If you watched Sunday's Super Bowl 2024 live stream, you probably noticed a few Temu ads amid the flood of big-budget Super Bowl commercials. But what is this?
As its motto “shop like a billionaire” suggests, Temu (pronounced teh-moo) is an online marketplace where you can find a frankly impressive range of products for extremely low prices. After making its advertising debut at last year's Super Bowl, the e-commerce site returned with several more ads during this year's big game.
Temu ran three commercials during the Super Bowl after the game, advertising $15 million in coupons and other giveaways. One ad shows an excited shopper dancing around for bargains on furniture, clothing, kitchenware and other products ranging in price from 99 cents to $9.99. Since then, the free Temu app has reached the top of the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, where it has more than 100 million downloads.
Although based in Boston, Temu is owned by Chinese e-commerce giant PDD Holdings, which also owns its sister company Pinduoduo, a social commerce platform in China. Temu’s website states that it achieves its low prices by leveraging parent company PDD Holdings’ “extensive network of more than 11 million suppliers.”
Of course, as you'd expect with such low prices, you get what you pay for. Temu's main business model appears to be undercutting competitors like Amazon and Walmart, but while these online retailers try to restrict similar off-brand and questionable products with varying degrees of success, Temu looks more like the Wild West in comparison. Many people compare it to apps like Shein, Wish, or AliExpress, e-commerce sites known for having lower quality items, longer delivery times, and a shorter item return window.
This is a controversy
Since its launch in 2022, Temu has been criticized over accusations of using forced labor in its supply chain due to its low prices, and unlike Shein and other retailers, the company does not publish audits of its production facilities. to ensure they are not engaging in forced labor or other violations. Its sister company, Pinduoduo, has made the US Trade Representative's List of Notorious Markets, which identifies markets that allegedly engage in or facilitate substantial copyright piracy or trademark counterfeiting, for six consecutive years.
Since May, Temu, along with Shein and other online retailers with a manufacturing presence in China, have been under congressional investigation by the House Select Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. Lawmakers also accused the company of failing to comply with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Law and illegally spying on its customers.
Before the big game, several Republican lawmakers sent a letter to the CBS CEO urging the network not to air Temu's commercials during the Super Bowl.
“The only step Temu reported taking to ensure that it does not ship goods produced with forced labor to Americans in violation of U.S. law was for its suppliers to agree to standard terms and conditions that prohibit the use of forced labor,” it says. . a letter signed by Senators Roger Marshall (R-KS) and Mike Braun (R-IN). “Temu also admitted that it 'does not expressly prohibit third-party sellers from selling products based on their origin in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region'.”
What is it like to place an order on Temu?
Temu sells everything from avocado slicers to power tools. You won't find many brands when searching the site, so you won't find cheap iPads or a $300 OLED TV here. Instead, you'll find tons of fashion accessories, clothing, kitchenware, and everything in between.
Last year, my colleague Kate Kozuch got a little lucky when she spent $50 at Temu for a few random items, like three miniature Pokémon-inspired building pieces for under $3 each, a decorative glass straw for $3.68 and two cups of coffee that rivaled Crate & Barrel Quality for $4.99 each. That said, although the glass straw survived the trip from China intact, one of the coffee cups arrived as a pile of broken glass. Shipping was surprisingly quick – just eight days – and because the price of some of the items she purchased had dropped since her initial order, she received a partial refund from Temu for $2.71. It may not seem like much, but in Temu's world a few dollars go a long way.
Meanwhile, your experience ordering fake Apple products on Temu was a disaster. A $19 smartwatch “inspired” by the Apple Watch Ultra was nothing more than a shoddy attempt, complete with misspellings and misprinted details, including fake exposed screws. A pair of fake AirPods came with a flimsy case that looked like it would break on the first drop. The delivery time was also significantly longer, two weeks.
In short, when it comes to ordering on Temu, your mileage may vary. And if a price seems too good to be true, it very well may be.
Does Temu offer free shipping or returns?
At the time of writing, Temu is offering free shipping for returns within 90 days of the date of purchase. If you have already returned items from an order but decide to return additional items from the same order, you can still do so as long as the 90 day period has not expired, but you will have to shell out a $7.99 shipping fee. which will be deducted from your refund.
Speaking of refunds, you can receive your refund as a Temu credit balance for future orders or choose to be credited back via your original payment method. Refunds may take 5-14 business days to process.
Certain items are not eligible for returns and refunds, according to the Temu website. This includes: items of clothing that have been worn, washed or damaged after delivery; garments that have had their labels or hygiene sticker removed; items labeled as non-refundable in your Temu marketplace listings; and “a few requests for free gifts.”
However, it's worth noting that Temu currently has around 1,000 complaints on the Better Business Bureau website from buyers who never received their items or received damaged items despite being charged. Temu's overall BBB rating is currently at C+.