Online Marketplaces: Shop or Drop?

What students really think about Temu, Shein, Wish and Amazon

“Temu used y'all's credit card info to buy two Super Bowl ads,” was one of the trends swarming social media following this year’s big game after the online marketplace spent an estimated $7 million to run multiple commercials.

The ads were heavily discussed and debated on social media, and many Kent State University students and professors discussed the ads in class the next day.

A young person shops online with a credit card

But do students actually use these sites? What do students think of online marketplaces like Temu, Shein, Wish and Amazon? 

Kent State Today found that students had mixed feelings about the trustworthiness of the platforms. Polling nearly 40 students, only two said they had shopped on Temu, and only one said they had used Wish. Shein fared better with 16 shoppers from that group. The results are far from significant, of course.

Temu and similar Chinese e-commerce marketplaces operate similarly, including Wish and Shein. According to its website, Temu means “Team Up, Price Down,” and it describes itself as an “e-commerce company that connects consumers with millions of merchandise partners, manufacturers and brands.”

Temu is known for having “dupes” and selling items at notably low prices, which causes some consumers to be concerned about quality. According to WKYC, “ has a C+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and, according to BBB files, has had more than 1,600 complaints filed. Many of the complaints are about the poor quality of products, shipping or the delays people experience in getting a refund for items they didn’t receive or items they returned.” 

Members of Gen Z, Americans born after 1997, seem skeptical of these marketplaces, as speculations rise on TikTok and other social media platforms regarding questionable practices within the online marketplaces. 

“It was scary when we were seeing stuff on TikTok about [Shein employees] asking for help on Shein tags. I know [Shein] said it was a scam, but the entire thing is sus,” said Maddie Holmes, a junior fashion major. “We talk about these online marketplaces all the time in our classes at the fashion school. It’s horrible for the economy, and the things being said about the work environment for employees is horrible.”

Close up of a laptop and a hand holding a credit card

Reviews, word-of-mouth and product selection tend to guide student choice.

“The products from Shein, Wish and Temu are usually low-quality, especially clothes, and a lot of the reviews are fake,” said Elizabeth Charlton, a senior early childhood education major. “On Amazon, I know the reviews are real and the quality is great almost every time. Lots of things on the other sites are random, like, why would I need chicken finger earrings?”

Amazon Earns Trust

Though Amazon, Wish, Shein and Temu all collect similar consumer data, WKYC found that Amazon is the more popular e-commerce and is generally less critiqued by Americans.  

In a separate poll of 24 students, 14 told Kent State Today they shop Amazon.

“I trust Amazon the most, and it’s just so quick, like I could find a lot of things that could literally arrive by tomorrow if I needed,” Charlton said.  

According to Forbes, fast shipping, easy chat customer services and user-friendly shopping are some key components that champion Amazon over other online marketplaces.  

Many of these students said they use Amazon to rent books for classes, keep up with the latest fashion trends and make last-minute purchases on everything from hygiene essentials to Halloween costumes. The Kent State University bookstore will match prices with sites like Amazon.

“I needed a shirt for the Drake concert last week, and I didn’t have time to go shopping," Holmes said, "so I just ordered it on Amazon, and it came in like two days.”

Headshot of Deepraj Mukherjee
Deepraj Mukherjee, Ph.D.

Although Amazon does not always offer the most inexpensive options, people generally can find deals and different price ranges for products. Amazon also offers Amazon Prime, which includes discounts, fast, free shipping and other Amazon affiliate applications like Amazon Prime Video and Amazon Photos.

Buyer Beware

Deepraj Mukherjee, Ph.D., economics professor in the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship, suggests conducting independent research before purchasing. Specifically, he notes buyers should pay close attention to four key areas when using these online marketplaces:

  • Returns and Refunds: Returning an item overseas can be expensive and time-consuming. Customers should check the return policy carefully before buying.
  • Customer Service: Getting help from customer service can be challenging due to time zone differences and language barriers.
  • Quality and Safety: Regulations and product safety standards can vary between countries. U.S. customers might receive a product that's not up to their expectations or doesn't meet safety guidelines.
  • Supply Chain Network: The global supply chain network can be significantly affected by the political climate of different regions.

"Be wary of 'too-good-to-be-true' deals," Mukherjee warned. "There is probably a quality issue." 

Mukherjee also suggests using a credit card for these purchases since "it gives extra protection as the customer can avoid paying if there is an issue with the purchase," he said. "Sharing checking accounts and cash apps should be entirely avoided."

Tapping into reputable sources like the Better Business Bureau that offer tips and precautions to stay safe in online marketplaces is also suggested.

Learn more about how Temu, Shein, Wish and Amazon compare.

Explore the Ambassador Crawford College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

POSTED: Monday, March 11, 2024 10:15 AM
Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2024 11:37 AM
Macy Rosen, Luke Armour, Flash Communications