Tide Laundry Detergent Thefts Turn to Black-Market Sales
“Psst… I got the goods upstairs. $5 for 150 ounces.”
The above statement may sound like the start of a drug deal, but in fact it’s describing a new black market item being sold on the streets—Tide. Yes, that’s right. America’s No. 1 detergent has become one of the most-stolen items from retailers and grocers, where it is often sold for a fraction of its sticker price or traded for drugs.
Known as “liquid gold” on the streets, a 150-ounce bottle of Tide can sell for more than $20 at major retailers—50 percent more than the average liquid detergent. As people had less money to spend on items such as detergent during the global recession, many still wanted the quality they associated with the bright-orange bottles, and Tide became street currency.
The crime wave was first reported in March 2012 as law enforcement agencies and retailers nationwide were puzzled over the increased theft of the detergent. Arrests were made at Safeway stores, and CVS actually locked down Tide in the same manner as flu medications. For the first time ever, detergent landed on the National Retail Federation’s most-targeted items, and Tide was specifically called out.
There’s also a relatively low risk associated with stealing detergent compared to crimes such as muggings, drug sales or home invasions. Plus, unlike other commonly stolen items such as electronics, bottle of Tide have no serial number to be traced.
“They are smart. They are creative. They want high reward and low risk,” Sgt. Aubrey Thompson of Maryland told the Daily Mail. “Theft convictions can come with a maximum fifteen-year prison sentence, but the penalty for shoplifting is often just a small fine, with no jail time.”
“It’s the new dope. You can get richer and have less chance of doing jail time.”
A Minnesota man was actually arrested for allegedly making off with more than $25,000 worth of Tide over a period of 15 months, according to store security tapes. But Proctor & Gamble, the maker of the popular detergent, sees the thefts as a back-handed compliment.
“It’s unfortunate that people are stealing Tide, and I don’t think it’s appropriate at all, but the one thing it reminds me of is that the value of the brand has stayed consistent,” P&G North American fabric-care divisional marketing director Sundar Raman told New York Magazine.