I wrote the article on Temu vs. Amazon (Deciding Between Amazon and Temu: A Head-to-Head Review) because it answered one of my own questions: who is Temu? And I think that article answered that: Temu is an Amazon-like company that promises to make it easier for small Chinese manufacturers to enter the US market.
I have to apologize to all non-US readers, this article will probably be of little interest to anyone outside North America since Temu is exclusively a US company and is useful only for those who can get a US shipping address (this includes Canadians living near the US border).
What surprised me was the readers’ reaction to this article. I have received a lot of comments and many more emails on the issue, and this article will attempt to summarize them. The opinions cover the full range, from “I hate Temu and will never shop there” to “Temu is the best shopping experience I had”.
Below are some of the ideas that emerged from the readers’ messages. Let’s start with the bad, shall we?
Opinion #1 – “Temu is bad because it‘s Chinese”
Temu may be bad, but not because it is Chinese. Temu is a US company, its parent is listed on NASDAQ as they say on their website:
As a US company, they do pay taxes and have to obey US law. Its parent/owner is a company listed on a US stock exchange, presumably, anyone (including me) can buy shares in that so the ownership is not really very clear. I could buy stock in Temu’s parent myself, as this screenshot from the Merrill Lynch trading app shows:
In fact, Amazon itself, as a public company, has very unclear ownership. Do we really know who owns shares in Amazon?
So while Temu’s ownership may be Chinese, or largely Chinese, they are a company under US law, pay taxes and obey (presumably) all US laws.
Opinion #2 – “Temu is bad because it peddles Chinese goods“
This is true. Temu has goods manufactured in China and makes no secret about it. Is that bad? Many readers say yes, because of two things:
- Goods made in China are low quality
- Goods made in China take away American jobs
Before we continue, we have to acknowledge that most sellers in the US (including Amazon and Walmart) sell Chinese goods anyway. Only they seem to (sometimes, not always) sell them at a higher markup than Temu does.
Low quality. It is true many things made in China are not of the highest quality. However, the story does not stop here. Anyone remember “Made in Japan” before the 1980s? Everything made in Japan was thought to be low quality! Nowadays, I bought a camera a couple of years ago, I specifically was looking for one made in Japan. In my opinion, they are the best by far. The same happened with the Hyundai cars, from low price / low quality in the mid-1980s Hyundai is now probably one of the better brands (I own a Hyundai myself). I suspect in time the quality of Chinese goods will increase in a similar manner, and I already see proof of that.
There is another factor: do you expect a $1 item to be of the same quality as a $5 item? I do not. Most Chinese small goods on Temu are cheap, and in the race for lower prices quality control is probably not very strict. The old saying “you get what you pay for” is probably correct.
American jobs. It is true that most US based manufacturing jobs are lost to China, and not only to China. Jobs started fleeing the US before the 1970s, not now. And it did not start with China. It started with Japan, Taiwan, etc. China is only the latest foreign source of goods, and it is not alone. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Vietnam are also well known as sources of goods sold on the US market.
Why manufacturing has been outsourced to Asia is a long discussion, but it is certainly not the fault of the Asian companies. The Chinese, Indians, etc. did not decide “we will move factories here”. No, The US companies themselves decided that, and the laws of the US allowed that. It is in my opinion childish to blame the Chinese for this! It is the US companies that were looking for lower cost workforce, less regulation, etc.
There is another angle: by exporting many low tech jobs we have also exported many of the problems we had. I have roots in Canada, near Hamilton, ON. In the 1970s there used to be 50,000 workers in the steel mills there, the lake around was dirty, and the air was unbreathable sometimes. Now there are less than 1/10th of that. But you know what? Lake Ontario is not polluted anymore and the air around Hamilton is clean! I bet the same is true in Pittsburgh or Los Angeles.
I found a very interesting article here: Air Pollution Measurements in Los Angeles and Orange County and I urge you to read it. The University of California – Irvine is probably directly interested in the issue, they are 10 miles away from Long beach (16km). I have found a very interesting graph there for the pollution in Los Angeles:
In the same article, there is another interesting graph showing the increase in pollution in China, and I was simply flabbergasted. Let me tell you, it is definitely not good!
So while we did export American jobs, we also exported some of our problems. I expect things will improve in China too, and the Chinese people will become less willing to take on other problems for the sake of jobs, so the cost of manufacturing in China will increase. And at that time it is possible that some jobs will come back.
There is another side to the “we export jobs” too. As the Chinese people have better jobs, they will start living better. They will acquire new skills. They will demand better pay, better living conditions and the cost of manufacturing in China will increase. We already see proof of this happening, Chinese goods were dirt cheap 5 or 6 years ago. Some of them are no longer dirt cheap, and some of them are starting to not be cheap at all in fact. I think it is only a matter of time until the low cost of labor will no longer be a factor in China’s favor, especially given the widespread usage of automation which decreases the need for human employees.
In my opinion, if we want to be angry with someone for the loss of American jobs, we should not be angry with the Chinese companies. We have to be angry with the US corporations for the hunt for bigger profits, with US legislators for making it easy to export jobs and know-how to unfriendly countries and with ourselves, because we often prioritize low prices over everything else. Mostly ourselves, in fact.
Opinion #3 – “Amazon is better because it creates US jobs“
A surprisingly large number of opinions mentioned that Amazon is a company that creates jobs. This is certainly true, and Amazon is a known leader in the IT (Information Technology) domain, creating not only low paying jobs, but also jobs that pay 6 figures. I found a very interesting article on this issue here: Amazon: Number of Employees 2010-2022 | AMZN
Temu, on the other hand, is a new company for which we have no data. Entirely true, this – Amazon does create US jobs, while Temu probably does not.
It is also true that Amazon is a much more complex company. In fact, the company generates only about 30% of its revenue from the retail sales business, the rest is generated by other divisions. And even for retail sales, Amazon sells books (Temu does not) and has a thriving, profitable video production and subscription business in which it invests heavily.
Indeed Amazon is a much more valuable company for the US, and from this point of view, the desire to support Amazon is entirely understandable. I myself am and will be a faithful Amazon buyer.
Opinion #4 – “Temu is / is not a scam”
Some users expressed the fear that Temu is / might be a scam. Also that they use questionable tactics to gather emails and phone numbers for advertising purposes. A number of users complained that despite not having had any business with Temu, they received ads in their inboxes. I am not really surprised this happened, I receive over 100 spam messages daily. Sometimes over 200. But I did not receive any spam from Temu myself.
One user has complained that she added by mistake a high value item to the cart and checked out before noticing that. When she noticed that, she attempted to cancel the order and was successful in canceling it. However, Temu refused to refund the money and offered only merchandise credit. It would not be the only story of bad things that could happen when you buy things online (and not only on Temu). Please be careful when ordering online and make sure you know what protection your credit card company offers in situations like this. And never use a debit card online, it is probably impossible to get a refund if you do.
But in general, no, I do not believe Temu is a scam. I have received the items ordered, my card was not overcharged and I do not see any proof of unauthorized activity on that card. However, like with all other online merchants, extra care must be taken when ordering from them.
✅ Related tutorial: Common Scams and How to Avoid Being a Victim of a Scam
Opinion #5 – “Temu has knockoffs of brand name items”
I have received a number of messages mentioning that Temu sells look-alikes of brand name items. It probably does. But I was not able to find any brand name items sold on Temu, so I do not believe they can be accused of piracy. And look-alike items are sold everywhere in the US already, from the stands on the sidewalk in New York City to the shelves of upscale stores everywhere.
I have performed searches for brand names on temu.com for names like Gucci, Prada, Rolex, etc. I could not find one single match. However, I did find look-alikes like the ones below:
I believe this concludes the “Temu is bad” section. And yes, there is a “Temu is good” section. But you have probably already guessed what is good.
Opinion #6 – “Temu has lower prices”
This is sometimes true and many readers have noticed that a $20 bill on Temu seems to go a long way, while the same amount on Amazon will not really buy you much unless you are a Prime member (which I recommend, if you are an Amazon buyer in the US).
More importantly, readers have noticed that some notions and other articles we use in sewing seem to be especially cheap. I have noticed this myself, and here are some examples from my own purchases:
But I think we have to take this (Temu is cheap) with a grain of salt too.
It is my belief that for the time being (this is being written in March 2023) Temu is operating at a loss because its prices are in many cases lower than the price of the shipping, and they offer free shipping. This strategy may make sense for them if they want to become an established company but I do not see this being viable long term. My opinion is that Temu prices will go up in time. In fact, some prices have already gone up!
This screenshot is from my order in December 2022. I really paid less than $6 for the shoes, and free shipping:
And this is the same product today (March 2023, three months later), same size, same color. Substantial increase in price!
Also, the funny thing is, Amazon Marketplace often has the same product or a similar one at a similar price! Sometimes that is sold directly by Amazon, sometimes by some other independent seller. But in some cases, I could find on Amazon (or eBay sometimes) similar or identical products, at a similar or identical price.
I believe the correct statement is ”At this time, Temu has lower prices on some items, sometimes drastically lower prices, and you need to shop aggressively for those items in order to get the benefit”.
But for now at least, it is entirely true that by shopping carefully on Temu you can get very, very good deals at unbelievable prices. However, the warning one of the readers mentioned is very, very valid, and applies to ALL online shopping, no matter where you do it:
My problem is I always find TOO much! And that darn blasted add to order button is BAD!!
Shop responsibly 🙂!
Opinion #7: “Temu is a spy site for the Chinese government“
I have received a note from Diane (one of ageberry.com friends) and I will reproduce it in its entirety.
Radio talk show hostess, Kim Komando, did some digging about TEMU and this is what she found!
Seemingly overnight, everyone’s talking about Temu (pronounced “tee-moo”), an online shopping app that boasts deals that seem too good to be true, like $17 wireless earbuds, $1 “gold” necklaces and $23 wedding dresses. Over 50 million Americans have downloaded Temu since it launched state-side in September 2022, after it gained traction with expensive Super Bowl ads promising to let you “shop like a billionaire.” Today, Temu is the most popular shopping app in the U.S. behind Amazon. But most of us don’t know much about the app’s true origins. Reader Daniel Mayer asked an important question, “Is [Temu] something we should be concerned about?” So, I did some digging. And as it turns out, yes, you absolutely should be. Here’s what I found:
Where did Temu come from?
This isn’t some fly-by-night operation. Temu is based in Boston, Massachusetts, by PDD Holdings Inc. (Nasdaq: PDD). PDD is headquartered in Shanghai, China. PDD also owns the e-commerce platform Pinduoduo headquartered in — you guessed it — China. So, Temu is a Communist China-based app and site.
What you need to know before using Temu
First, you’re buying goods directly from manufacturers in China and other parts of the world. That’s why shipping times are often 12 days or longer. The prices are low because the goods are cheap. The pictures of what you see advertised may not be what you actually get. Temu’s BBB rating is 2.21/5. Reviews at TrustPilot are interesting, with 38% 5-star reviews and 41% 1-star reviews. But that’s not the worst of it.
Temu is downright dangerous.
The app is a clever, pervasive digital stalker. As you shop, Temu monitors your activity on other apps, tracks your notifications and location and changes settings. 🛑 It gets worse. Temu gains full access to all your contacts, calendars and photo albums, plus all your social media accounts, chats and texts. In other words, literally everything on your phone. No shopping app needs this much control, especially one tied to Communist China. If you’re using Temu, delete the app from your phone ASAP.
On iPhone, Long-press an app, then tap Remove App > Delete App. Tap Delete to confirm.
On Android, touch and hold an app, then tap Remove App > Delete App > Delete.
Pro tip: If you downloaded Temu, to be safe from Chinese spies, you really need to do a full factory reset.
But wait, there’s more! Temu’s sister app was removed from Google Play because of malware. Do not buy from this company, or use their app!
I do agree it pays to be wary and consider the above. I have to say though that I am no tech expert, but I personally do not believe the part “Temu monitors your activity on other apps, tracks your notifications and location and changes settings. … Temu gains full access to all your contacts, calendars and photo albums, plus all your social media accounts, chats and texts.” Reason is, on my phone the Temu app has absolutely no permissions enabled as you can see below. So the way the app is doing what the talk show host claims is if the app developers have managed to somehow hack both the Android and iOS systems, which I do not believe has happened. Also, on trustpilot.com the percentages are now (as of June 2 2023) reversed: 41% 5 star, 37% 1 star. Temu’s BBB rating is still abysmal, only 2.36/5.
My opinion: if possible, always support your local merchants, your local manufacturers!
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Temu vs Amazon | ZodiacImmortal
Monday 5th of June 2023
[…] The Temu Perspective: Readers’ Insights and Opinions […]
Monday 3rd of April 2023
I enjoyed this article. I am a demonstrator for a company that sells exclusive paper crafting goods online and at classes. You can imagine my surprise when I discovered our current products being offered on Temu. They have merely blacked the label on our packaging when taking pictures of the product. China does not recognize U.S. copyright infringement laws. Perhaps it is our fault for sending manufacturing overseas which subjects us to this risk. With that said, My husband and I are also Temu customers and have had no problems with returns or delays, or customer service. The question is, which wolf do we feed?
Monday 10th of April 2023
Could not agree more. The solution is unfortunately not in our hands, customs and taxes policy is up to the government. I hope they will wake up sooner rather than later, though.
Wednesday 22nd of March 2023
Thank you for this article. I have seen the ads for Temu and I was a little wary of even going to their website. The issue I am interested to know about Temu is how difficult is the return or refund process and how does it compare with Amazon. That would be a deal breaker for me.
I would also like to thank you for all your articles over the past few years. They have always given me some good tips and put a smile on my face.
Sunday 4th of June 2023
@donna, I have been using Temu for a believe 10 months or so. I have had to return a few things, reason was item was to small type issues. They send you a shipping label and 1/2-3/4 or amount of item and when they receive it you get the rest of it. I have a love/hate relationship with this company, I love shopping there and I hate that I say "no more" and I'm right back on the app.
Sunday 2nd of April 2023
I can't really answer about returns, the only return I had (broken item) was without any issues. Other people also seem to have had no issue with returns. However only time will tell if Temu will honor their "no questions asked" return policy.