pricing subsidized by the Chinese communist party. The sellers on temu and Shein steal ideas directly from American small businesses and creators especially creators on Etsy. Then they sell these products back to us at a loss which is subsidized by the Chinese government. Hence continuing to destroy American jobs, side businesses and the opportunity to be an entrepreneur. Absolute shame on the people who support these predatory Chinese companies.

Dil

Sunday 2nd of July 2023

Looks like the author gets incentives from Amazon. I’ve been Amazon customer for last let say 25 years and now switched to Temu. Why? Because of pricing. Temu’s prices are so low that Amazon: is excluding its new competitor Temu from its price searching algorithm that checks if products sold on its platform. So don’t say they almost have the same price, it’s not true. Besides they have 10 days delivery window if they missed that window you will get $5 credit.

Olga Balasa

Sunday 2nd of July 2023

Temu also has a very good affiliate program, and is way more generous than Amazon for the moment. Incentives do not come into play here, and I gave Temu credit where credit is due. Not everywhere. Shipping delays are one thing. Temu is not always cheaper. Example of Amazon being cheaper: bobbin holder $9/4 pieces at Amazon, $3/1 piece at Temu. The Temu link above might not work, search instead for "bobbin holder" on temu.com

Susan

Saturday 3rd of June 2023

I've ordered from Amazon for years. I've only returned a few items (all after the pandemic) due to damage. Amazon's return policy is very convenient. Many online retailers charge to return items if you don't like it. Amazon doesn't. I ordered several items from Temu. Two were damaged and unusable. I had to upload two photos showing the damage before I was told not to return it. My card was credited immediately. I found it difficult to read reviews with Temu. Their website is cluttered and item descriptions not detailed. Amazon's site is clean, and all reviews are posted (both good and bad). Temu is offering many products at lower prices than Amazon is for the same items. No doubt that this will stop once Temu builds up their customer base. As for delivery, my order was not packed in a box, just wrapped in orange plastic. Delivery took almost two weeks. Label indicated that the ship-from address was in a city 10 miles from me.

Olga Balasa

Sunday 4th of June 2023

I believe in the end Amazon will have an edge on Temu because indeed the experience is much better on Amazon. And I see lately Temu [prices going up, often Amazon sells at the same price or even lower than Temu but it has many more choices.

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