Shopping on Temu is sketchy—but is it a scam? (2024)

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If you're on social media (or if you watched the Super Bowl), you've likely heard of Temu, an online marketplace that sells ridiculously low-priced products. After you visit Temu's overwhelming homepage, you're probably left with one major question: Is Temu legit, or am I about to get scammed?

Temu offers deals on all sorts of knockoff products, from $5 AirPods lookalikes to a $10 Skims slip dress dupe. Those prices are appealing, similar to what you'd find on AliExpress or the Walmart marketplace. But if your internal alarm bells are going off at those prices, you're not alone—those prices do feel too good to be true, and it's hard to believe 23,000 Temu reviews give a $3 milk frother five stars.

We decided to check Temu out for ourselves by ordering a handful of items and testing them at the Reviewed labs.

Shopping on Temu is sketchy—but is it a scam? (1)

Temu

We ordered a bunch of stuff from Temu to see if it was a scam or if Temu was legit.

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at Temu

What is Temu?

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Temu is a online marketplace that sells everything from clothing to electronics to beauty supplies. You're not going to find big name brands like Dewalt or JBL, but you will find plenty of knockoff brands—like Dubull and . The items you see on Temu are shockingly cheap—like $2 socks and $13 vacuum cleaners—but are backed by tens of thousands of on-site reviews.

The homepage of Temu looks a lot like the third or fourth page of Amazon's daily deals, minus any recognizable brands: think nose hair trimmers and 24-packs of sponges. You won't recognize any seller names, but that's not surprising—the items from Temu are coming straight from distributors.

Why is Temu so cheap?

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Temu sells items directly from manufacturers, meaning they skip the middleman (like Amazon or Walmart) and get shipped directly to the consumer. For example, let's look at a pair of Damyuan shoes.

At Amazon, you can shop this pair of Damyuan men's sneakers in size 12 for $29. On Damyuan's website, those shoes are $37. On Temu, they're $12. That's because Temu is shipping this pair of shoes directly from the factory, as opposed to shipping them to an Amazon warehouse and then to a consumer.

The other reason Temu is so cheap is because it doesn't carry any major brands like Amazon or Walmart would. It carries some of the exact same products (often cheaper), but you won't get perks, like two-day Amazon Prime shipping.

Temu review: Our experience ordering from Temu

What it's like to order from Temu

To test Temu, our plan was to order the same four products and ship them to four writers across the country. However, we ran into several issues.

First, items that were marked available became out of stock as soon as we tried to order. We'd order a bluetooth speaker, then receive an email saying it was out of stock. Thankfully, there are so many variations of the same speaker on Temu that we were able to order it from a different link (and a slightly different price), but it was ultimately very confusing and frustrating trying to find out which products were actually in stock on the site.

Next, every time we tried to place our orders to four separate addresses, Temu would cancel all the orders due to unusual activity on our card. Specifically, we were told, "If you wish to avoid potential cancellation of subsequent orders, please verify ownership of the payment method used on this order within 72 hours." Our logistics coordinator tried emailing customer support, where they filed a ticket that ultimately never got resolved.

We ended up scrapping our original plan and just sending products to our lab in Cambridge, paying with my personal credit card to avoid getting canceled again. Once it was ordered, Temu sent me several updates over email with the status of my order, which ultimately delivered on time.

How we tested Temu

We opted for products across each of Temu's major categories to get a full sampling of its goods. We tried:

  • A water bottle: We chose a knockoff Stanley Cup that was just $10.

  • A lab coat: If you're sending products to a lab, why not choose a lab coat?

  • A massage gun: Our favorite massage gun is the Theragun, which costs $349. We ordered a $15 version.

  • A Bluetooth speaker: We picked the popular T&G wireless speaker, a knockoff of our favorite JBL speaker.

If we had ordered on-brand versions of each of these items, our total would have been $529. With Temu, it was $60.30.

Temu item packaging

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The initial packaging was in pretty rough shape when it came in. The boxes showed signs of being tossed around and possibly being wet. However, all the products were in working order. Just be aware, that if you're buying a product for someone else, it might arrive a little beat up.

Stanley Cup vs Temu Cup

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When we first removed the Temu-purchased cup from the box, it surprised us with just how much it looked like the Stanley Cup. But with a keen eye and a scale, we noticed a few differences. The cup from Temu is about 98 grams lighter, has fewer threads to secure the lid, and the straw has uneven edges.

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While some of the finer details aren't as good, performance is king in the Reviewed labs. To test the thermal regulating capabilities of each cup, we placed 600ml of 60°F water, 110 grams of ice, and a temperature sensor in each cup and let them sit for about 5 hours in a 72°F room. At the end of the testing period, the sensor inside the Stanley measured an average temperature of 39.08°F and the one in the Temu-purchased tumbler came in at 39.32°F. So for the short haul, both will keep your iced coffee cold.

Verdict: Given the price difference, the Temu cup is totally worth it.

Lab coat

The next thing we tested from Temu was an XL lab coat. The first thing we noticed was the strong odor coming off the package. It's fairly common for clothing made for industrial use to have a lot of sizing and starching chemicals. Usually, a quick wash will remove any residual scent.

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The next thing we checked out were the tags. The coat that we received was a 65-to-35 polyester cotton blend. That's pretty common given how affordable the coat is. However, a 100 percent cotton lab is preferable—especially if you're working with anything heat-related. Cotton may burn, but polyester melts.

The only things that bothered us were the buttons. The buttons were a little too big for the holes they were meant to slide through. Maybe over time, the slits would loosen up, but protective gear shouldn't have a long break-in period. A good lab coat should be easy to slip in and out of, not only for convenience, but in case of contamination.

Verdict: Probably fine as a splash guard, but we'd pass on this lab coat.

Massage gun

We have tested a bunch of massage guns and it's hard to compare what we got from Temu to them. What we can say after testing is that the massager we got from Temu lived up to most of its advertising. It's compact, it's light, and it's quiet. The model we tested had six different patterns that didn't translate to different levels of intensity.

Temu also lists that this massager will provide a "powerful deep tissue massage" and it's debatable whether or not this massage gun lives up to that claim. We used the Temu massage gun after a workout and it didn't provide the power we were hoping for. Even against similarly sized competitors like the Therabody Theragun Mini, this massage gun lags behind.

We also thought the attachments were a little wonky. The injection molded pieces had some frayed edges and felt a little flimsy in the hand.

However, all our gripes aside, it's hard to argue with how affordable this massage gun from Temu was. So after spending a few days using it, we think it's a great supplementary massager for your desk at work.

Verdict: Not good serious usage, but fine as a supplementary unit

T&G Bluetooth Speaker

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The design reminds us of the JBL Flip 6. Does the T&G compare? Not really. Yes, it connected via Bluetooth to our laptop and phone just fine. On its highest setting, our sound meter showed the speaker could output around 75 dBA—which is as about as loud as a vacuum going full bore.

The only major issue we found was that the sound quality just wasn't there. Even at lower volumes, the music we played had a hint of static.

Verdict: Fine for personal use, but will not get the party going

Is Temu legit?

Will you receive what you ordered from Temu? In our experience, yes—and if you don't, Temu has a Purchase Protection Program that will refund your order if your item is damaged, not as pictured, or never delivered. Our executive editor Tercius Bufete recently ordered from Temu but never received his package; he received a refund from PayPal.

If you're still not sure, you can always lean on your good friends at Reddit, who have a lot of thoughts about Temu. But honestly? Their findings mimic ours—Temu is legit, you just can't expect brand-name quality at discount pricing.

The BBB gives Temu a C+ and 2.5 stars, noting the company is not accredited by the agency.

If you value a clean inbox, make sure you unsubscribe from Temu marketing emails once you place your order. My inbox has remained clear, but Bufete has received dozens of emails with vague "surprise" offers since his initial purchase.

Is your data safe with Temu?

When you shop from an online retailer, you always run the risk of exposing your data, but some retailers are stricter than others. Temu—more specifically the Temu app—has some tech bloggers concerned about how the company uses its compiled data and whether the app carries an increased risk of releasing malware.

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission buckets Temu with Shien when it comes to data risks. The agency specifically notes that PPD Holdings—Temu's parent company—came under fire in 2023 when its app Pinduoduo was pulled from app stores due to its malware that could "bypass user security permissions and access private messages, change settings, view data from other apps, and prevent uninstallation." Temu's app has not been accused of any such malware at this time.

You can see the exact type of permissions the Temu app requests on the iOS app, as well as what permissions it requests for browsers.

Our final verdict on Temu

Overall, our experience with Temu is a lot like visiting a dollar store. Products are as they appear, but you are getting what you pay for. Of all the products that we tested from Temu, none of them were outright duds. They did vary in quality and for the most part, they did not perform to the same level as the products they were trying to ape.

The massager and speaker punched at their price point and not a hair above. But we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the travel cup.

Based on our experience ordering from Temu and testing the products that we received, we think Temu is above board. Just remember that these low prices come at the cost of performance and quality.

Temu isn't somewhere we'd recommend shopping for high-quality electronics, but you may be able to find some good deals in car accessories, craft supplies, fashion, decor, and—apparently—Stanley Cup knockoffs.

Shopping on Temu is sketchy—but is it a scam? (9)

Temu

We ordered a bunch of stuff from Temu to see if it was a scam or if Temu was legit.

BUY NOW

at Temu

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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Shopping on Temu is sketchy—but is it a scam? (2024)
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