Why Criminals Can Trade Tide Detergent For Crack Cocaine


Photo: AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

Thieves are stealing big red bottles of Tide laundry detergent from bodegas, grocery stores, and big-box retailers across the country. The bizarre thefts initially baffled police officers.It turns out criminals exchange the detergent for drugs, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 in cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine, Ben Paynter writes for New York Magazine.

Some stores are losing $10,000 to $15,000 a month from people shoplifting Tide right off the shelves. The government and law enforcement like to call this “organised retail crime” or ORC. The FBI estimates that organised retail theft costs retailers nearly $30 billion a year.

The ORC police unit in Prince George’s County, Md. raided homes near the border between Prince George’s County and Washington D.C. and uncovered not just Tide and drugs but $20,000 in stolen property, Paynter writes.

After reviewing security footage, Prince George’s County police discovered that the Tide theft ring was an organised crew of more than two dozen thieves, working in crews and timing their thefts to clerks’ shift changes to avoid being caught. 

Here’s why Tide is used as a drug currency: Tide is the nation’s most popular and recognisable laundry detergent brand, and at $20 for a 150-ounce bottle, it costs more than most detergents, Paynter points out.

Tide is also a staple in houses across the socioeconomic spectrum, making it an ideal currency for drugs. 

“There’s no serial numbers and it’s impossible to track,” Detective Larry Patterson of the Somerset, Ky., Police Department, where authorities have seen a huge spike in Tide theft, told The Daily. “It’s the item to steal.”

SEE ALSO: Nike Wins Big Trademark Case In The Supreme Court >

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.