What Is Temu and Is It Safe? I Ordered To Find Out

Not sure what Temu is or if it's safe to shop on? I ordered to see for myself and can tell you what it's really all about.

The first time you see its super low prices, you’d be right to wonder if Temu is legit or not. It’s certainly got its share of bad reviews and complaints on sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB), which could lead you to believe it’s not safe to shop on. You may also just be plain confused by the upstart online retailer suddenly popping up with ads on your social media feed. To really understand what Temu is all about, I took the plunge and ordered a car charger from it. Here’s what you really need to know about Temu, based on this experience.

Before starting my Temu shopping journey, I found it useful to remember that pretty much all online retailers, including giants like Amazon, get routinely slated on sites like the BBB. They’re basically a dumping ground for the frustrations of customers whose orders have been problematic, which is something I’ll touch on in more detail later. Similarly, while Temu’s rock bottom prices seem too good to be true, its direct access to the wholesale Chinese supply chain means it cuts out the middle man and keeps the end cost to you mindbogglingly cheap.

Of course, once you’ve shopped around Temu a bit, you begin to notice it does have its fair share of shortcomings. In this guide, I’ll share both sides of my experience ordering from Temu, so you can see first-hand what it’s all about and then make your own mind up if it’s safe or not. Let’s start with a bit of useful background information on what Temu is.

What is Temu?

Launched in late-2022, Temu is the new kid on the block in the world of online shopping. It’s giving the big dogs a run for their money, with the Temu app currently the most popular shopping app for both iOS and Android, where it’s beating the likes of Amazon, eBay, Walmart and many others.

Temu sells everyday items like electronics, cosmetics and clothing so cheaply it seems like it might be a scam, but having ordered from it myself, I can tell you that’s not the case. More on that shortly.

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Another essential thing you should know about Temu is that it offers global shipping coverage. You can order directly from Temu in US, UK, mainland Europe, Australia, and much of Asia. Best of all, Temu shipping is free, even though you might spend more on lunch at the local sub shop than you do getting Temu to send you cheap HDMI cables. There’s also a generous 90 day returns window, in line with what’s offered by other online mega stores.

Who owns Temu?

Temu is owned by a company called PDD Holdings. Before Temu, it was best known as the parent firm of another online retailer, Pinduoduo. That site specialized in budget agricultural equipment but had a questionable reputation. Specifically, it was suspended from the Google Play Store over malware concerns and found itself at the center of a scandal after two worker deaths.

This hasn’t exactly helped Temu’s standing, but it should be said that serious concerns over employee conditions in the Chinese supply chain have plagued big tech for years – Apple’s relationship with Foxconn being another problematic example.

Where is Temu located?

There are two answers to this questions. Temu itself is headquartered in Boston, MA, while parent company PDD Holdings recently moved its headquarters from Shanghai to Dublin. In terms of the goods Temu is supplying, these are still coming direct from China, which is why its prices are so cheap.

Why is Temu so cheap?

Temu is so cheap because it cuts out the middle man and provides shoppers with prices direct from the Chinese wholesale supply chain. It’s reportedly losing a lot of money doing this, but it’s a strategy that has allowed it to quickly establish a foothold is Western markets previously dominated by the likes of Amazon. In terms of the US market specifically, it’s also able to take advantage of the de minimis loophole, which sets out that imports under $800 are not subject to duties, taxes or other tariffs.

What is Temu Actually Like To Shop On?

On the whole, not that different from shopping on other online retailers. Head to the Temu website and you’ll find a familiar interface with products available to browse by type, along with plenty of deals, promos and special offers. When I last went to check out Temu’s wares, it was the retailer’s Fall Sale in the spotlight, along with Halloween merch being pushed.

Temu US homepage featuring items for sale

As you can see, the main nav bar provides easy access to a number of other useful landing pages, from specific product categories to deals and a “Best Sellers” section that I found useful to get an idea of what sorts of things other people are buying on Temu. The answer? Apple Watch lookalikes and sneakers, it would seem.

The Best Sellers page on the Temu website

If you decide to investigate something further, you’ll find that individual product pages are laid out in a user friendly manner that’s likely looks familiar to online shoppers. As well as having a user review system in place, Temu also clearly states a delivery window for each item, as well as that item’s success rate at arriving in that window. While seeing that there’s a more than 20% chance an item might be delivered late isn’t great, at the same time I actually found Temu’s honesty here reassuring, as it reflects the realities of ordering something direct from China.

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A product page on the Temu website with the delivery window highlighted

Having recently bought a wireless iPhone car charger on Temu, what I was really interested in was the “Your orders” section to see what kind of order tracking you can expect from the retailer. For anyone shopping on Temu for the first time, it’s a pleasant surprise to discover that it provides the same kind of thorough and transparent order tracking that you get from other big name online retailers. This is visible on the website itself, but I also received regular update emails from the retailer confirming key stages of the dispatch and shipping process. This was reassuring, given poor communication was one of the more common Temu complaints I’d encountered in my research prior to ordering.

Order tracking page on the Temu website showing an item's progress


The main thing to note here is that you’ll notice my item was indeed being delivered. Not only that, I can tell you that it was delivered on time, based on the window Temu gave me at the start of the shopping process. I saved about $15-20 and, ironically, the only hiccup in delivery was down to Evri, who failed to deliver it when promised.

Of course, you may notice that there’s a lot more to order tracking on Temu than when you task Amazon with delivering the new Madden every September. That’s obviously because there’s a lot more to delivering straight from China than from your local Amazon warehouse.

Which brings us to Temu’s shortcomings.

What Isn’t So Good About Temu?

My Temu order arrived 10 days after I ordered it, which is in keeping with the “roughly 10 days” window I was expecting based on my pre-purchase research. The fact is that Temu takes longer – a lot longer – to get stuff to your front door. This means it won’t be for everyone, at least not all of the time. The lengthy transit took its toll on my item, too, and you can see the wear and tear for yourself.

I knew it was never going to be like unboxing a new iPhone, so this isn’t really a problem. The problem is the lengthy delivery itself. Much of what’s bought online these days falls into the category of “semi-panic” shopping. When I lost the last of my child safety lock keys the other day, there was no question of checking if I could get them from Temu for less – I needed them tomorrow and Amazon was the only place for that. In other words, Temu is only really an option if you can afford to wait for something. This means it’s good for, say, kitting yourself our with a new season wardrobe on the cheap – but less suitable when you forget a birthday or anniversary and have to snap something up at the last minute.

There were also a couple of things I searched for where Temu wasn’t able to live up to my hopes. For instance, when I searched Temu for golf balls, what was available wasn’t actually any cheaper than buying them new from a local budget retailer, or bagging a lake ball deal off Amazon. The so-called top deal, featuring 12 non-brand name golf balls for $34, is actively bad value – and the idea of it being “originally” priced at $80 and therefore over 50% off is also questionable. Let’s not pretend other retailers are immune to this, but this is a particularly bad example.

Golf balls on the Temu website

Ultimately, if you shop on Temu it’s your responsibility to know if a deal is legit or if it’s a lemon. You’re also likely to quickly discover what you personally are able to use Temu for, and where it comes up short for you. In my case, I’d happily use it to get cut-price versions of gadgets I don’t really need (like wireless iPhone car chargers) but want nonetheless. It’s useful if you want to try a particular type of product to see if it works for you, before potentially upgrading to something more premium.

Verdict: What Temu is Depends on Who You Are

Based on my experience, Temu is a perfectly legitimate online retailer that will get you the items you ordered, most likely within the timeframe it says it will. If it doesn’t, you’ll be reasonably compensated. That much is clear.

Its overall utility as an online retailer, therefore, isn’t really in question. Its utility to you, as an individual shopper, is what you need to ask yourself. If you go in with realistic expectations, such as to buy a bunch of fast fashion on the extra cheap or try out new gizmos, you’ll probably (like me) be pretty happy. If you’re expecting premium goods delivered to you on military deadlines, you’ll discover pretty quickly it’s not for you.

To come full circle, another way to answer the key question of “What is Temu?” would simply be: whatever you want it to be. Temu is neither a great value retailer for everyday essentials or a purveyor of cheap Chinese goods. It’s both.

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Written by:
James Laird is a technology journalist with 10+ years experience working on some of the world's biggest websites. These include TechRadar, Trusted Reviews, Lifehacker, Gizmodo and The Sun, as well as industry-specific titles such as ITProPortal. His particular areas of interest and expertise are cyber security, VPNs and general hardware.
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