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Is Temu legit? What to know about this shopping app before you place an order

This Chinese-owned digital marketplace is the number one free shopping app, beating out Shein, Amazon, and Walmart. But how is everything on Temu so cheap?
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor on
Reviewed by Alyson Windsor
Temu logo on mobile phone
Image: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

E-commerce is a staple of our economy. In 2021, e-commerce accounted for 21% of global retail sales. From e-commerce giants such as Amazon to obscure and sometimes sketchy t-shirt ads on Instagram, digital shopping is a cornerstone of online activity. 

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The newest digital superstore taking the internet by storm is a Chinese-owned digital marketplace called Temu. It's the number one free shopping app in both Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, beating out Shein, Amazon, and Walmart. 

A screenshot of Temu's landing page
Image: Jada Jones/ZDNET

What is Temu?

Temu is an online-shopping megastore that offers just about any product you can imagine. You can buy car accessories, clothing, small home appliances, outdoor furniture, power tools, baby clothes, and everything in between. 

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Temu's most stand-out feature is that many of the site's products are incredibly cheap. You can buy sunglasses for $2, necklaces for $1, and glow-in-the-dark pet collars for $3. In fact, whatever you can think of is probably on Temu for less than $30.

Some people compare Temu to sites like Shein, Wish, and AliExpress, but Temu is a little different. Shein primarily focuses on fashion and clothing items, while Temu could be compared to Amazon, as an array of items are available on Temu.

Unlike Wish and AliExpress, Temu doesn't allow dropshipping or the listing of products that advertise as fake but identical and cheaper versions of a real product. 

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Temu launched in late 2022 and quickly rose to the top spot in the App Store and Play Store's shopping categories. People found out about Temu from ads and were attracted to the site's low prices. 

Is Temu a legitimate website?

It depends on your definition of "legitimate." Yes, most of the products on Temu are real, and you will receive them, but it could be weeks before they reach your doorstep, and they might look slightly different than they did on the website or be lower quality than you expected. 

However, Temu offers a $5 credit for packages purchased with standard shipping that arrived late. Temu will credit you $13 for packages purchased with express shipping that arrived late

In other cases, the items can arrive on time, can be decent or good quality, and can be exactly how they looked on Temu's website. Product quality can be unpredictable, which is not so different from offerings on other online stores.

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If you receive your items and they don't look like their online listing, or they arrive damaged, or they don't arrive at all, your order is eligible for Temu's Purchase Protection Program. This program guarantees your money back with a full refund if you return your items within 90 days of purchase. 

Recently, Temu was accused by the U.S. of potential data risks after its sister site, Pinduoduo, was suspended by Google for containing malware. But according to CNBC, analysts say Temu is far less of a threat and the risks associated with Pinduoduo were targeted at Chinese users. 

Following his ban on TikTok, Montana governor Greg Gianforte accused Temu of being "tied to foreign adversaries" and banned the popular shopping app from state government-issued devices. 

Are the products on Temu good quality?

On TrustPilot Reviews, Temu has over 1,700 reviews and an average of 2.9 stars. However, one-star reviews have a slight majority over any other number of stars. Most people complain about long shipping times, low-quality items, and poor customer service. 

However, there are plenty of five-star reviews for Temu on TrustPilot, mostly raving about low prices and a large selection of items. 

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Temu is not accredited by Better Business Bureau (BBB) and has an average rating there of two out of five stars. Many recent complaints about Temu on the BBB website say that items never arrived or, if they did, took weeks or even months to arrive. 

On social media, particularly on TikTok, people are pleased with their Temu purchases. From little gadgets and household items, to clothes and shoes, Temu is becoming TikTok's latest obsession. 

Who owns Temu?

Temu's parent company is PDD Holdings, a multinational commerce group headquartered in Dublin, Ireland. PDD Holdings owns Temu and its sister company, Pinduoduo. It's a little difficult to accurately pin down Temu's origins.

In a February 2023 SEC 6-K filing, Pinduoduo Inc. changed its name to PDD Holdings in a special resolution. The company also moved its principal executive offices from Shanghai, China, to Dublin, Ireland.

The executive office relocation isn't necessarily a red flag, as many tech companies -- including American ones -- move to Ireland because of the country's low corporate tax rates.  

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Temu says the company was founded in Boston in 2022, but the site's "About Us" page does not mention its parent company, according to The Washington Post. Temu's Boston office is not a warehouse full of products, but more than likely is the central office that's connected to Temu's other offices worldwide.

According to the Boston Globe, Temu chose to set up camp in Boston partially because of its proximity to Canada, where the company recently opened another office.

How is everything on Temu so cheap?

The items on Temu are exceptionally cheap. Temu keeps its products affordable by connecting customers directly to suppliers, whileTemu handles the shipping of items to customers. 

Temu's parent company, PDD Holdings, owns another e-commerce platform called Pinduoduo that operates in China. Pinduoduo raked in over $18 billion in revenue in 2022. Because of Pinduoduo's success, PDD Holdings created a vast network of retailers to share with Temu. 

Temu does not own the products listed on its website, but acts as a liaison between shoppers and sellers.

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Temu relays customer feedback directly to manufacturers, alerting them to the products that consumers want and when to produce the desired items. With these factors wrapped into Temu's business model, the company can keep prices astonishingly low.

Does Temu produce its products ethically?

According to Retail Insider, Temu's reverse-manufacturing model helps the company decrease waste by more accurately gauging customers' desired products. 

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Temu's Third Party Code of Conduct stresses that the company has a zero-tolerance policy for vendors that use forced labor to manufacture their products. All Temu vendors must comply with local wage and hour laws, and their working conditions must be safe and non-abusive. 

If you're wondering if Temu is environmentally ethical, that's a trickier topic. Sites like Temu, Shein, and AliExpress say they're committed to environmental sustainability by digitalizing the economy, cutting supply chain waste, and offsetting carbon emissions.

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But many of these companies also distribute products that contain harmful chemicals that eventually end up in landfills. These companies also claim to offset their emissions by purchasing carbon credits to fund sustainability initiatives. But how, when, and where these carbon credits help the environment is unclear.

Is Temu a good company to buy from?

Online shopping can be a gamble. Fake reviews are littered across American retailers, such as Amazon and Walmart, which damage consumers' trust in online stores.

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Packages can be lost in transit, stolen from your doorstep, broken during the shipping process, or your item can show up looking completely different than it did online. 

Temu's standard shipping policy in the US is free, but your items aren't expected to ship for seven to 15 business days. Temu says that if your package never arrives, or you're told it's been delivered but hasn't been, you should contact customer service within 90 days of purchase.

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