I spent $50 on the Temu app – and I’m surprised what happened

I first heard about Temu during the Super Bowl. The up-and-coming e-commerce app ran a 30-second ad highlighting cheap prices that encourage “Shop Like a Billionaire (opens in new tab)”. With a slogan like that, it’s no wonder that the Temu app is currently the number one free app on the iOS app store.

Out of curiosity – or should I say skepticism if it’s legal – I downloaded Temu to my iPhone. The app immediately bombarded me with lightning deals, shipping discounts, and other promotions, many of which sounded too good to be true.

A pair of earrings for $1.34? Fitness leggings for $6.79? A $2.88 Garlic Press? It seems that Temu sells every product under the sun, from homeware and fashion to sporting gear and electronics.

Temu’s prices undercut Amazon deals and Walmart deals, making it hard for me to resist adding a few products to my cart. I ended up giving myself a $50 budget to buy items on the Temu app. A little over a week after ordering, my Temu package arrived and I have to admit I’m surprised.

Yes, the prices really are that cheap

My $50 went pretty far at Temu. I have ordered more than I could on Amazon for a range of kitchen products and toys for this price. The Lego lover in me just had to have miniature Pokémon-inspired building blocks РI bought four for less than $3 apiece.

I also justified my order with some practical things. I got a bench scraper for $4.48, silicone tongs for $3.98, a decorative glass straw for $3.68, and two coffee glasses (which looked like they might be Crate & Barrel) for $4.99 each.

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(Image credit: Future)

A few days after my purchase I checked the order status and saw that Temu was offering a partial refund as some of the items I purchased had dropped in price since then. I got back $2.71 which may actually get me a thing or two in the wide world of Temu.

Don’t expect premium packaging

If I order something from China, I expect it to take at least two weeks. I was quite shocked when my Temu order arrived just eight days later, wrapped in an orange bag and sealed tightly.

The package looked a bit worn overall. You could say it had character I guess. I had a gut feeling that two glass tumblers wouldn’t stay intact, and I was right – well, half right.

Yes, that’s a bunch of broken glass. (Image credit: Future)

One of the cups was completely smashed although the other was fine wrapped in identical bubble wrap. The glass straw was also undamaged, but its packaging was so inconspicuous that I initially mistook the styrofoam rectangle as the protective material for the entire content of my order.

The brick kits seemed to have been slipped into the bag without regard to the product boxes. Luckily the bricks were sealed in plastic, but the cardboard on two of the kits was badly warped.

Would I order again through the Temu app?

Temu has a return and refund policy, but the hassle of sending back a bunch of broken glass isn’t worth $5 to me. Also, with the money I got back from the price match refund, I feel like I broke even.

However, I don’t know if I will order from the Temu app again. Sure, the prices are ridiculously cheap, and I could get lots of gifts and the like for a lot less than I would spend on Amazon. But at the end of the day all I bought are things I don’t really need. Call them impulse buys if you will.

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In hindsight, I think I would have preferred to have spent the $50 on a memorable dinner in New York City or finally bought Kirby and the Forgotten Land for the Nintendo Switch. Also, I can’t imagine there’s any worthwhile ethic behind why everything in the Temu app is so damn cheap.

But I guess I should never say never. Given the app’s continued popularity and the variety of products available for purchase, it’s possible Temu has staying power. However, I will avoid ordering any glassware through the app in the future.

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