I bought some off-brand geeky stuff from Temu (and wasn't mad about it)

Will I order from Temu again? Read on to find out.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Temu app on phone
Future Publishing/Contributor/Getty Images

So, I ordered a few fun items from the hyped shopping app Temu. Here's how this went down.

Me: Honey, have you ever bought anything from Temu? I'm thinking of getting this. [I showed her a screenshot of an OUTATIME license plate from Back to the Future.]

Her: No, but my friends have, and they say it's like another AliExpress...

Her: Ever heard of a site named ZDNET? They did an article on it.

Her: I'm emailing you "Is Temu legit? What to know about this wildly popular shopping app" by Jada Jones.

My wife was very amused with herself. Jada's article gave me enough confidence to place an order with a company that was spamming ads, but that I'd had no personal experience with.

The OUTATIME license plate was all of $3.98 and having long loved Back to the Future, I thought it would be perfect above my laser printer in the Fab Lab. I also decided to buy the ECTO-1 plate from Ghostbusters.

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Even though these items were coming to the US all the way from China, shipping was free if I was willing to wait a little while. But then I ran into a snag. My order was $7.96 and Temu has a minimum order of $20. That was not obvious anywhere on the site before I gave up my credit card digits.

But what the heck? The fanboi license plates, if they didn't suck, were a good enough deal. I just looked around for something else.

What I found was a Lego kit for the WALL·E robot from the Pixar movie of the same name. Except the kit I found wasn't the official Lego kit, which now retails on Amazon for $390 and was $59.99 before it was "retired" from Lego's product line. What I found on Temu was a $22.48 dupe from an unnamed company.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Placing the order

Still, I went ahead and placed the order. I used a Privacy card because I didn't want to give up the digits to a random company who spammed my Facebook page constantly.

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I didn't have long to wait. About 10 days after I placed my order, the package from Temu showed up. It was a little worse for wear because it was a soft envelope with no padding.


Three different views of the same, slightly dilapidated package.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

To be honest, I was concerned that when I opened the envelope I'd find bent plates and broken fake Lego pieces. I was hugely relieved to find them all in good condition.

The license plates

As you can see below, the plates arrived in fine condition.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

They're both made of light steel. Magnets stick to them, so I know they're ferrous. The letters aren't raised or stamped, but appear to be silk-screened. Even so, for my decorative purposes, they're fine. Here's the one I hung in the Fab Lab over my laser printer.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

I haven't yet decided where the ECTO-1 plate will wind up.

The fake Lego robot

Then, there was the fake Lego robot. I didn't have much in the way of high hopes for this, especially since the product was removed from Temu before it even arrived here.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The kit came in a plastic bag, containing other plastic bags, filled with parts. None of the parts arrived damaged, although there was no relationship between how the parts were bagged and the instructions.


Front and back views of the parts bag.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Speaking of instructions, it's been a very long time since I built a Lego kit, but the full-color instruction book was as complete and helpful as the old instruction books Lego produced. Interestingly, Lego is phasing out printed instructions, which I personally find a bit disappointing.

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I'm not going to speculate on the level of piracy or lack of licensing associated with the knock-off I bought, but as you can see, both the bricks and the booklet looked about the same as typical Lego.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

It took a lot longer to build this thing than I remember. The bricks all held together like Legos should. The build time had little to do with the clone factor, and much more to do with how infuriatingly long it took to find the right part for the next step.

Kids are generally considered impatient, but if they can put together Lego (or Lego-like kits), they must have the patience of saints. I have no idea how folks are patient enough to do all that sifting. By the time I was done, I had trotted out almost my entire library of well-honed programmer profanity and let it rip. But again, that's not the fault of the dupe kit, but with the medium of hundreds of tiny little parts with even tinier studs.

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I did have one tangible complaint. Towards the very end of the project, I found there were a few missing parts. These were kind of critical for the completion of the model. Because Temu had discontinued the product right after I ordered it, I had no hope of getting the parts I was missing. So I put on my engineer's hat (not the choo-choo one, but the builder one) and redesigned a part of the robot in such a way that I could liberate parts from an earlier module and apply them to the final steps.

And here's what I ended up with:

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

I think it came out great.

The bottom line

Let's be clear. My experience with Temu is limited to just this one order of three items. I have not yet tried returning anything or getting any money back.

But, with that caveat out of the way, I really have very few complaints. The products arrived in good condition despite their worrisome packaging. The license plates were exactly what I wanted, and hey, for less than four bucks each, what is there to complain about?

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The kit did have a few missing parts, but it was well documented and the bricks themselves were indistinguishable in quality from what I remember of official Lego parts. I was a bit concerned that the product was discontinued before it even arrived, but I still got a cute little yellow robot to put on my shelf.

I can't advise you whether to order from Temu or not. But I will tell you that if I find something else I want and it looks like fairly good value, I will try them again. My first experience definitely did not suck.

What about you? Have you ordered from Temu? Do you think you might? Let us know in the comments below.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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