This holiday season, I bought a bunch of gifts on Temu, the Chinese e-commerce app that blew up last year.
a set of miniature pots, pans and dinnerware
a fanny pack that looks like a gel silica pack
pencil sharpeners that look like noses where you stick a pencil up to your nostrils
unlicensed Elsa princess costume
“Women want me, fish fear me” baseball cap
a pizza cutter that looks like an axe
All of these items were under $10, most around $2, and they were a sure hit as gifts. I assumed that a lot of people shop Temu like I do: looking for weird, surprising, cheap goodies that I never knew existed.
I was surprised to read a study recently that said Gen X and boomer Temu shoppers spend slightly more per order and order more often than younger shoppers. My assumption was that Temu was targeting more millennial and Gen Z buyers.
So I asked readers who are Boomers or Gen Xers to write to me and say: Why do they love Tem so much?
Over 125 people have sent me emails expressing their love (well, sometimes grudging gratitude). People repeatedly gave the same reason: prices.
Another theme emerged: people used to use Temu for Amazon purchases. This surprised me. I would guess different behaviors for Amazon (searching for specific items needed) and Temu (searching for treats).
On the other hand, some have said they like this ride because of its whimsy – here’s a gimzo you never knew existed! — element. In semi-recent history, these were the kind of things you’d find scrolling through Bed, Bath & Beyond (now out of business) or late-night TV commercials.
Research suggests that some of Temu’s appeal to older shoppers is its gamified spinning wheels, which may entice less digitally savvy people. Gen X and boomers denied it – most of them said they ignored the annoying roulette wheels.
Here’s what several Gen Xers and boomers told me, starting with one shopper who said the theme triggered nostalgia:
My dad’s kitchen drawer was full of little things or some junk he found from a TV commercial (as seen in TV commercials). Temu brings back that nostalgia and I find things that make life a little easier. Most of them work. They often have things you never knew you needed, like bag sealers and small motion lights. —Tyrone
A boomer with a Temu “addiction”:
For the first time in my life, I have an addiction. I can’t for the life of me explain why I had to order from Temu. Yes, I’m a boomer. Yes, I have a big house, I never move. 35 years ago we filled it with antiques. Then the babies came and were filled with toys and such. They left and then the dog ate all the dog toys, beds, bowls, crates, etc. came with After 15 years the dog is gone and now I see what I think I need in Temu. . It started with seeing little toys to fill the granddaughter’s Christmas stockings. Now it’s just out of control. —Linda
Kindergarten teacher who doesn’t care about quality:
I’m a 58-year-old Temu-loving woman from the Toronto area. Yes, I know the products are mostly made from poor quality materials and come from China, but I find clothing jewelry, home decor, and gifts for kindergarteners and toddlers to be priceless (ha ha pun intended!) Over the past year, I’ve probably bought about $300 worth of products, and I’ve only been disappointed with one product: a cute little kitty ring I bought for my son. It wasn’t even close to being as sweet as advertised, but what do you want for $3.50? – Lanie
I shop at Temu for more jewelry, crafts, and jewelry supplies. I can buy them on Temu for less than half of what it would cost me to buy the same thing on Amazon or Etsy. My latest obsession is the Pandora style bracelet charm. I have a bracelet full of charms, the most expensive one was $13. If I had bought them from Amazon or directly from the manufacturer, they would have cost several hundred dollars. – Lydia
DIY home improvement buyer:
Most of my purchases have been camping or household items. No Tchotchkes! A random sampling of what I’ve bought is: a solar powered/hand crank emergency radio, pop-up privacy shelter, solar water heater, emergency foil blankets, folding stove, privacy window film, copper winterization valve kit, garden netting, microwave sprinkler, and houseplant watering can system. -Randy
A carver who gets his tools from Temu:
We moved into a new apartment and discovered Tem while shopping for things to fit into the new space: light fixtures, ceiling fans, wall holders for soap/shampoo/sponge, light fixture for multiple ceiling lights to better fit the dining/living room vanity, other useful items for the kitchen… Here are Temu items for home crafts, including engraving/lithography tools and protective mat, special tape for collages, stamping tool, mini paint rollers… (plus 4 unrelated directional light cable) splitter). Does it cost $15 in total? – Bill
Boomer who doesn’t care about off-brand products:
As Boomers, we don’t care much about wearing branded clothing and accessories. Our focus is on enjoying other activities and saving money to pay off our debts. Also, the convenience of online shopping. — Helen