I made my first order on Temu and this is how it went

Temu Shopping app on Samsung phone
(Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Creative Bloq)

You may have heard of a new online retailer with too-good-to-be-true prices on household essentials and budget tech – and a highly unusual shopping experience. So what's the deal? Is it real? The short answer is: yes. But there are a few things you should know before preparing to shop with Temu, the new orange-themed online digital marketplace. 

With horror stories about orders arriving with some questionable product designs that look nothing like the listing image and an extremely cluttered website design, I was apprehensive about ordering (word of mouth is essential to growing and building an e-commerce website). But, since other customers report a positive experience with no, or minimal, issues I thought I'd try it out. 

(If you're an artist looking to start an online store, see these 6 best ecommerce platforms for selling your work online and the best e-commerce website builders).

But what is Temu?

Let's look into what Temu actually is. The online website and smartphone app is new on the market (launched in late 2022), yet it sits at the top spot of both the Google Play and Apple Store free app charts, with over 50 million downloads... and a steaming bag of mixed reviews. The company is China-owned and operated, and the product quality and design can be unpredictable to put it politely. 

Temu retailer: Is it legit?

As soon as I open the app I'm hit with a suspiciously generous coupon (Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Creative Bloq)

Like most e-commerce shopping platforms, including the hugely popular Shein, Temu has a generic system where you can browse for what you want, add it to a basket, pay with your card, and receive your items a few weeks later (or sometimes as fast as 10 days depending on your region). The strange thing about Temu, though, is on top of the already cheap products, it will bombard you with coupons (see above). 

I should note here that there's been a debate around whether buying from Temu is ethiclal, given the issues surrounding the cheap materials used to create these products. There's also a discussion surrounding the authenticity of the product designs, with some accusing Temu of copying the designs of other businesses. 

I'll go into more detail on my own first-time purchase with Temu shortly, but here's what others are saying surrounding the controversial new way to shop:

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Clearly, the internet isn't quite sure what to make of Temu yet, and as a relatively new retailer, it's difficult to know if it can be trusted and why items are so cheap. Is this because Temu is stealing products from other creators? See our FAQs at the bottom for answers to the most common Temu concerns. 

My first Temu order

Temu retailer: Is it legit?

As you can see, this Nintendo Switch rug is a little rough around the edges.  (Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Creative Bloq)

My first order with Temu involved a promotion which encouraged the shopper to add 10 things to their basket or "cart" to make six of those items free at checkout. This cut my order down from what would have been £170 originally to just £33 with free shipping! No wonder people are sceptical. Delivery was also super speedy and my order with 10 items arrived in just under 12 days. 

As a website shopping experience, it wasn't subtle. The aim is clearly to get you to buy as much as possible (tying neatly into the brand hook of "shop like a billionaire"), and it does that through endless banners and pop-ups. It kinda works though, as I added plenty to my cart that I wouldn't have originally considered (though I'm not sure any budding online shop owners should follow suit).

My first Temu order gave me a huge discount

(Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Creative Bloq)

But what about the product design? The good news is that my Temu order for the most part was a success, receiving functioning items that certainly aren't the best quality in the world – but I guess you can't argue because of the low price. Maybe that's the problem with Temu, aside from the very poor website design that clutters your eyes, it almost begs you to purchase things you don't really need out of sheer curiosity.

I ordered a gaming shelf that was a little disappointing in terms of build quality as my Switch games keep slipping out of it. But everything else I ordered including a miniature fruit blender and splash pool for my dog all work perfectly.

For example, as a photographer, I purchased a studio light box for product and commercial photography, plus a budget photo printer. Both of these items work just fine, but if I were to have purchased these from higher quality sellers I'd be more reassured in the reliability, as they do look cheaply made and as if they could fall apart at a moment's notice.

Temu retailer: Is it legit?

A portable mini printer and portable studio I purchased on Temu (Image credit: Beth Nicholls / Creative Bloq)

Would I purchase from Temu again? Sure. Do I need to? Not really. Everything I could possibly need as a creative can be ordered from Amazon, although as we've uncovered the poor warehouse and working conditions for Amazon staff, should we be spending our hard-earned money there either? 

Where do you think is the best place to shop for artists and creatives with limited income? We would love to hear your thoughts. 

Is Temu a real website?

Yes, it is. Temu is a legitimate online platform and smartphone app. You can buy pretty much anything from Temu (pronounced Tee-Moo) and once you checkout it will be delivered straight to your door. But you're right to be sceptical about this company. Temu claims on its website that it was founded in Boston, Massachusetts, although plenty of other sources say that it is in fact a Chinese-owned business. 

There's nothing wrong of course with the business being based in China, but this does mean that a lot of the suppliers and manufacturers are based in China exclusively and shipping will take on average around 2 weeks from this region to wherever you're based. 

Is Temu a spy app?

There have been concerns and claims made involving China using apps and softwares (namely, TikTok) as a way to spy on the US. Customers are concerned that it is being used as a way to spy on the rest of the word and learn about us through our purchases. 

While it's true that Temu and pretty much all other apps on our smartphones will gather data about us to tailor adds to us and our phone usage habits, there's not yet any evidence we can find online to support that Temu is a "spying app" so you likely don't need to worry. But if you are concerned, you might want to delete every app on your phone right now. 

How is Temu selling things so cheap?

Temu claims that it can operate in a much more low-cost manner by connecting sellers and customers directly and cutting out the middleman, though It's unclear how true this is. The company has also been accused of stealing designs from artists and using cheap materials for its products. 

However, it apparently does not condone dropshipping, which is when a retailer does not actually possess the products it has in stock, but when an order is placed, these will be sent to a retailer to then pass on to a customer. 

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Beth Nicholls
Ecommerce Writer

Beth is Creative Bloq’s Ecommerce Writer. An avid music photographer and previous staff writer for Digital Camera World, Beth has a keen eye for content and knows just how to create it. Her background working as a tester for CeX has provided extensive knowledge surrounding the latest tech and gaming trends, and she studied Music Journalism too, so you'll probably find her at a gig. Basically, she's a total nerd with a Snorlax tattoo and a Master's degree in Photography, forever wishing she was Peter Parker.