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The Temu online shopping app fuss – a user review and safety tips

The Temu online shopping app fuss – a user review and safety tips

According to Statista, Temu sees more than 30 million new downloads every month, making it the number one shopping app in the App Store and Play Store.

If, like me, you are a fan of online shopping, you most likely have seen the flood of online advertising from Boston-based retail platform Temu. 

Temu, which stands for “team up, price down”, has crashed the South African market with a bang, launching in January this year and giving local retailers such as Takealot and its subsidiary, Superbalist, a run for their money. 

I decided to check it out and see what all the fuss was about. Please note this is my experience and is not financial advice that you should buy goods on Temu. 

Temu first popped up on my radar when I was searching for a dress to wear to a wedding next month. The dress that popped up seemed too good to be true – exactly what I had envisaged, at a really great price point. Having heard only good reviews from people who used Shein, I decided to take the leap and clicked on “buy”. 

My order was placed on 4 March. I received a request to pay customs and VAT duty on 9 March, and received the dress on 23 March. I have to be honest, I was prepared for total disappointment – and I was surprised. 

The dress fits perfectly. The material was probably not the highest quality, but you get what you pay for. (The wedding is this weekend, and I’m wearing a locally bought dress.)

I have since made two more purchases on the site. Here’s what I learnt along the way: 

After the very first purchase, I saw an email in my inbox at about 6am requesting a payment to “clear my order for delivery”. Half-groggy and more than a little excited about the dress, I was seconds away from clicking on the link to input my details when I remembered who I was and the constant warnings I issue about online scams. Scrolling up revealed that the email had not come to me directly, but was sent to our editorial group email. Yikes, close call!

Then I downloaded the Temu app, after having read how it tracks everything on your phone. Newsflash: most apps on your phone track what you input, with Google and Facebook at the top of the list. So, if you joined Facebook about 17 years ago, you’re already in the matrix. Now, it’s about picking your poison and navigating with care. 

Note that I shop via the Temu website and I also refuse to pay the customs and VAT duty via the app. Instead, I opt to make an EFT payment outside of the app. It takes about 24 hours to clear, which means an extra day of waiting, but I think my banking security makes it worth the wait – if you know what I mean. What the app does is help me to keep track of my shopping process – from order placement to customs payment to delivery. 

My second purchase was a slightly deeper dip of the toes. Instead of just one item, I bought a motley crew of things – from a magnetic car phone clip to mini clothes hanger clips and a satin pillowcase set. The quality of some of the items was really poor, so my advice would be to expect a bit of hit-and-miss when it comes to the quality of what you buy. 

My final observation will probably freak out the people who are worried about the tentacles of Temu. 

I realised that the special offers popping up in the Temu app were related to my conversations with my partner and my Google searches. I mean, the roll-up hosepipe was one thing, but when I googled “how to attach an ankle strap to a court shoe” and then got a Temu special for “detachable ankle straps” that, quite frankly, looked kinda cute, if a little glitzy, well, hmm!

Always one to give the benefit of the doubt, I’m currently awaiting my third Temu shipment. 

Oh, one other thing I figured out: if you put something in your Temu shopping cart and leave it there for a few days, you generally get offered a lower price. If you decide to give it a go, be sure to use all the precautions. Drop me an email and let me know how it goes. 

Until then, if you happen to see me around, I may or may not be sporting glitzy ankle straps on my shoes…

How to shop safely on Temu

Cybersecurity company Eset offers the following tips to ensure your online shopping is safe:

  • Shop on the website rather than the app.
  • If you see a Temu special advertised online (on your Google or Facebook feed), search for the special independently on the Temu website.
  • Never save your payment details in your account. Also, set up two-factor authentication so that your account is protected by more than a password. If your bank offers the option of digital bank cards, use those.
  • Temu does offer special deals and low prices, but you should view huge discounts (such as 90% or more) with more than a bit of caution.
  • Always read customer reviews before you buy. In particular, keep an eye out for reviews that include photos of what the item looked like on receipt, as this sometimes may not match what is advertised.
  • Be aware and exercise caution when it comes to the permissions you grant to the Temu app.
  • Avoid logging into Temu via your social media accounts or linking it to any other online accounts.

Sustainability and competition concerns

According to Statista, Temu sees more than 30 million new downloads every month, making it the number one shopping app in the App Store and Play Store. 

While there may be many who are tempted by the low prices on Temu, the plethora of goods available, the intuitive advertising based on your Google searches, and the gamification appeal, there are thousands who are strongly against the Temu shopping platform. 

The two main reasons for this are sustainability – concerns have been raised globally around workforce conditions – and competition, with local retailers saying they are under immense pressure to compete with below-cost prices. 

Takealot group chief executive Mamongae Mahlare says the widespread advertising dumps by Temu have increased the cost of digital customer engagement by more than 200%. 

“[This] not only affects digital marketing costs, but also affects small businesses and local entrepreneurs trading on our platforms who also need to be participating in the market. For us, it is also more costly,” she says.

With an immense advertising budget [it spent more than $3-billion on advertising last year], Temu has swept markets across the globe. 

Its parent company, Pinduoduo (which means “together, more savings), is the third-largest e-commerce player in China, after Alibaba and JD.com.

Dubbed a “fast fashion” giant, Temu has been slammed in the US for taking advantage of a shipping provision that allows it to circumvent paying tariffs on orders. 

The company is also accused of using low-paid factory workers who typically work long hours without an employment contract. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • David Jacobson says:

    So far so
    Good with my purchases as well …… I personally keep my purchases below R500 just to avoid a “ sting “ but all good after 2 deliveries

  • David van der Want says:

    The sustainability issue is really about the environmental madness of transporting cheap bits of plastic across the globe. The difference between temu and the others is that they seem able to do it cheaper and at even larger scale.

  • I have ordered lots of stuff from Emu on a regular basis. Clothing very good. Lipsticks not so good. Tax high if over R1000. Keep orders below that amount. Rather several packages

  • John P says:

    All local companies that import and are distributing branded products incur additional costs which don’t seem to apply to these foreign based online stores. I am in the AV industry, every model of every brand of any product that requires mains electricity has to pass an SA specific safety test. Once this test certificate is issued the IRCS issues a letter of authority allowing the import of this particular item. All of this is an expensive and costly procedure which has to be repeated every 5 years or if a new model/version is released.
    We also have to honour the warranty and provide service for these products.
    How can local companies be expected to compete without a level playing field?

  • Lee Richardson says:

    Nevermind all the cheap plastic and cheap polyester clothing. Evil stuff. Remember, when you wear polyester #YouAreTrash

    The flotsam floating around in your car is all plastic fibres. When you wash polyester you send thousands of palstic fibres into the sewer and our waterways. Don’t buy or wear plastic!

  • Mohsin Wadee says:

    ‘Shop on the website rather than the app.’

    That advice is utter rubbish, it’s often safer to shop from the app. Takealot has an app too.

  • Neil Midlane says:

    Do yourself a favour and watch Shitthropcene by Patagonia Films on YouTube.

  • A N says:

    Supporting sites like Temu and Shein is destroying the environment and local businesses trying to survive via online shopping opportunities. They buy up all the digital advertising inventory to promote businesses via Meta, Google etc which hikes the prices and cuts out local advertisers. They are also eroding job opportunities for local sites like Yuppiechef, takealot etc. (buyers, drivers, packers etc). Nevermind the detriment to the environment from all the cheap plastic and polyester China is churning out. The other reality is that China is under pressure from the US re trade exchange controls etc etc. and so China is looking for other markets to flood with their junk. Please be more discerning and try and shop local.

  • Iota Jot says:

    How very disappointing that DM’s award-winning business and personal finance journalist would purchase from Temu not once but thrice and perhaps more times in the future. This article amounts to free advertising for Temu, despite the caveats.
    Their advertising is relentless and as briefly mentioned they have ‘gamified’ their ‘shopping experience’ to encourage shoppers to buy things they would otherwise never have thought of buying and really have no need for.
    But the main reasons never to shop at Temu, Shein, Amazon and their like is that these foreign giants are killing local business, have very dodgy business ethics and are ruining the environment.

    DM and Neesa Moodley, you can do better than to promote this company by giving it airtime.

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