Temu: Amazing Prices, Free Shipping

Photo by Mukuko Studio at Unsplash.com

For over a year now, I’ve been seeing ads for Temu (Temu.com), and now that I’ve tried it, I’m here to tell you that they have amazingly low prices along with free shipping.

But I want to start the story at the beginning: which is that I was a victim of a fraudulent ad on Facebook. The ad from Lewhite.com showed an attractive sweater for $40 that was 50 percent wool, and 30 percent cotton. I had a balance in my PayPal account, so I went for it.

Big mistake. I got an email confirmation with a link for tracking the shipment. But when I clicked on the link, I got an error message on the tracking site. So I let time pass, then tried it again. Still got an error message.

I got suspicious and asked ChatGPT if the website was a scam. It summarized an assessment from Scam Detector that said to be cautious about this website and noted that the domain name had just been registered a couple months earlier, which is always a red flag.

Next I went to the email that I had received from Lewhite when I made the order and saw that there was an email address to use if I had questions. So I sent an email saying that I got an error message on the tracking site and wasn’t able to track the order. I got a reply saying to send a screenshot of the order.

This was starting to feel fraudulent. I went to PayPal’s resolution center and reported the problem. I got a message saying they would follow up with the vendor. Oddly, the name of the vendor they gave was Cosonsen, not Lewhite.

Then I went back to the Lewhite website—and it had disappeared.

In the meantime, I saw Temu’s Facebook ad for an identical sweater for $10. So I ordered it. I carelessly assumed that it too was 50 percent wool, 30 percent cotton.

Temu’s customer service was just the opposite of Lewhite’s. I regularly got emails and text messages telling me exactly what was happening every step of the way.

Eventually, PayPal got a reply from Cosonsen. It was simply a tracking number, the same number that I was originally given. But this time when I clicked on it, it gave me tracking information. Turns out, the sweater was indeed in transit—and due to arrive the same day as the one from Temu.

At this point I was very curious what I’d get. When they came, I first opened the one from Lewhite, eager to know if it was as advertised. I looked for the tag that typically gives the fabric content and care instructions. No tag anywhere.

Then I opened the one from Temu. It was identical in every way, except that it had a tag: 100 percent polyester. (Yet I actually like it.)

I gave away the one from Lewhite and closed the PayPal case. I indicated that I’d received the sweater but that it wasn’t as advertised. I could possibly have gotten reimbursed because of the misrepresentation, but I decided to let it go.

Bottom line: don’t trust Facebook ads. During this whole episode I kept seeing ads for the same sweater on Facebook, but from various fly-by-night websites like Lewhite.

And another bottom line, if I’m allowed a second one: Temu is trustworthy, and their service seems excellent. After I got the sweater, they sent me a link asking me to give an honest review.

I’m eager to do more shopping there. I’ve also purchased a trail camera for $27 that would ordinarily cost at least $50, and a microSD card for it that was $2 rather than the typical $7. The camera has mostly been great so far.

Temu is one of several Chinese companies that ship directly from China. Manufacturers sell them large amounts of unbranded products at razor-thin margins. (My Temu sweater has no tag with a brand name.) Temu, in turn, passes on the low price to you. Articles about the Temu phenomenon say they’re actually losing money because of their low prices and free shipping. But as I write this, the deal is still in place. Shipping time is typically nine days.

Also getting a lot of attention is Shein (Us.Shein.com), which began by selling women’s fast fashion but now offers a wide range of product categories. Again, very low prices and free shipping on orders over $9.90. Delivery time is about 10 days. In the past, I’ve used Wish (Wish.com), which I’ve written about. I bought several knit caps from them that I really like for $2 each. Shipping is currently $2.99 if your order is at least $10.

Enjoy the low prices, but be prudent. You may want to keep in mind there are also environmental costs related to this plethora of inexpensive merchandise from these platforms that are reshaping global e-commerce.

Find column archives at JimKarpen.com.