The first few times I heard about this, I dismissed it out of hand. But it keeps cropping up, with supporting comments from people all over the country, so I am finally willing to concede that it is A Thing. Apparently, organized shoplifting rings are targeting, of all things, jugs of Tide liquid laundry detergent.
Mysterious nation-wide rash of Tide thefts
This sudsy crime is on the rise.
This may seem preposterous on the face of it. And it doesn't help that the Tide corporation is taking a stance on the issue that seems insufferably smug. According to Tide, these thefts are happening because they have done such a great job with brand recognition. People steal Tide (according to Tide) because people love Tide. In other words, according to Tide's marketing department, the thefts mean they are doing their job right.
And they aren't wrong; it's not like Tide loses money when their detergent is stolen from a grocery store. Tide gets paid either way. It's the grocery store (or its insurance company) that foots the bill.
So who is stealing all this Tide, and why? Unsurprisingly, the answer boils down to "drug addicts."
If you are a crack addict looking to make a quick buck to feed your habit, your options are slim. One of the more tempting options is to steal things, and then resell them on the street. If you steal something that's worth $10 and you sell it for $5, both you and the buyer got a great deal.
The question then becomes, what to steal? These thieves used to steal baby formula, condoms, batteries, and high-end razor blades. But as they became more theft-worthy, stores have moved those items behind locked cabinets. (When I was a kid, cigarettes were sold in open racks at the front of the store, like candy bars.)
Enter Tide laundry detergent. Tide has the name brand recognition that consumers want, which is why it is the #1 most popular laundry detergent in America by a wide margin. The jugs even have a convenient carrying handle, for the shoplifter on the run.
They are heavy, certainly, but they are also waterproof, durable, and easy to tote around. Best of all, people want to buy Tide. And given the high cost of laundry detergent, a lot of people are willing to buy it off some guy at the bus stop in order to save a few bucks.
Another market for stolen goods is mom and pop stores. Many of these stores buy stolen goods at a steep discount, then resell them to their customers at a mark-up. In 2011 police busted a massive shoplifting ring that had been funneling stolen goods through smaller stores across King county.