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Consumer expert says ‘buyer beware’ when using popular shopping app this holiday season

If you haven’t used Temu yourself, you probably know somebody who has. The Chinese-owned retailer offers mind-bogglingly low prices and incentivizes users to promote the app and recruit family and friends.

But Temu has also been plagued this year by hundreds of consumer complaints over poor quality and shipping delays, Boston 25 News reports.

“Some of the stuff on there is really cute, it’s really tempting,” said Boston University student Kyla Quelle. Quelle said she’s avoided Temu because so many of her classmates complained about not getting their orders.

“[I’ve heard] the quality is not that great and sometimes the packages don’t even come in. It’s kind of like Etsy, but not as reliable,” Quelle said.

The Mass. Attorney General’s Office said it received nearly a dozen consumer complaints about Temu in 2023. The Better Business Bureau has received and closed 1,160 complaints in the last 12 months, according to its website.

“Most of what we are hearing is quality control or customer service issues,” said BBB spokesperson Logan Hickle.

Temu burst onto the scene in 2022 and has been one of the most downloaded shopping apps in the country. It’s owned by Chinese-based Pinduoduo, Inc., with a corporate office listed in Boston. Temu says it has more than 100 million customers worldwide.

“Even my mother is purchasing on it, so it’s not just young people on TikTok. It is expanding to other demographics as well,” Hickle said.

One day last month, I brought a photographer with me to 31 St. James Ave. I wanted to speak with someone inside the Boston Temu headquarters. A security guard stopped me at the front desk and when the guard tried to call upstairs, he said he didn’t have a working number for the company. I found an 888 number online, which sent me to a call center in the Philippines. I left my contact information with a customer representative. It seemed there was no way to reach anyone inside the Boston office.

But according to consumer experts, the packages ordered from Temu don’t come from inside this country anyway.

“It doesn’t sit in a U.S. warehouse. It comes directly from China to your doorstep so that’s how they can get those lower prices,” Hickle said.

On Monday afternoon, a Temu spokesperson in New York City responded to Boston 25, addressing concerns about its BBB rating and shipping delays.

“Temu has been actively engaged with BBB to respond to concerns raised by consumers. Temu’s BBB customer review rating of 2.57/5 should be considered in relation to its industry peers and not in isolation. Temu’s rating is much higher than the two largest e-commerce retailers in the industry. They also have several more times complaints lodged against them with the BBB compared to Temu,” the Temu spokesperson said. “Our logistics and deliveries are working normally and there are no issues with shipping and delivery. Consumers can also shop with peace of mind with our Purchase Protection Program and track the delivery status of their purchases through our website, app or notifications.”

Consumer blogger Andrea Woroch did some “test shopping” with Temu back in May. She ordered a white shelf to organize her children’s arts and crafts supplies. Woroch said the shelf arrived within a week and was exactly what she ordered.

“They’re able to keep prices down because they’re cutting out the middle-man. They’re connecting shoppers directly with wholesalers and manufacturers who are then sending those products out,” Woroch said.

But Woroch believes the company is having trouble keeping up with demand. She’s heard stories about disappointed shoppers.

“The problem isn’t necessarily the quality, although you do want to pay attention to that, too. It’s that they’re having major issues with shipping and delivery,” Woroch said.

Because of those shipping and delivery concerns, Woroch said shoppers should think twice about relying on Temu for holiday shopping.

“I would say buyer beware, because there are people saying they’re getting good deals, but again, it’s not a guarantee,” Woroch said. ‘If you’re planning to take advantage of their deals for holiday shopping, that would probably be a big no-no.”

Temu has also said they’ve noticed apps and websites impersonating their brand to cheat customers. They’re urging people to report suspicious texts and calls and fake websites to them. Click here to do that.

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