Black market Tide free banking

From Cory Doctorow:

The Daily‘s M.L. Nestel cites law enforcement reports from across America describing a crime-wave of Tide detergent thefts, including claims that bottles of easily resellable, name-brand washing soap can be bartered for meth and heroin in Gresham, OR.

He cites this article:

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.”

Why Tide and not, say, Wisk or All? Police say it’s simply because the Procter & Gamble detergent is the most popular and, with its Day-Glo orange logo, most recognizable of brands.

For the pointer I thank Ken Feinstein and Pamela J. Stubbart.


First politician to say 'we have to clean the streets' gets my vote.

Tide doesn't even have secure caps, does it? Must be easy to further dilute it.

just waiting for the Tide Standard to be the favored monetary system by some nutter

Too easy to dilute the money supply. Although The Fed issued a statement that a rising Tide lifts all boats.

Plainly government prohibition is responsible for this black market, the same way it is for all black markets.

Well, yes.

Wiki: "A black market or underground economy is a market in goods or services which operates outside the formal one(s) supported by established state power."

Legalizing the theft of laundry detergent would definitely free up over-extended law enforcement resources.

This story seems likely to be false, police deny it:

Via Metafilter:

I do not believe this story. It has all the halmarks of being fake.

I'm thinking the story is bogus too; yet to be fair the definitive authority on hoaxes, , still has a verdict of "undetermined" about this matter.

Snopes is mostly useless, very little investigation or verification of anything, just some folks reading stuff on the internet and giving its plausibility their thumbs up or down. Perhaps it's nice to have someone making that judgment for us.

The part that most struck me as implausible was the idea of people running around with multiple bottles of it, and drug dealers taking it directly as currency.

It's like the author never actually held a full bottle of detergent. That stuff's bulky and heavy. Way too bulky and heavy for a drug dealer to want to take as currency, at $10 a bottle.

Like Theophile's link says, people will shoplift it - but mostly 'cause they need to do the wash, or to sell it to a fence or at the swap meet.

Not to take to their meth dealer, who wants cash, not a stack of bottles of detergent he has to move somehow.

I'm developing BitTide

Or, for criminals with sensitive skin and perfume allergies, Tide Free free banking.

A real solution to the liquidity crisis.

This sounds like a red suitcase story. That's the journalism saw that a reporter is assigned to write a story about trends in luggage, talks to three people and hears red suitcases are the hot seller. So he writes up the story as a trend sweeping the nation even though the sample was too small.

People, it is only supposed to be true for one town in Oregon.

Even then it sounds like nonsense.

>>> M.L. Nestel cites law enforcement reports from across America describing a crime-wave of Tide detergent thefts<<<

Why the phrases "law enforcement reports from across America" and "Police nationwide take on soaring Tide detergent theft" then?

Here's an economics question about the validity of this story - how much overlap is there between the demographics of the average Tide buyer and that of the average meth buyer. I'm guessing it's fairly low.

Wrong comparison. How much overlap is there between the universe of Tide buyers and meth sellers. And their mommas.

Everyone uses laundry detergent, though some only by proxy. Almost everyone who regularly uses laundry detergent prefers Tide, even if they can't afford it and thus use other brands. This is especially true in poor communities, where fashions lag the country as a whole.

They're not using it to clean clothes. Here's a passage from meth user message board:

"my friend is over here right now and he bought a gram of meth sunday and him and two other friends smoked it. They thought it tasted awfull and wasnt buring right and only smoked half of it. they later positivly identified it as laundry detergent. "

And you believed that?

(Meth dealers, like any other businessman - even on the black market - need repeat customers, and you don't get those by selling bunk. This is why almost all drug dealers are selling drugs that the users can actually take and get high from effectively; if the meth-heads think it's so bad they won't even smoke all of it, you're going to go out of business.)

And going out of business in the illegal drugs world is often fatal.

There are more rip offs in the drug biz than you estimate.

remember the mackerel cans as currency in prison story that the Journal ran a while back

When my apartment was burglarized, they took our shampoo.

A man in MN was charged with stealing $6k worth of laundry detergent over six weeks earlier this year. What I want to know is why it took loss prevention at the store that long to figure out they'd lost $25k in detergent - is it stolen that often? That store isn't in the best neighborhood, and the loss prevention presence is a lot more visible than some of the other targets in the cities (I used to work nearby).

It seems more likely that the detergent is used to cut meth or clean the labs.

Surprised to see no jokes about Gresham's law here.

Bad money washes out the good.

Maybe it's a sophisticated laundering operation.

Tide makes my skin break out but I could still use it as a currency as long as everyone else does. Just sayin'.

I have no idea if this story is true, but I can tell you this- when buying replacement cartridges for my Gillette razor last year at a Stop and Shop in CT, the 10 count packages were locked separately in a bulky plastic cube that you had to get a store employee to remove at the checkout counter. I didn't ask why, but it was obvious this item, which retails for around 12-15 dollars was too easy to shoplift. Of course, Tide containers are even bulkier than the plastic cube, so I don't think they are easy to shoplift.

This is only peripherally related to your experience with theft-protection of the razor blades, but the cartridges are also counterfeited! I saw set my co-worker ended up with: the packaging was good enough that I didn't read it as a fake, and the cartridges looked right, but they were apparently unusable for shaving (no edge).

The meta-question is, of course, what is the advantage of an alternate currency? Do meth dealers suffer from a liquidity trap? Could there be some sort of fairly practical closed-loop advantage to trading in Tide, such as not being as detectable as a nexus for lots of cash transactions?

In prison, the liquidity trap (cash not allowed) applies; in the real (meth-user) world, it's possible that detergent theft is the core resource: you don't steal radios or copper anymore, just detergent. You can imagine, for example, an economy where salted fish was the primary resource, and starting to transact in saltfish, just because it was already in circulation.

Ironically, aren't local shopkeepers the most likely intermediaries for trading Tide back into cash, when you need to exit the meth economy?

My local store keeps batteries behind the counter. Also condoms and cigarette lighters. Never suspected that these were high-shoplifting-risk items.

Didn't you ever see the Seinfeld about old people stealing batteries?

Anything small and expensive and with good resale potential (or small and needful to an addict of any sort) is a high-risk item.

Thus condoms (small, expensive), lighters (small, needful to various sorts of addict), batteries. And the premium razor blades.

But not saffron (small, expensive, but no resale market to speak of - junkies aren't stealing that $12 bottle of spices from the store, because their fence can't move it).

I bought dozens of Gillette cartridges at the farmer's market in LaVerne, CA. They were about half the price of retail. My wife asked why so cheap and was beside herself when I told her they were probably stolen.

They say Gillette. Are you sure they are Gillette?

Saw this on ABC news prime time last night. Thinking, if this isn't a brilliant P&G PR stunt, it should have been. Complete with video of retail chain managers saying Tide is the most used most trusted brand.

And I'm thinking, damn, it would be hard to sneak a couple of those huge bottles out the store with no one noticing.

Some places it doesn't matter if you're noticed. A clerk at Safeway explained to my wife that Friday nights are a shoplifting free-for-all. The store won't prosecute, so the police said to quit calling them to merely chase away shoplifters. Management policy now is pretty much to let thieves walk out with their loot. Sometimes one will take it to far with a cartload of meat or such, and then an employee will stop that.

(This came up when my wife asked if Montgomery County's new tax bag makes it harder to spot shoplifters, the answer being "Oh yeah it does.")

Blacks will be blacks.

I work for a supermarket. It is absolutely true about Tide being one of the most stolen items despite its size. People will load up a whole carriage and walk out of the store. Sometimes they'd have a van waiting outside and they'd drive away with the carriage. You'd think they'd be easy to catch but it only takes minutes to load up a whole carriage and walk out, and they usually do it right when the store opens or closes when there are few employees in the store.

Is this an a consequence of food stamps? If not why on money?

So if not tide what do people mostly use to turn food stamp dollars in dollars now that they are on card so that people cannot exchange the actual food stamps?

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