Addicted to Temu? Your fix might be supplied by forced labor

Know someone addicted to Temu? The fix supplied by forced labor

  • Published on
    April 29, 2024
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  • Category:
    Forced Labor, Supply Chain
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Online shopping platform Temu has perfected the art of gamifying cheap online shopping as reported by the BBC. Using everything from roulette wheels with cash coupons, to countdown timers about to run out, to constant free delivery pitches to lure consumers into spending.

And as with gambling, these tactics are effective, with some consumers saying they’ve become addicted to the sales platform. Temu’s rapid growth, reaching 75 million users in the E.U., testifies to their aggressive tactics.

But U.S. lawmakers have warned of an “extremely high risk” that products sold on Temu have been made with forced labor. So, while users may be getting seemingly great deals a dopamine hit, someone else is paying the price.

Shopping that feels like gambling

Lightning bolt deals burst across the screen and timers or countdown clocks pop-up on the page when you visit Temu’s shopping platform. Experts say this “perceived urgency” tactic is effectively mimicking the same strategy behind slot machines, using sounds and actions to heighten arousal levels and lead to continued engagement. And while it isn’t clinical addiction, consumers are still buying in, with addiction and retail experts saying the gaming elements are likely driving consumers to make unwise financial choices.

Neil Saunders, a retail analyst said:

 “Temu is as addictive as sugar, the experience and cheap prices give consumers a little dopamine hit and keeps them coming back for more.”

Along with their mind-blowing low prices, the steady drip-feed approach of Temu’s marketing tactics are a constant lure that aims to get consumers to buy more through the promise of free gifts. This can “take you down a spiral” that always has one last hurdle before the promised reward, to keep you hooked. Temu’s strategically addictive nature and artificially low prices are a standard long-term corporate strategy of operating at a loss to squeeze out all competition. And while consumers are being hooked into coming back again and again to get their cheap “shopping fix”, those further down in the supply chain are paying a huge price for that addiction.

Uyghur forced labor “all but guaranteed” in Temu products

Temu is a Chinese based company, relying on cheap manufacturing in China to supply its voracious need for inexpensive consumer goods. The Chinese government’s exploitation of the Uyghur minority is well documented and due to the practice of “hiring” out forced Uyghur labor across China, it’s hard to trust that any products made in China do not include Uyghur forced labor unless there is diligent and transparent supply chain monitoring.

Temu has no system to ensure compliance with the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA), legislation put in place to try to prevent Uyghur made products from entering the U.S. According to a report by the House Select Committee on the Chinese Community Party, this all but guarantees that shipments from Temu contain products made with forced labor, saying American consumers need to be aware of the “extremely high risk that Temu’s supply chains are contaminated with forced labor.”

In April, Senator Rubio sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas saying:

“Private firms and journalists have unearthed compelling evidence that both Shein and Temu are facilitating the entry of goods made with Uyghur forced labor…I urge you to investigate these companies.”

The cost of anyone’s freedom is not a good deal 

The low prices for those bargains are coming at the cost of someone else’s freedom. And, if you haven’t already, add your voice to our petition and urge the Chinese government to end the persecution and exploitation of Uyghurs and that of other marginalized groups through forced labor. Together, we can send the message that Temu and the Chinese government need to clean up their supply chains – we’re just not buying it!

If you know someone who buys through Temu, share this story with them! It’s so important to talk.

This week Freedom United supporter David wrote to us explaining that they had downloaded the Temu app and following their initial excitement, a friend explained the forced labor allegations against Temu and so:

I canceled my orders and donated the money to you guys because your info helped me realise [my friend spoke the truth]



Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

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Wendy Machanik
Wendy Machanik
23 days ago

i knew it – i never trusted them so never used them at all & never bought anything from them – my suspicions were spot-on!

David Sanderson
David Sanderson
22 days ago

Wow!! Didn’t know this was how Temu waa operating…Horrible. Will spread the word!!!

Ken Silvester
Ken Silvester
23 days ago

Greed, on both sides of the equation

Hilary Stewart
Hilary Stewart
17 days ago

Slavery takes so many forms. Slavery to the algorithms, slavery to people. My father taught me to always think for myself. We need to win systemic battles for the environment and disadvantaged groups. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

19 days ago

Si ma che senso ha non comprare da Shein o Temu e poi comprare qualsiasi cosa che serve nel negozio di cinesi sotto casa, che ormai sono ovunque? Non sono prodotti che vengono dalla Cina e che non si sa da chi sono prodotti? La questione è molto complicata… È terribile che succeda questo però dovrebbero cambiare le strutture stesse della produzione… E i prodotti che troviamo anche nei nostri negozi italiani da dove prendono i loro articoli? Da fornitori o dall’ingrosso cinese…

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