Suds for Drugs
Tide detergent: Works on tough stains. Can now also be traded for crack. A case study in American ingenuity, legal and otherwise.
By Ben Paynter (New York, 1/6/2013)
The call that came in from a local Safeway one day in March 2011 was unlike any the Organized Retail Crime Unit of the Prince George’s County Police Department had fielded before. The grocery store, located in suburban Bowie, Maryland, had been robbed repeatedly. But in every incident the only products taken were bottles—many, many bottles—of the liquid laundry detergent Tide. “They were losing $10,000 to $15,000 a month, with people just taking it off the shelves,” recalls Sergeant Aubrey Thompson, who heads the team. When Thompson and his officers arrived to investigate, they stumbled onto another apparent Tide theft in progress and busted two men who’d piled 100 or so of the bright-orange jugs into their Honda. The next day, Thompson returned to the store’s parking lot to tape a television interview about the crimes. A different robber took advantage of the distraction to make off with twenty more bottles.
Later, Thompson reviewed weeks’ worth of the Safeway’s security footage. He found that more than two dozen thieves, working in crews, were regularly raiding the store’s household-products aisle, sometimes returning more than once the same day and avoiding detection by timing their heists to follow clerks’ shift changes. Owners and managers of other area stores, having seen Thompson on the news, reached out to him to report their own vanishing Tide bottles. Since then, the oddly brand-loyal crime wave has gone national, striking bodegas, supermarkets, and big-box discounters from Austin to West St. Paul, Minnesota. In New York, employees at the Penn Station Duane Reade nabbed a man trying to abscond with Tide bottles he’d stuffed into a suitcase. In Orange County, an attempted Tide theft led to a high-speed chase that included the thief crashing his SUV into an ambulance. Last year, for the first time, detergent made the National Retail Federation’s list of most-targeted items. Says Joseph LaRocca, founder of the trade group RetailPartners, who helped compile the report: “Tide was specifically called out.”
Continue reading “Suds for Drugs” at New York.
- Shoplifting rings target grocery-list items. Prince George’s police lieutenant: One store lost about $15K per month from Tide detergent thefts alone — Gazette.net
- Cleanup on liquid detergent theft ring continues while trend spreads — ‘Liquid gold’ Tide brand being sold on black market, police say — Gazette.net
- Thieves rolling Tide detergent out of US stores — The Guardian
- Tide Laundry Detergent Theft Ring Alleged After Bust At Maryland Barber Shop — Huffington Post