Have you heard of Temu? I saw it all over my social media feeds for months, and I got curious. Temu claims to be a site where you can get high quality dupes of luxury brand name products on the extra cheapity-cheap.
Naturally, I was skeptical.
But, as someone who knows a thing or two about how sites like Alibaba and AliExpress work, I thought it might be possible that a site like Temu could be legit. I own a brand of luxury diaper bags and accessories for working moms called LYMIA BRAND. I designed all of my bags myself with a team of expert designers, a process that took months of careful planning, sampling, redesigning, and sampling again until we got things just right. It was a tiresome process, but something I took great pride in. However, along the way I learned that a lot of the best known brands in my industry use a website called Alibaba to procure their products. The process is relatively straightforward. Brands search Alibaba for products they like, and then have the manufacturers of those products “white label” them, which basically means they slap the brand’s logo on them. Then, the brand buys those white labeled products in bulk — usually at quantities in the thousands at an incredibly discounted price — and have them shipped over here to the United States. These brands then price those products at an absurd markup and sell them to us as though they are unique, luxury, expertly designed creations. When in reality, they are just things they found on an international bulk website.
Little industry secret: often when we see brands “ripping off” other brands, it’s actually far less insidious than we think. It’s usually not that one brand copies the design of another brand (although that does happen occasionally). Instead, it’s usually a situation where two brands found the same product on Alibaba and had it white labeled around the same time, and neither brand knew about the other until both launched their product in the U.S market.
So, what does that have to do with Temu?
Well, if “luxury” brands are procuring products from Alibaba and price gouging them for an American market, why couldn’t a brand decide to do the same thing only … skip the enormous up-charge? Would it make sense to sell hundreds of thousands of cheap products instead of a much smaller number of products at a really high price? It seems like a pretty sound business model, if you ask me.
Brands like Stanley Cup, for example, provide a decent product that everyone loves, but at $45-$50 a cup, not everyone can or will decide to buy one. While Stanley is likely making incredible margins on every cup they sell, they are probably selling far less cups than they could sell if the price wasn’t so cost-prohibitive. They’ve chosen to take an Exacto knife to their potential market size. If a brand like Temu could provide the exact same cup at a fraction of the cost, they might stand to make just as much profit as the “luxury” brand by simply selling way more of them. Perhaps, then, we as consumers can enjoy the exact same products that the “luxury” brands provide, but at a fraction of the cost.
Which is exactly what I hoped to find out.
So, I ordered three luxury brand dupes. My total cost was $42.96.
40oz Stanley Cup dupe tumbler for $13.99 (the Stanley cup is $50)
Bogg Bag dupe (size medium) for $19.98 (the Bogg bag is $55), and
Lenovo Bluetooth ear pods dupe for $8.99 (closet equivalent I could find was $199.99)
When I tell you how thoroughly and completely I regret buying my Stanley cup now that I’ve seen this dupe.
The Temu dupe is identical to my Stanley in every way, except that I splurged on the matte finish for my Stanley. Can you see what I mean when I say that some of these “luxury” brands are just finding prototypes on sites like Alibaba and white labeling them? These two cups are absolutely, 100% identical. Only difference? With the Stanley, you’re paying for the logo, the brand name. That’s literally it.
I don’t have my own Bogg bag, so it’s hard to give an exact comparison. But, I’ve seen my fair share of them when the Pinterest moms come to the pool.
I attached the handles the wrong way, because evidently I don’t know how bags are designed (she says with heavy sarcasm). Don’t make that mistake. Just like with the Bogg bag, removing the buttons that hold the handles on will damage the bag. So, just make sure you’re doing it right before you get started. But honestly? Even with the straps attached the wrong way, I seriously love this bag. I know there are a lot of loyalists in the Bogg Bag fandom, so no offense to you is intended here, but I personally just couldn’t justify $55 for a bag like this. But for $19.98? Totally worth it. It’s sturdy, well made, and to the naked eye looks exactly like a Bogg bag.
If you are an audiophile, you might want to take what I say next with a grain of salt.
I don’t need incredible sound mixing with deep base and resonant treble. I just need reliable headphones that are comfortable in my ear, that pick up my voice reasonably well on phone calls, that give me decent sound quality for music or YouTube, and that pair easily with my Bluetooth enabled devices. I have the ultra expensive Bose Bluetooth headphones, and I’ll admit I love them. But would I buy them again? No. I don’t need all that sound quality and could have easily done with something much more affordable. These little ear buds for $8.99 are perfect for me. They paired with my phone the minute I turned them on. They fit comfortably in my ear (but something to note — these don’t come with a variety of ear sizes like the more expensive earbuds do). And, for my very basic needs, the sound quality is just fine. I can tell the bass is lacking a bit, but that’s the only real difference between these and my expensive Bose headphones (to my very untrained ears, at least).
Overall, I am incredibly happy with my $42.96 haul.
And the thing is, even if these items break down or fall apart after a few months, I spent so little money on them that I’ll be okay with that. I can easily replace these things if I want to. I mean, my Stanley cup is already covered in chips and dings, and I spent way more on that than I did the Temu dupe. Things getting damaged or falling apart is a lot easier to swallow when you spent so little money on them.
The shipping was fast and free, which definitely surprised me. I was expecting my order to ship from China and to take a month to get here. To my absolute shock, my package shipped two days after I placed my order and came via USPS from New York City. I don’t know if all orders are processed like that, but that was my experience with this first order. I also learned after receiving my order that returns are free, too.
The packaging was … as would be expected. It was sent in an orange waterproof bag, which definitely kept everything dry. But, the internal packages, that is, the boxes that the items came in, were a little beat up. The products inside, however, were in perfectly good shape. I was very happy to see that they were packaged with care, even considering that they were shipped in a bag instead of a box.
So, despite my skepticism, I think I’ll keep ordering from Temu. This was a very eye-opening experiment, to be honest. It made me realize that, probably more so than we think, the “luxury” items we buy at exorbitant prices might not be all that luxury after all.
We are paying more for the brand name than the quality of the item. And now, in my late 30s, and having achieved most of the things I’ve wanted to achieve in life, I don’t have anything to prove to people by carrying luxury brand name items. I’d rather save money, have reasonably priced products that do what they say they can do, and not have to endure heartbreak if I lose or break them because I only spent a few bucks anyway.
This post isn’t sponsored, and these are my real opinions. With that said, I do have an affiliate code to share with you if you want to download the app and try it yourself.
If you use my link, you’ll get a $100 coupon bundle and an extra 50% off if it’s your first time using the app.
Use this link to download the app and use code afg80998 at checkout to get the 50% off discount.
If you give it a try, come over to my Instagram and let me know what you got! Either send me a DM or tag me in your photos. I’m excited to see what else might be worth giving a try! Happy shopping!
Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who writes primarily on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.