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Southwest Shadow


Stop Temu: Don’t Be Consumed by Consumerism

The Highly Discounted E-Commerce Store Has a Dark Side
Arcade Encarnacion
Over 40 million tons of plastic waste is generated by the United States each year, with more than three-quarters of the trash winding up in landfills. After their short lifespan has concluded, low-quality goods from Temu are likely to be quickly forgotten.

In a high-inflation economy where a simple fast food burger, fries and drink can reach upwards of $15, the emergence of an affordable, price-conscious shopping platform called Temu seemed like a welcome change. Temu sells nearly every household and personal good you could imagine, almost equivalent to an overseas version of Amazon. With some prices slashed up to 95 percent, the consumerist craze of online shopping is rearing its head once again, all as shoppers rush to “buy, buy, buy!” before the deals run dry. What few noticed during the shopping craze is that this platform has a dark side, concealed behind the flashing lights and fire sales.

Temu is an e-commerce platform that was launched by a Chinese conglomerate called PDD Holdings in 2022. The platform experienced a meteoric rise and popularity and shot to the top position of the Apple’s App Store rankings on IOS devices just a few months after its release. This quick rise to fame was deliberate, calculated, and uniquely innovative. The very strategy that the platform leaned so heavily into to market itself to immense success was the very thing that made it appealing: the gamification of shopping. 

With any incredible deal, however, there is always a loser somewhere along the production chain. As has been the case for decades, the biggest loss is a human one: these ultra-cheap goods frequently come at the expense of mistreated workers. 

Through aggressive advertising, sponsorships, and high-pressure sales tactics, the platform has become the perfect setup for “feel-good” shopping therapy. The sales pitch begins before users even download the app: they are almost always trying the app based on a friend referral or testimonial from social media platforms like TikTok. Entering the shopping platform through a trusted friend or influencer makes consumers feel safe, though these referrals are rarely legitimate or good-natured. Temu encourages recruitment by offering monetary awards for those who can refer their friends to the service, drastically increasing their sales volume with minimal investment. 

The next step of Temu’s business model is the gamification of shopping. The app contains flashing colors, urgent timer countdowns, and minigames that encourage shoppers to bundle and buy as many knick-knacks as possible. In this way, purchases start to feel disconnected from any financial consequence; they feel more akin to a fast-paced video game. Whether it be spinning a faux discount wheel rigged to land at the highest discount percentage, or tapping to reveal hidden cards that present major savings, Temu is able to make every shopper feel like a winner. With the two strategies of in-your-face advertising and gamified shopping working in tandem, Temu becomes almost impossible to pass up. 

With any incredible deal, however, there is always a loser somewhere along the production chain. As has been the case for decades, the biggest loss is a human one: these ultra-cheap goods frequently come at the expense of mistreated workers. 

The major secret behind Temu’s unashamedly low prices, among other factors, is the lack of oversight in their production practices. Giant bags filled with various goods flood factory corridors; uncontracted Southeast Asian workers labor for long hours and low pay; barred windows and a distinct lack of fire escapes; these are just a few of the sights you would expect to see at one of these factories. As an international company, Temu has complete leverage over the mistreatment of their workers in China, especially since they are not subject to any enforceable labor laws from the US or otherwise. This is how your goods are made: under neon lights in a dimly lit factory that abuses its employees to produce thousands of articles of forgettable clothing and plastic bric-a-brac every day. 

Consumerism is winning again, and we are doing nothing to stop it.

The final concern of Temu as a service reveals the other biggest way in which it subsidizes its products: it sells you. On Temu, much like other modern social media platforms, the individual and their data is the product being sold; a class-action lawsuit was recently launched in Illinois accusing the company of using “unscrupulous” and “deceptive” practices to nonconsensually obtain user information. They also accuse the company of attempting to install malware on user’s personal devices to obtain further data. For Temu, there are no boundaries or expectations of privacy when you use their services. It’s open season for your data privacy. 

Consumerism is winning again, and we are doing nothing to stop it. When society decides to throw ethics and quality outside the window in favor of savings, predatory platforms like Temu are allowed to thrive off of compulsive shopping and consumer greed. Those hunting for low prices need to realize that large savings mean Temu will find a way to recuperate the cost, one way or another, ethical or not. Admittedly, the increasing prices of brick-and-mortar stores may be difficult to swallow—but at least you know what you are getting. 

It is undeniable that Temu’s goods are impossibly cheap. But even in lieu of inflation and stagnating wages, shopping overseas through sketchy vendors is not the solution we have been looking for. Temu seems like a great deal at first glance, but upon closer scrutiny, it teaches us there are worse prices to pay for our goods than just a couple of extra dollars. 

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  • AnonymousMay 18, 2024 at

    Temu should be no longer on line the company are scammers and they do steal your money and information. They ripped me and my mom off tons of money. I spent over 500. Or more on that website. I never got items that I paid for and no refunds, when they said that they were going to refund me. But they didn’t or my mother either. They lost a few packages of mine as well . I can take pictures of all the damage items that they sent me, if you want as
    Proof that they lie on there website. but my cell phone doesn’t hold lots of pictures to show you all the damaged items that Temu sent me .