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I bought nearly identical hauls from Shein, Temu, and Amazon and was shocked to see which store had the best quality

Jennifer Ortakales Dawkins   

I bought nearly identical hauls from Shein, Temu, and Amazon and was shocked to see which store had the best quality
  • I shopped on Amazon, Shein, and Temu to compare the experience and quality.
  • Temu was addicting to use because it was the best at recommending more items.

For this comparison, I shopped only via mobile app. I had three products in mind: pink heels, a large hair clip, and checkered pants I'd seen on Pinterest. I also wanted to test the accuracy of each app's visual search, so I uploaded photos of each product.

Best Shopping Experience: Temu

Amazon's visual search was the most accurate. It found the exact pants and hair clip I wanted. But the retailer fell behind in selection. The hair clip only came in a pack of four, which was more than I wanted, and it was really difficult to find a style of pink shoes I liked. Overall, Amazon was the most boring app to shop.

Shein had a large selection but it was difficult to find what I was looking for. The visual-search tool found the exact hair clip and very similar heels, but didn't quite match the pants. The app also serves a lot of annoying pop-up coupons. At checkout, it kept suggesting I add an additional item for another discount but I didn't see it added. After checkout, it oddly suggested more styles like the items I bought — but why would I want to buy the same thing twice? Or it suggested things had nothing to do with what I bought, like men's and children's clothing.

I had the most fun shopping on Temu and it was the best at recommending more items. Instead of suggesting products that were similar to others I'd already viewed, the way Amazon and Shein did, Temu surprised me with cool things that I wouldn't have thought to search for. The visual-search tool was accurate for the hair clip but I couldn't find the exact shoes or pants I wanted.

It was really easy to lose track of time on Temu. My screen time on the app was higher than the others that day, and I added more items to my cart than the three I had planned to buy. That said, Temu is the most annoying app when it comes to frequent promotional pop-ups and emails. And the app also doesn't let you save products for later — you have to put them in your cart, which I'm sure is deliberate to get you to spend more.

Best Prices: Shein

All three products were the most expensive on Amazon. Plus, some items weren't eligible for free Prime shipping so I was slammed with extra costs at checkout. My Amazon order totaled $74.99, which included $17.98 for shipping.

Shein's prices fall in between Amazon's and Temu's. My Shein order totaled $32.24 after receiving free shipping and a $10 discount that was automatically added to my cart. This didn't seem too expensive or too cheap for the three items I purchased.

Prices on Temu were so low that I was worried the products would be terrible quality. I'd added five additional items to my cart, including a two-piece lounge set and three sets of press-on nails, and the subtotal came to $54.24. But with additional discounts the app added at checkout, I paid $28.11 and received free shipping. It didn't make sense how I purchased more items but spent the least amount of money.

Fastest Shipping: Amazon

I placed all three orders on July 17.

I received my Amazon orders first, on July 21 and 22. Each item shipped separately. I was a bit annoyed that the shoes were shipped in a flimsy bag instead of a box to prevent them from getting crushed in transit.

I received my Shein order a day later, on July 23. Everything came in one package. The shoes were also in a bag, but it was a little sturdier than the Amazon one. I noticed two faint white scuffs on the toes, which I figured may have been from shipping.

I received my Temu order on July 25. Everything came in one large orange package. It was wrapped in a lot of tape so it was a bit difficult to tear open. Finally, the shoes came in a box!

Best Quality: Shein

When I unwrapped the Amazon shoes, I was really disappointed in the quality. The materials felt like they wouldn't last, the foot pad was already peeling off, and strings of excess glue were visible. It was even more disappointing that such a cute design was wasted on low-grade manufacturing. I paid $40 for them, yet they looked and felt like they were worth half the price.

The pants from Amazon were also not what I expected. They looked so cute on Pinterest, but made my legs feel like sausages. I had hoped the pants would be more of a satin fabric with a looser fit, but it was a stretchy material with a flared legging style.

Overall, I was really disappointed in my Amazon purchases. I spent the most money on this order out of the three, so I expected the quality to be slightly better.

To my surprise, the quality of the Shein pieces was slightly better. The heels were sturdy and the materials felt comparable to a shoe I'd buy in DSW or Aldo. While the pants weren't much like the original style I found on Pinterest, I much preferred the slouchier fit and flowy material.

The items I bought from Temu weren't much better than the ones I got from Amazon. The material of the heels was okay, but the platform was higher than I expected. The strap had a very odd closure that seemed it could easily come undone while walking. The pants fit similar to the Amazon ones and the fabric didn't match at the seams, which made it look really awkward on the sides of my legs.

Finally, all three hair clips were virtually the same. They were made of cheap plastic and had rounded teeth, which made it hard to grab onto my hair. The Amazon one was slightly bigger, which was what I originally wanted, but it came with three more colors I didn't need. The Shein and Temu hair clips were identical and smaller than they appeared in the listing photos.

Best Returns: Amazon

I decided to return everything I ordered from Amazon. And since I shop on Amazon often, I was already familiar with its easy return process. It took about two minutes to create a return for each item.

I decided to keep the shoes from Shein and return the pants. But when I attempted the return, Shein didn't give me a shipping label and processed an immediate refund instead. I didn't like that the app assumed I would rather keep the pants than send them back. Now I'm left with free pants that I'm probably never going to wear.

I decided to return the shoes, pants, and hair clip from Temu. Meanwhile, I kept all the additional items I hadn't planned on buying. The return process was pretty simple, once I figured out how to navigate to my orders and click out of the promotional pop-up windows.

Both Shein and Temu allow one free return label per order, so it's best to return everything at once to avoid additional shipping fees.