Temu experiences

Now that I'm an adult and have money, I find I have a hard time getting excited about consumerism. But Temu captured my imagination. It is somehow like the feeling of when Walmart opened in your hometown. I have been trying to extract the maximum amount of consumerist glee out of this obviously ill-fated relationship.

The interesting thing here is that it's a shadow of the market we know and love. Everything here has already been replaced with low-quality / low-price Chinese goods, and often to our detriment. But it takes on a different tenor when it is all laid bare. Amazon is plagued by fake reviews -- Temu reviews are simply fake. Amazon is plagued by fake products -- Temu products are knockoffs. You never at any point feel like you're paying extra for basic QA performed by some brand-preserving importer. And so on.

Wife is unable to get into the spirit of this thing.

2024/01/19 - order #1

watch. I ordered a $2.39 "Geneva" wrist watch because I kind of want a Timex but I know I will hate the feeling of wearing a watch, so this ridiculous price point is a good compromise. I bought a $10ish pocket watch at Walmart back in 2001, and within a month its dots had fallen off of it (so it was a blank watch face without hour markers). I figure this can't be lower quality than that.

pajamas. I ordered $13.13 pajamas for my 10yo, because he asked for pajamas and I saw them on Temu. I could not figure out the sizing chart so I simply got "9-10yo" size.

2024/01/26 - order #2

tablet. I ordered $61.59 PRITOM 8 inch Android tablet "8GB". I hate cheapest Android tablets but my branded "supported" Samsung Galaxy Tab A8 is such a fantastic piece of crap that I figure it can't get any worse..if I'm already thinking about buying the newer Samsung, I certainly could not do worse than buying this garbage? Do you suppose it really has 8GB?

keyboard+monitor. I ordered $10.79 9" mini keyboard (TKL) and $33.99 7" VGA monitor. I have a basement server that I have long wanted to get an appropriate head for.

belt. I ordered $1.97 Nylon "tactical" belt, because I have 2 belts but want 3.

microsd. I ordered $2.48 16GB microSD. Do you think it will really be 16GB? I just needed a microSD card for a kid's toy and this seems about the right investment.

usb-microsd. I ordered $2.48 USB microSD interface. Each of my laptops' builtin microSD has a different infelicity so maybe this will avoid the trial and error?

My general feeling about their prices is that things are only much cheaper than a store like Walmart if they are very small. They seem to ship everything international air mail (which is insane!), so something you can pile a million of into a little box (like microSD cards) is cheap but something like clothing, they have to charge a more "normal" price simply to make up for the bulk it takes up in the cargo plane.

2024/02/01 - order #1 update

I received a notice that my first order is late so they are giving me $5 in store credit.

2024/02/02 - order #1 received

watch. My first shipment came. The watch is fine. Its hour marks will not fall off because they are obviously just printed and embossed on thin posterboard. Its only significant defect is that the hour hand rubs on the paper, which I don't know if it will impact its life hugely or not. It keeps good time (quartz). Its strap is weirdest thing I've ever seen. I thought "mesh" meant something like nylon webbing, but instead it is a very fine steel. I can't tell if it's woven (i.e., bending steel) or separate chain links. Its paint scratches extremely easily, and I suspect it will turn into splinterville soon enough. It's very very stiff until you bend it a few times, and then it's only very stiff. It's not very comfortable.

I had to take it off, because I convinced myself the metal band would destroy my sweater sleeve. I may use my $5 store credit towards a new 20mm strap! I found some 20mm webbing in the basement, and it is much much more comfortable, if I could figure out how to invent a clasp for it.

pajamas. 10yo likes his pajamas, though they are just barely big enough. They'll be too small soon. So it is.

2024/02/03 - order #3

bands. I don't know anything about watch bands so I ordered two: a $3.48 generic nylon watch band, which has the downside of holes at set sizes; and a $2.11 "elastic nylon" watch band, which comes with a little piece of metal I would want to use if I build my own?

chuck. I ordered $2.27 drill chuck with a hex drive. I have wanted a hand-driven drill for a long time and I am disappointed with the one I have. I am willing to enter the lottery again because I was frustrated searching for something like this on American sites some years ago.

ezlinktool. I ordered $1.59 bicycle chain tool for removing quick links (like needle nose pliers but with a funny tip to grip a single link of chain). I can always solve this problem with tools on hand but each time is a voyage of discovery. This may save me a little time and effort. I happen to have just needed it today.

bikelight. I ordered $2.79 rechargeable bicycle headlight. The one I have only lasts about half an hour anymore. This one seems very similar, and honestly I would be surprised if it is in any way lower quality. I am extremely distressed about the design quality of $30 bike lights purchased in the US. The LLM-generated reviews say the bike is much faster after buying this light.

knife. I ordered $1.25 utility knife because the box cutters that sit by my recycling pile are getting kind of sad.

camera. I ordered $8.28 "endoscope" USB camera with a 6' cable. This will go places I don't dare to try to slide my phone into.

usb-a-c. I ordered $2.11 USB C female to A male adaptor. I only have the other gender of this, but will obviously soon need this gender as well.

2024/02/07 - order #2 received

tablet. It is apparently 4GB. The extra 4GB "RAM extension" is apparently swap to flash -- hah hah. It seems fine? It seems like an extremely generic build of Android (not that I'd necessarily recognize a skin on Android 13). I'm curious now to know if it's bootloader-unlocked. It charges very slowly, but I doubt that will matter for my purposes.

monitor. This device has a distressingly strong plastic smell. Good thing it's going in the basement. It works fine on the first try -- just hooked up the provided HDMI cable to my PC, and the text just popped onto the screen. This is great -- I will be getting rid of a 20" CRT that is just sitting on the basement floor like a trip hazard!

keyboard. This one is a miss! When it said it was micro USB, I assumed it meant it had a micro USB device connector (female). The USB standard says that all hard-connected cables should have a male USB A connector and talk the low speed USB 1.1 standard. But this has a hard-connected cable with a male micro USB connector on it! Obviously this is intended to be used with cellphones, with "USB On-The-Go". I am optimistic that I may be able to solder a real USB cable to it??

belt. It might be a little beefier than I want. Its buckle is a novelty of molded plastic which is hard to adjust to the right tension, and which I suspect will not wear well. You know, even so, it might be perfect for the third pair of pants that isn't worn as often. *shrug*

microsd+usb-microsd. I accidentally ordered two of each of these? I tested one of them, and it passed my most preliminary test. Given the desired usage case, it seems unlikely I'll notice any problems?

2024/02/10 - fixed the keyboard.

monitor. I improved this by making the font bigger. I added these lines:

[greg@stallion] ~$ grep FONT /etc/default/console-setup
FONTFACE="Terminus"
FONTSIZE="12x24"
It's still not great. I think it is being output by the PC at 1024x768, and then resampled to 640x480 or something inside the monitor. Really I should try turning off kernel mode setting and then it would probably be fine in the default 640x480 VGA mode? But this is a low priority for me. Not worth rebooting for.

keyboard. I soldered a regular USB cable onto it. It worked on the first try. The keyboard is a piece of garbage, even for its size. It's almost big enough to touch type on but every detail is wrong. It's about what you expect out of no-name phone keyboards (I have bought at least 4 of them already?). I should have thought a little about the implications of "9-inch" before I bought it. But the old setup was much worse (!), so I guess I'm satisfied. It's really just checking the box of "a head that fits on top of a tower PC case". I only have to type maybe a dozen commands a year here when the thing doesn't boot clean after a power outage.

2024/02/14 - order #3 received

bands. The band that struck me as basically a "NATO band" (nylon, with two layers behind the watch) is better than the metal one, but it is still fairly uncomfortable. The 4 metal parts are too much bulk for me. And they are intrinsic to the NATO design so I think it's not a design defect of this strap. And also, it can either be slightly too tight or sligthly too loose. I think "slightly too tight" might be actually "just right" but I don't like it. Just like I knew I wouldn't.

The elastic band is great, I guess. It was easy to adjust to be exactly as snug as I want. It's definitely the most comfortable option. The thing is, I have to stretch it really hard to get it off. I feel like one way or the other, it will not last long. But my overall impression is that I'm not a watch-wearer. Just like I knew I wasn't.

chuck. This is smaller than I expected. I bought the one with unspecified size, because I couldn't figure out if that was bigger or smaller than the one specified to be 6.5mm. Anyways, this fits to about 3.5mm, or 1/8". It grips the bit securely, unlike the old Chinese bit brace I bought. Its purpose is obviously to use drill bits with impact drivers. A small bit like this, I can't drive manually without breaking it. And now that I can grip a bit with my brace, I can see that it is too misaligned to be used!

ezlinktool. I don't want to get greasey taking apart my bike, but I test-fit it and it seems to hold the link securely. I think it will be handy.

bikelight. It charged successfully. It is slightly smaller than I expected. The rubber band is flimsy even by the standards of the genre, and is in practice too flimsy for use! I need to 3D print a little bracket to adapt it to zip ties. Luckily, the rubber is held on with a screw so I should be able to just replace it and use that same screw. The light is bright enough, it shines a spot on the wall even at mid-day.

knife. The utility knife is exactly how I expected. It's one of the kinds with a disposable plastic body where you break the old blade off once it's dull, and advance a new one. I've never had one of these before but it feels like a more brittle grade of plastic than the other ones look like. I think it will be great for my cardboard recycling.

camera and usb-a-c. The USB-C adaptor works, but it turns out I don't need it for this camera because it has a complicated plug that fits USB-A, USB-C, and microUSB! Never saw anything like it before. I wouldn't be surprised if the plug breaks young. But the camera works fine. It's the same as any USB camera, except smaller and on the end of a semi-rigid wire. The light is controlled by a little knob so it doesn't take any special software. Definitely something I've wanted in the past, and will be handy to have around.

Something I like overall about Temu is that they are serious about minimizing packaging, since shipping is such a huge expense for them. Most products just come in a plastic bag, especially the ones that are single-digit numbers of dollars. And then the plastic bags are packed neatly into a larger plastic bag for shipping.

2024/02/24 - order #4

The lesson from the earlier orders is that it still pays to shop, to read the specs of the product you're buying. Hah hah.

melodica. $15.98 "FEIFAN" 32-key melodica (button harmonica). Pink. I got the one that didn't say "Soprano" in the description, but I'm sure it is anyways. I was inspired to go hunting for a tenor one, but even reputable vendors are cagey about their range and I am not doing that fight today.

thermal paste. $1.69 7g syringe of "GD900" thermal paste. Extremely sad story about what I got last time I bought thermal paste. Trying something new. 7g is a lot to me.

hacksaw. I like to occasionally buy a $2 hacksaw. But looking at the website, I learned I should be buying blades for the saws I have?? I ordered nothing.

mini vise. I wanted to buy a mini vise for my drill press, because in the past I have bought too large, and Temu wants to sell small. But I look and they want to sell me plastic. The dimensions are right but plastic. I ordered nothing.

blanket. $27.48 "Ultrasonic Embossed Solid Color Bedspread". queen. pink. I want to replace a 'bedspread' type of blanket. It seems like the sort of thing I'd buy locally but that means just like Target or Walmart? And their websites are super uninspiring. So I will buy this, even though I can't tell if it's double-sided. It says "reversible". I don't actually care, but it is disconcerting to have no idea what I'm buying. I wonder if "Ultrasonic Embossed" is the new stitching, or if it's garbage? The thing is, it's replacing a blanket of extraordinarily low quality which I have loved for 15 years. Short of stealing one from a hotel, what am I to do?

usb lithium charger. $2.11 5x micro USB to TP4056 board for charging lithium batteries. I used to use MAX1555s and an SOT-23 breakout board and a microUSB breakout board. But I'm down to the last MAX1555. So I was going to order more of those, but this I think is even better?

heat shrink. $2.11 560pcs heat shrink tube assortment. This looks like a big step up from my current collection. I really like that they're pre-cut, because the un-store-able long lengths of the small varieties of tube is my biggest complaint with the status quo.

cards. $1.68 plastic playing cards. My solitaire deck is old and warped. Plastic playing cards?!

superglue. $2.11 5x super glue. These separate tubes are handy. Increases the odds one isn't dried out.

2024/02/24 - fixed bike light

bikelight. I 3D printed a little bracket to let me hold it to the handlebars with a zip tie and a little bit of innertube for friction. It is perfectly usable now. It is just a question of how long it will last, and whether it has decent battery life. I'm honestly not optimistic about battery life, because it weighs absolutely nothing.

2024/03/06 - order #4 received

melodica. Meets expectations! All the notes work and the intonation sounds good to my ears. It has a great characteristic melodica sound. It is comfortable to play with the rigid mouthpiece, and the keyboard has exactly the same feel as my accordion. Very intuitive to play -- I don't have to think about it, it is exactly like playing a wind instrument with an accordion keyboard! (duh) Comes with a bag. Has a range from half an octave below middle C to 2 octaves above it...which is just right IMO and the same as my accordion. My only concern is that there is no way to get moisture out of it, so I have no idea if the reeds will age well or not. But I think that just comes with the territory.

Only thing I don't like about the melodica is it has an awful plastic smell, which became an awful plastic flavor when I licked my lips. It reminds me specifically of when I've had to chew on polypropylene(?) rope to get a knot out. I will hang it in front of a fan and maybe it will air out some.

blanket. This blanket looks and feels exactly as I would have hoped. It is double sided, with some sort of non-stitched bonding between the front and back. It seems superficially like it is very flimsy, but so did the blanket it's replacing. I guess more than anything it reminds me of an airline blanket? So I am hoping it gives a long life.

thermal paste, heat shrink, usb lithium charger, superglue. These are all infrequently-used staples and I don't know when I might use them. They look as expected, so I'm optimistic. The TM4056 board has one surprise -- it has OUT+/- in addition to BAT+/-, making me wonder if it doesn't also have some sort of discharge protection? Overcurrent or undervoltage? It could even have a 5V boost regulator for all I know.

cards. These are just as I expected, and absolutely bizarre to behold. A lot of texture work -- they are fancy but even so the printing is kind of crappy? They're hard to pick up, they're so slippery. It is possible to shuffle and deal them. I guess. But the problem I had with my old cards is they were warped so they had only a single point of contact when laying flat, which made them want to wander and spin...these actually lay flat but are so slippery they have the same fault ten times over. I feel like I bought the ticket and the ride is just like I would have imagined!

It has the usual 52 cards plus 2 jokers. There is a 55th card that is very fancy and says "CERTIFICATE P E T Sophisticatedly handcraft with PET The glittering picture denotes the blessing of happiness and prosperity Each set of the playing cards comes with a certificate of ownership." FYI, PET is a 2L soda bottle.

I played (and lost) a game of solitaire with them, and it is really impressive how superlatively unpleasant they are. They are so slippery 90% of the time but sometimes they stick just when you don't want them to, so the accidental draw-2 is pretty common. The shuffle is easy but the bridge sends them flying. It is hard to simply hold onto a stack of them, and every move in solitaire risks sending the whole pile flying. It is hard to pick one of them up off the table, and if you try long enough you will injure your fingertip. It's hard to pick up a stack of them, or to pick up a partial stack of them. They use gold vs silver instead of red vs black, so it's not as distinct. Some of the cards have an obviously different surface finish so you could definitely learn to read them somewhat from the back side. And they are already scratching up from bits of grit that they attract I guess with their electrostatic nature and odd textures.

They are so completely the perfect embodiment of everything that made me skeptical of the idea in the first place. I definitely got what I ordered.

2024/03/17 - order #5

miniclock $1.19 I had the idea that when I give up on wearing the watch, I would just hang it up in one of the clockless parts of my house -- which is the only place where I really found it useful to look at the watch anyways. Well, I am not sure, but I think maybe I broke the watch? Anyways, I liked the idea of having a clock at my bicycle workbench. This is an LCD clock that is designed so it can sit on a shelf, though it's called a "keychain watch".

smartwatch $10.84 I used to be crazy for smart watches, before they existed. Now I don't want to have anything to do with them. I have had a passing interest in a all-day heartrate monitor but exfiltrating data from them seems to be a real pain in the butt. But now I finally have an interest in real-time heartrate monitor, so I'm buying this. It claims to also measure blood pressure, O2 concentration, and breathing?

usbcharger $5.99 Trying to tidy up the mess of chargers in the livingroom. This has 3x USB-A and 3x USB-C. Supposedly the USB-C is "PD 20W", which sounds promising. Hopefully since I'm a "charge it overnight" guy, I won't mind that it doesn't support VOOC Lightning Flash Super TM charge.

usbccables 1 meter $1.69, 3 meter $2.54. Would you believe when I looked through my USB cable pile, I don't yet have a single C-to-C table?

2024/03/27 - received order #5

It is a little disappointing.

miniclock Exactly as I imagined -- a little LCD digital clock that sits on a shelf. Great! Just a question of how long the battery lasts I guess.

smartwatch This one is a bust. I mean, its hardware is so impressive, especially for the price. Incredible display, working touchscreen, very light, easy enough to charge. And it's actually pretty comfortable to wear (the stretchy plastic band holds it snugly against my wrist without being too tight, though it does create a lot of sweat). The software is responsive and intuitive enough, though obviously it's also kind of garbage. But I just wanted a fitness tracker, and it's a failure at that.

At rest, the heart rate, blood oxygen, blood pressure, and blood sugar all showed vaguely plausible results, though I strongly suspect heart rate is the only one it has any basis for. So I asked it for my heart rate right after I pounded up the hill and it said 72 (probably half of the real figure). And watching the apparent pulse flasher, you can see it's syncopated in a way my heart is not, even when I'm still and press it hard onto my wrist. And on top of that, there's no continuous display mode, and apparently no continuous monitoring mode with history either. So if I want to play games with pacing to try to match a specific heartrate, I would constantly have to be interacting with the watch. I can't just passively glance at it every now and then. I will play with it some more, maybe shave my wrist, but I think this is more or less the struggle I expected which made me avoid buying a fitness tracker until now. It's very hard to collect reliable metrics from a living body, and maybe this attempt is "impressive" but to me it reminds me of all the struggles I face when I build bespoke monitoring. It's not there yet, IMO.

... I found and removed the clear tape over the heartrate sensor window. No improvement. So I shave my wrist. No improvement. Tried it on the inside of my wrist. No improvement. I want to say it doesn't measure anything at all, but it actually reliably shows 50-70bpm when my heartrate is elevated, and 80-100 when i'm resting. So it's measuring *something*. Something wrong. Looking at its flashing light pattern, there's really no way it could work at this low sampling rate. Maybe it's a dud but I kind of doubt the whole premise. I'm inclined to believe this method of monitoring is fundamentally incompatible with my physiology? Maybe people with more translucent skin?

The funny thing is, I can clearly feel my pulse pushing against the watchband. A sensitive pressure transducer (piezo) could do this task well.

usbcharger This is also closer to the "garbage" category that I expected to find more of when I started this Temu adventure. It's usable but the first USB-A port I tried simply did not work. I played with it and found that the other two USB-A ports do work?? Presumably just a minor fault in the construction which was not detected by QC. It might even be easily solved with a bodge wire or something (not that I want to take it apart). I will try to continue using it, because I only "need" two USB-A ports, and anyways the other chargers it is replacing are basically garbage too.

usbccables I am using one of them and it works fine. I mean, it's basically the same cable you can buy at the grocery store, just for a fraction of the price.

2024/03/31 - some updates

bikelight. I have been using this exclusively for a month and it has not required a recharge! Not a huge amount of usage (sunset keeps moving later every day), but it seems like it's been well over an hour of ON-time. The battery life seems to be about as good as the expensive light was when it was new, and much better than it is today. I'm pleased. The 3D printed bracket holds it in place well, too -- better than the expensive light's rubber band. It's on my winter bike, which I just swapped out, so I won't use it again until October I guess.

watch. I set it and forgot it, and it keeps time still. So there is some problem with the set knob...it advances a minute or so when you shove it in now (so it is hard to set), and when I'm wearing it somehow it turns off the watch (puts it in set-time mode). I don't know what to make of that but it seems to be unusable as a watch.

tablet. This tablet is great! It had disappointing battery life (only about 90 minutes of Minecraft), but I showed my kid how to set it to not-brightest-backlight and it gets much better battery life and it's not really any dimmer. It is much better than the Samsung tablet it replaces, even when the Samsung was new.

melodica. I love it! The mouthpiece flavor was a bad problem. I washed it with soap -- no good. So I soaked it in vinegar for a day, and then in water for another day, and it still had a little flavor, but a week later it became flavorless. But I do notice an unpleasant smell if I accidentally inhale through it. *shrug*

blanket. I sleep with it every night. It's fine. It's not quite as flimsy (flexible) as the blanket it replaces, is my only complaint. I think it's structured as a sandwich of maybe half a dozen layers (i.e., the filling is layers, not 'polyester fill'), which inherently gives it a shape I guess.

cards. I have played with these a few more times. All my original complaints hold, but I was able to use mindfulness to overcome their limitations. I played several games without hurting my fingers, and shuffled several times without sending them flying. It is kind of meditative I guess to put my mind to touching them just-right? They are already super scratched up though. Not sure if they'll ever become unusable but they certainly are aging.

miniclock. I found a quirk. It has buttons, I'll call them A/B. You press A and then increment the month with B, then A again and now you're setting day-of-month, you get the idea. Well, after you set the minutes and you're done setting it, you press A one more time and now it's not in "run" mode, but rather there is one more setting. If you press A again at this point, then it oscillates between time and date obnoxiously. If you press B, it just shows the time (what I want). But if you press neither, it sits there forever without incrementing the time.

smartwatch. Played with this a bit more and verified that absolutely none of its metrics -- except possibly steps -- make any sense at all. And the software is awful and would be a serious frustration even if it worked, but given that it doesn't work, the software completely obscures the failure mode as well.

2024/04/30 - update

microsd. I have been skeptical of this, because every time I mount it, it says in dmesg:

sda: p1 size 30952416 extends beyond EOD, enabling native capacity

And today it says:

I/O error, dev sda, sector 19200 op 0x0:(READ) flags 0x84700 phys_seg 30 prio class 0

Surprising no one. It doesn't even get 10MB into it before it fails. Anyways, I was about to throw it away when I decided to try reading it in the microSD slot on my laptop, instead of using USB connected to the cheap camera that it was purchased for. And it works now! So there is some flaw in the camera itself (which is unbranded non-Temu garbage). Not sure if its microSD connector or controller is failing, or if it's only a USB problem. But isn't that a pleasant surprise?