I start my fresh coals in a chimney and soak my wood chunks.
What am I doing wrong?
Thin walled, cheapo smokers will eat the fuel for sure, but a charcaol basket using minion method will help out tremendously as FWI stated. Do a boil test on the therm, more than likely it is off, especially if it came out of the box with that smoker. Get you a good digital, either the Maverick or just one from Wally World, they work fine, have several myself. This way you will know the temp your cooking at without a doubt.
X2 on no wet wood. Use only dry, seasoned wood(typically cut and stacked anywhere from 6 months to a year).
As stated earlier, exhaust fully open, adjust fire with intakes.
i have the same offset...not the best in the world..but a good cheap-o starter smoker...yes, build a charcoal basket, raise the rack up an inch or so for better airflow( attach 2 pieces of rebar with hose camps to the sides of the rack that over hang 1/2 to an inch) helps with air flow plus keeps the ash from choking out the air flow...use lump coal instead of charcoal...helps with less ash and the burn a bit hotter...keep your exhaust wide open and extend down the exhaust tube to grate level..it will help hold in the heat longer...get some good quality thermometers and mount as close to grate level as possible about centered between the lift handle and outer edges of the barrel...the biggest thing is practice and be patient..