I’m rarely surprised by things people are willing to steal, but I have to admit that I was taken aback by learning that there is apparently a black market for laundry detergent. Specifically, for the Tide brand as thieves are making off with it by the, literal, cartload.
Tide has become a form of currency on the streets. The retail price is steadily high — roughly $10 to $20 a bottle — and it’s a staple in households across socioeconomic classes.
Tide can go for $5 to $10 a bottle on the black market, authorities say. Enterprising laundry soap peddlers even resell bottles to stores.
“There’s no serial numbers and it’s impossible to track,” said Detective Larry Patterson of the Somerset, Ky., Police Department, where authorities have seen a huge spike in Tide theft. “It’s the item to steal.”
Seriously. I am just flabbergasted by that. I mean, I could maybe understand it if you were strapped for cash and were stealing it to do your own laundry with, but to resell on the black market? From the sounds of it the crooks are only going after Tide and none of the alternatives mainly because Tide is the most popular and recognized brand. There’s even a company developing some sort of anti-theft alarm system for bottles of Tide that’s being tested in CVS stores. Did you get that? AN ALARM SYSTEM FOR LAUNDRY DETERGENT!
“These are criminals coming into the store to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise,” said Detective Harrison Sprague of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, where Tide is known as “liquid gold” among officers.
He and other law enforcement officials across the country say Tide theft is connected to the drug trade. In fact, a recent drug sting turned up more Tide that cocaine.
“We sent in an informant to buy drugs. The dealer said, ‘I don’t have drugs, but I could sell you 15 bottles of Tide,’ ” Sprague told The Daily. “Upstairs in the drug dealer’s bedroom was about 14 bottles of Tide laundry soap. We think [users] are trading it for drugs.”
Police in Gresham, Ore., said most Tide theft is perpetrated by “users feeding their habit.”
I had to double check to see that this wasn’t a parody story in The Onion. Especially after reading this:
“They’ll do it right in front of a cop car — buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide,” said Detective Rick Blake of the Gresham Police Department. “We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles of Tide. They were so blatant about it.”
But it’s no joke. That mugshot back at the top of this entry? That’s Patrick Costanzo who was busted for stealing $6,300 worth of Tide powder (video at the link). He’s no first timer either. Police say Patrick hit the same Walmart some 28 times to steal Tide and a bunch of other crap. He’s also not alone. That store reports thefts of Tide totaling over $25,000!
Just when you think life can’t get any stranger you find out folks are buying their illegal drugs with stolen laundry soap. I’m still trying to understand how this works out well for the drug dealer. I can only assume he must be able to resell the Tide for more than what the drugs were worth and yet still less than what it goes for in the store (otherwise why would you buy it from him?). I’m not sure if that says more about the price of Tide or the price of drugs.