The Real Cost of low prices across the Sea

If you happened to think that no company could ever begin to compete with the corporation known as Amazon, think again. A new competitor has just entered the arena, and they are playing by a different set of rules. 

Temu is an online shopping company founded by Pinduoduo, its parent company based in China. Though Temu is based in the U.S., it works exclusively with manufacturers in China in order to offer its users the lowest prices possible. 

Even though Temu was started back in September of 2022, its surge in popularity is in large part thanks to its marketing campaign to “shop like a billionaire,” in which it encourages its users to purchase several items without financial strain, as the prices on typical household items usually fall under $10. This is especially enticing at a time when prices of similar products are gradually increasing, and so the options that Temu offers seem like the better option.    

However many things in life are too good to be true, and this one is no different.  Many of Temu’s reviews on other websites mention that some packages take weeks to arrive, or never arrive at all. But perhaps the most common review cites the overall quality of some of Temu’s products. Obviously, with low prices, most rational people have already lowered their standards accordingly. But the real issue lies with what happens to the products after their short lives of usage are spent. 

The cycle usually goes as follows: products are made with cheap materials in order to lower costs of production, which typically end up being different types of plastic, such as polyester fabric, polyurethane coatings, vinyl sheets, or polyethylene.  

These plastics tend to be less durable than their counterparts, such as wood, glass, or steel. As a result, they tend to not last as long in the long run. These products are more likely to be thrown away, which as you can probably guess, ends up in a landfill with eons until it decomposes. 

Then the question of sustainability rises, since Temu has chosen “affordability” as its selling point, they sacrifice sustainability overall. After all, it is multitudes easier to ignore large environmental problems in favor of a lower price tag. 

So who really gets control when it comes to deciding where companies source their materials? This problem causes more issues when you factor in the different environmental regulations of each country that manufactures the products that Temu distributes, although it is mainly from China. Both government and consumer have an equal responsibility over sustainability. Governments are in charge of regulating what gets to be sold, while consumers have control over what they purchase. 

The government can encourage the sale of products made from non-plastic materials in order to give an advantage to companies who make an effort to prioritize sustainability over cost. In addition, they can regulate what products Temu is able to offer to the US if they don’t meet certain manufacturing requirements. 

Similar to how the EU (European Union) has different online privacy laws than the US, as they force American companies to function differently to their consumers, the government can control what products are available to the US for environmental purposes. American vendors also are able to have a better chance at competing with their counterparts over the sea, to make up for the difference in local legislature regarding manufacturing. 

Additionally, consumers can be more mindful about where they choose to buy items from. Obviously, the planet won’t instantly wipe itself out as soon as you make a wrong decision about a purchase, but there are factors to consider about how each object you intend to buy are made. 

Ask what material the product is most likely to be made of, or what type of fabric it is composed of. Then, look up if the material is made from plastic or synthetics.  

Products that are mainly paper or metal such as tools or stationary usually aren’t the main source of waste. However, other appliances could be partially made of, or have packaging made of plastic, in which it would be best to avoid.   

Of course, then comes the necessity of certain items, since the level of affordability varies from person to person. It goes without saying that if you are only able to purchase something you need at a lower price, then it is better to put yourself first over the potential waste of one person. Not everyone can afford to shop with the environment in mind, and so it will not be the end of the world if something you need to purchase is sold for that lower price. 

Overall, it is up to each individual to decide for themselves what they purchase and why. It is necessary to consider all the factors of purchase in order for you to choose the best decision for you in your situation.  

Just remember that in a consumerist society such as ours, your money is your voice. 

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