Tide Laundry Detergent Liquid Gold?!

Apparently, my laundry room is a treasure trove of high value assets.

YahooNews (“Tide Detergent Being Stolen From Stores Across the Country“):

Tide laundry detergent is meant to be used for household cleaning purposes, but thieves are turning it into something dirty. Authorities are reporting a spike in thefts of Tide, and in some cities they are setting up task forces where the detergent is sold to track the number of bottles in stores. Police believe thieves are using the soap on the black market, which retails for $10-$20, to buy drugs. On the black market, Tide is often referred to as “liquid gold” and can go for $5-$10 per bottle.

Last year, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a man is alleged to have stolen $25,000 worth of Tide over 15 months before authorities captured him. Stores such as CVS have amped up security measures to prevent theft; at some locations the detergent is kept in a locked container and an employee must retrieve it for customers.
So why is Tide the only detergent being targeted? Authorities list several reasons: Tide is instantly recognizable because of its Day-Glo orange bottle; it is one of the most expensive brands of laundry detergent; and it does not have serial numbers, so it cannot be tracked.

Now, I know that times are tough. But, seriously, who’s buying black market laundry detergent? Particularly at nearly full price?

A quick check shows that, by virtue of Amazon Prime, I can get 50 ounces of Tide Original Scent 2x Ultra shipped to my house for a mere $7.99. Why would I give some joker on the street $10 for it? Especially since, apparently, it would make me a target for criminals.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Economics and Business, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Herb says:

    by virtue of Amazon Prime, I can get 50 ounces of Tide Original Scent 2x Ultra shipped to my house for a mere $7.99.

    Presuming you looked at the same listing I did, the Tide isn’t actually being sold by Amazon, but by a company called Quidsi Retail LLC (soap.com). I also noticed there was a listing for 5 “new” products from “featured merchants.” The first one? Still $7.99 from soap.com. The second one lists it as $15.22 (almost double!) from Kitty Hawk Enterprises. Number 3? From Shoplet Discount Office Supplies? The bottle will cost you $63.11 (more than six times the soap.com price!).

    My suspicion, without any proof of course, is that some of the Tide listed on Amazon is of the black market variety. Indeed, I suspect Amazon and Ebay and other sites of that nature are the prime clearing houses for black market Tide.

    For what it’s worth, Wal-mart undercuts all of them. They have the same bottle for $7.54.

  2. I’ve seem some suggestions that there’s something chemically about Tide that allows it to be used in the manufacture of Crystal Meth.

  3. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Desperate times, desperate measures.

    FYI, not everyone is so fortunate as to have a computer, broadband access and available credit to hop onto Amazon and to order Tide delivered to their nice homes at cheap prices. Lots of people out there in this day and age have much lower standards of living. Haven’t you been following the real unemployment numbers? But still they don’t want to walk around town smelling like goats. It’s also tough to go on a job interview with stains all over one’s threads.

    Incidentally, the other ongoing crime spree around the country of which you probably are insouciant is the extent to which metal products are being stolen. Commodity-based inflation and the disastrous job and housing markets have bred that rash of theft. Thanks in no small part to Uncle Ben, Turbo Tax Timmy, and to Club Fed.

    People and gangs literally are tearing out all manner and type of metal products from construction sites and buildings. Most often they’re selling those items on the black market for cash. Sometimes they’re using them for their own purposes to avoid paying regular market prices. Hell, even manhole covers are being swiped in large numbers in broad daylight. Again, desperate times, desperate measures. P.S. — Don’t look for the media to devote all that much attention to these indicia of hard times. After all it’s a reelection year for Obama.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    I figure this is your basic moral panic BS story. Later, anyone who actually bothers to followup (which will be like 5 people) will discover that this was overblown BS by the unamed “authorities” and/or BS spin from the reporter.

  5. Fiona says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I’ve seem some suggestions that there’s something chemically about Tide that allows it to be used in the manufacture of Crystal Meth.

    This seems a more likely reason why people would be stealing the stuff.

  6. Rob in CT says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Given that sells the bottle Doug’s talking about for $7.54 (assuming Herb is accurate), that’s not a very convincing explanation.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Herb: Not sure what the deal is with the ridiculous range in prices. I sorted for those that were Prime eligible.

    @Tsar Nicholas: Right, but Amazon isn’t dramatically undercutting the market on laundry detergent. Tide is roughly the same price at WalMart, where poor people do shop, and only somewhat more expensive at the supermarket. I’m must saying, it’s not worth $10 on the street absent some nefarious purpose such as Doug hits on.

  8. Franklin says:

    @Doug Mataconis: I was wondering if that was the case …

  9. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Obviously, they are using it to launder money.

  10. @Franklin:

    The only part of it that doesn’t make sense is why Tide would be substantially different, in a chemical sense, from any other detergent.

  11. One thing that bugged me about the original article:

    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.”

    If he had no drugs, in what sense is he drug dealer? At best evidence indicates he may be a detergent dealer, but last I checked that was not a crime.

  12. J-Dub says:

    The empty Tide bottles can be used to transport beer.

  13. J-Dub says:


  14. James says:

    I’m inclined to believe it has something to do with drugs. Recently I was exploring some of the old mine roads around Centralia, Pennsylvania and there were areas that showed signs of recent human activity along dozens of empty bottles of liquid detergent.

  15. Robert in SF says:

    I am going to predict that someone (all of us?) are being punked….this sounds too “outrageous enough to be true” for me…..I haven’t read the actual reports, but I just think someone is putting this out there and letting it go “viral” so they can prove that the media has absolutely no fact check process or requirements in place….

  16. Scott O. says:

    @Robert in SF: I think you’ve got it right. Of all the items that could be shoplifted from a CVS people are taking Tide? I doubt that very much.

  17. Nikki says:

    Can’t remember where I read it, but an article I saw said law enforcement is not seeing a particular upswing in Tide theft. However, they also noted that small markets and privately-owned dollar stores will buy the detergent off the street. Tide is the most expensive laundry detergent, but it is also the best at getting your clothes clean.

  18. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Incidentally, the other ongoing crime spree around the country of which you probably are insouciant is the extent to which metal products are being stolen.

    I just have to point out Tsar, that this has been going on since the Bronze Age. You could blame it all on Augustus, but then he isn’t running for President, is he?

  19. matt says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: When I moved into my place last month we discovered that the water heater wasn’t working right. The landlord replaced it and sat the old heater on the curb and “don’t worry it’ll be gone soon”. Well the next morning it was already gone. I sat a broken heavy metal office chair out in the same spot and it was gone hours later. There’s definitely a market going on for scrap metal in most cities..

    @Stormy Dragon: Indeed this whole thing smells really fishy..

    @Robert in SF: Reminds me of the Jenka hoax..

    @James: Great I already cannot buy cold medicine without being put on a list. I cannot wait for the limits on laundry detergent…

  20. matt says:

    My bad it’s Jenkem not Jenka…