Temu Advertised at the Super Bowl. What to Know About the Ecommerce App

3 minute read

A shopping app splurged on a repeat ad on Super Bowl Sunday, and it wasn’t a household name like Amazon. It was Temu, a ecommerce app that is connected to Chinese company Pinduoduo. The app, although only four-months old, has recently been one of the most downloaded free apps in the U.S. on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.

The 30-second commercial, which played in two slots, features a curly haired woman trying on an endless stream of clothes with the simple touch of her smartphone. As she adds items to her cart, they appear on her, and on the various characters that surround her on her stroll. The commercial’s final message: “Download the TEMU app and shop like a billionaire.”

But a shopping site for billionaires Temu is not. It’s a bargain-hunter app that offers super cheap products by shipping them directly from warehouses in China. The app has been flooding many people’s social media feeds in recent months and offers a reward system of product credits when getting friends and family members to sign up and place orders.

But Temu has also sparked dozens of complaints to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), where customers have given it 1.81 stars out of five. It has a C rating from the BBB and is not accredited.

In China, Pinduodu has a market cap of more than $116 billion, and has been successful selling super cheap goods. It has also been accused of hosting sales of counterfeits, illegal goods, or products that do not match their descriptions.

In the U.S., the complaints on the BBB site mostly concern allegations that products were of poor quality, arrived late or not at all, and that customer service was not responsive.

A majority of Super Bowl watchers online have reacted poorly to the Super Bowl ad, raising confusion as to how the new app could afford the event’s pricey $7 million per-30-second commercial price tag. “What is TEMU and how do they have so many ad dollars?,” tweeted design officer Craig Elimeliah.

Others were concerned that Temu seemed to be promoting overconsumption. Since 2000, clothing sales have doubled from 100 to 200 billion items a year, while the average number of times they’re worn has decreased by 36%, according to Earth.org. “A fast fashion ad? Ew. We shouldn’t be promoting pollution, textile waste and cheap labor,” tweeted one viewer.

Temu fans, however, fretted that the high-profile Super Bowl ad-buys mean that everybody is going to be on the app. “I’m kinda pissed that Temu had a Super Bowl ad cause that’s been my secret source of cheap crap for the last year,” tweets user Jon Syu.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Mariah Espada at mariah.espada@time.com