What Is Temu? Read Before You ‘Shop Like a Billionaire’

Online shopping site Temu is all around you. Maybe you’ve seen its orange bags on your neighbor’s doorstep. Or you’ve clicked on an Instagram ad featuring an unbelievably cute item. It could be that you’ve been bombarded by discount codes from someone you follow on social media. You know Temu exists, but you don’t know exactly what it is. Let us explain.

What Is Temu?

It may seem like Temu emerged out of nowhere. Ever since its Super Bowl ad—which featured a song that won’t stop playing in our heads and factory workers who looked like they had abandoned ship from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou(Opens in a new window) to work for Temu—we’ve been told we could shop like a billionaire. But the company got its start in September 2022, when it launched a barrage of Facebook and Instagram ads.

How Do I Shop on Temu?

Temu is on the web at temu.com(Opens in a new window) and via free apps for Android(Opens in a new window) and iOS(Opens in a new window).

Why Is Temu So Cheap?

Temu’s prices are indeed shockingly low. So low that they can’t help get your attention and cause you to throw things in your cart. It seems that Temu is trying to attract shoppers as fast as possible, but it’s likely selling items at a loss to get that done.

Temu might say on its site that it was founded in Boston(Opens in a new window), but it’s owned by PDD Holdings, which has money to burn(Opens in a new window) and just moved its official headquarters from China to Ireland(Opens in a new window) so it can keep doing business even if US scrutiny of China-based apps continues. Temu’s low prices and sending purchased items directly to consumers allow it to bypass tariffs(Opens in a new window), saving it a ton of cash. 

More concerning is the issue of forced labor. A 2022 investigation found that Temu used cotton from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region(Opens in a new window) where China has detained Uyghurs in camps. And Temu (as well as Adidas, Nike, and Shein) recently received letters(Opens in a new window) from a US House committee that’s concerned they could be using forced labor from imprisoned Uyghurs. 

Is Temu a Scam?

Pop up with Temu offers of 30% off and a $100 coupon

It’s all fun and games
(Credit: Temu)

It’s a legitimate website, but watch out for lightning deals that promise extra savings. Temu has gamified its site(Opens in a new window). Pop-ups with wheels to spin for discounts, tokens to collect, and countdown clocks make it seem like time on offers is running out, but they’re designed to push customers toward purchases. Sellers on Temu, meanwhile, often steal designs so they don’t have to pay to develop intellectual property of their own. 

What Designs Do Temu Sellers Steal?

Too many to list, but one example is this mouthful of a product description: Gorgeous Vintage Dragonfly Zircon Pendant Necklace – Perfect Bohemian Jewelry for Women’s Holidays(Opens in a new window). The owner of the online shop Godly Nature’s Jewelry(Opens in a new window) took to TikTok to complain that Temu stole her Champaign Dragonfly Sunflower Necklace(Opens in a new window) design and even her photos.

@godlynaturesjewelry(Opens in a new window) 🚨Design Theft Alert🚨 @shoptemu stole my dragonfly necklace & now they’re raking in profits, while I’ve got ZIP! 😡 It’s not just me: #SmallBusinesses(Opens in a new window) all over are being ripped off by these copycat moguls🕵️‍♀️ Let’s break this cycle❌ #supportsmall(Opens in a new window) #copycatcaught(Opens in a new window) #womenownedbusiness(Opens in a new window) #smalljewelrybusiness(Opens in a new window) #jewelrybusiness(Opens in a new window) #jewelrybusinesscheck(Opens in a new window) #stolenart(Opens in a new window) #handmadejewelry(Opens in a new window) #bohojewelry(Opens in a new window) #bohodesign(Opens in a new window) #bohoaesthetic(Opens in a new window) #bohomom(Opens in a new window) #boholifestyle(Opens in a new window) #entrepreneur(Opens in a new window) #entrepreneurcheck(Opens in a new window) ♬ Sweet Dreams – PuppetMaster(Opens in a new window)

Does Temu Sell Legit Products?

multipack of WNP'L lip balms on left and Vaseline lip Therapy in package on right

Lip service on the left, the real deal on the right
(Credit: Temu/Vaseline)

Well, there are a lot of generic products on Temu but also a fair amount of fakes. Some are obvious, like these little jars of WNP’L lip balms(Opens in a new window), which are not Vaseline Lip Therapy(Opens in a new window) but at first glance are not not Vaseline Lip Therapy. Temu is not alone in selling this product, though. In a Google search, the same product pops up from a third-party seller on Walmart(Opens in a new window).

Recommended by Our Editors

You’ll also see flat-out designer knockoffs on Temu, such as the Women’s Stylish Square Tote Bag, Trendy Design Quilted Shoulder Bag, All-Match Bag(Opens in a new window), which is a poor imitation (but undoubtedly a copyright violation) of Telfar’s Small Puff Shopper(Opens in a new window).

a screenshot of the puffer bag on Temu

The Temu Puff
(Credit: Temu)

a screenshot of the puffer bag from Telfar

The Telfar Puff
(Credit: Temu)

If I Order Something on Temu, Will It Ever Arrive?

This is not Amazon Prime two-day delivery. The site says orders ship in seven to 15 days, but that is not always the case. You’ll probably receive credits for future orders the more your order is delayed. When you get a message about the delay, you’ll see a button to “urge shipment.” Clicking it probably does nothing, but remember: This site is gamified. Temu says that if an order is not shipped within 15 days, it will issue a refund.

Does Temu Accept Returns?

There is a return process on Temu(Opens in a new window), and shipping is free within 90 days of purchase. Note that’s within 90 days of purchase, not receipt of your order.

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Katheleen Knopf

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