How is Temu so cheap?
You might feel inundated with ads from Temu (pronounced TEE MOO) at the moment. It seems to be all over social media with influencers left, right and centre showcasing their purchases and hauls from the app.
You might be wondering – and rightly so – why is Temu so cheap? Is it a scam? Is it safe to use? Am I going to get what I ordered? Here is everything you need to know before you download the app and shop at Temu.
What is Temu?
Temu is a Chinese-owned digital marketplace and has quickly overtaken the likes of Shein and even Amazon in downloads from the Apple store and Google Play store. It sells practically everything you could imagine, at a fraction of what you would usually expect to pay. If you've heard of Ali Express then it's very similar but easier to manage.
Firstly, is TEMU legit?
This depends on your definition of legitimacy. If you want to know if you’ll receive your products, then it’s likely that yes they will come. Reviews can be mixed on the products and quality and how similar they are to the product ordered (see below), but some reviews of products are good.
It is important to carefully look at the items you are eyeing up before you buy them. The China factories using TEMU to sell their products aren't always using photo's of the actual products being shipped and they aren't always honest about what materials have been used to make the products.
We have seen instances of items incorrectly listed as "made of silicone" when they are a much cheaper Polyethylene Vinyl Acetate (PEVA). Products described as Reusable but are not safe to reuse etc. This can also be an issue on selling sites such as Amazon, Ebay and TikTok too but they will at least penalise sellers for multiple breaches of trust.
Why is Temu so cheap?
I think the big question that we need to not brush under the carpet is how are products being made, packaged and shipped at SUCH a low price.
Temu claims its products are low because it cuts out the middle man. It claims to link customers with the supplier and just handles the shipping. A Wired investigation found that Temu is currently an average of $30 loss per order and as a result is putting pressure on Chinese suppliers to further lower their costs, and in some cases to supply products for free. Where is the long-term feasibility in this? And how are they paying their suppliers and employees?
The most concerning of all is that there are worries about Temu having connections with forced labour. A 2022 investigation found that Temu used cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region where China has detained Uyghurs in camps. It is important to note that currently these are only concerns and not facts, but if something in your gut is telling you that there are darker reasons as to why Temu is so cheap then those gut feelings should probably be listened to.
Is Temu sustainable?
Environmental groups criticise Temu for encouraging fast-fashion and unnecessary impulse purchases, further adding to waste and landfill issues. Temu’s parcels also generally arrive in excessive and un-recyclable plastic packaging. Certainly the increase in ordering by individuals on Temu has significantly increased the number of individual parcels in transit between the Far East and the UK and leaves a massive carbon footprint compared to brands bringing in these goods in bulk and then shipping individual domestic packages.
Is ordering with Temu safe?
Temu has been linked to a data breech scandal that may make you think twice before signing up. Temu is owned by a company called PDD Holdings who also own a company called Pinduoduo. Pinduoduo are another e-commerce company but they have been in hot water recently. Pinduoduo was suspended from the Google Play store for its ability to track the location, access files, change setting, AND read the notifications and private messages of its customers. Whether Temu is using similar practices is yet to be seen.
What about Product Safety?
In the UK brand owners are responsible for ensuring that our products are safe and fit for purpose. They act as the importer of record for products and as such have a legal responsibility for ensuring that imported goods comply with all customs and legal requirements of the country of import i.e. The UK. These responsibilities do have a financial impact that makes a UK seller products more expensive.
There are no requirements for Temu factories to follow ANY regulations set by the country of import as the CUSTOMER is essentially the importer of record for anything that they order.
On a personal note, beware of products that you will use for storing foods for babies or products that could be chewed by babies. Many products will not have been tested to UK or EU safety standards as there is no requirement by Temu for factories to do this. Products being sold could be 2nds, cancelled production runs or products that have failed safety testing. There is no way of knowing.
Is Temu bad for UK small businesses?
I think yes, this is definitely the case. Many small businesses have had to close their doors partly due to the cost of living crisis and partly due to cheap copies / alternatives being offered via Temu. It's generally small businesses that pay for innovative products to be created and these are then copied by other Chinese factories and sold on. By facilitating this activity there will be less motivation for entrepreneurs to get creative in the future.
Temu is directly targeting UK businesses using Google Ads. When you search for any brand on Google, you will more often than not be presented with a listing sponsored by Temu. For example if you search for Nom Nom Kids you will find this in the results:
Is Temu still worth using?
My advice if you're still on the fence? Before you decide to plunge into the allure of Temu's low prices, take a moment to ponder the deeper implications. Temu may deliver you cheap products, but the pressing concern lies in the ethical and environmental impact behind those bargain deals. The small choices and changes we make really can drive positive change and contribute to a more sustainable and fair future for all.
If you still want / need to take advantage of the cheaper prices, please consider the type of product you are buying. Is it something your child will potentially chew or eat from? If yes, then I personally wouldn't risk it.
Thank you for reading and whatever you decide about Temu, please just buy what you need.