Tide: Detergent of Choice Among Dealers

Last year my daughter’s 4th grade science project involved splashing cherry juice on scraps from a white cotton t-shirt, and testing the cleaning power of various laundry detergents. She emerged from the lab unable to perceive a difference among the contestants — the popular brand (Tide), the eco-friendly brand and the generic alternative from Safeway. They all performed about as well as the control wash, nothing but cold water.

Tide meanwhile is 50% more expensive than other similar liquid detergents, and shoppers still buy twice as much of it as its nearest competitor. And it’s not just winning the mindshare game among the coveted Chief Household Officers, either. Jugs of Tide — not just any brand of liquid laundry detergent, mind you, the National Retail Federation’s report calls out Tide specifically — are disappearing from store shelves and ending up in the hands of drug dealers.

From New York Magazine:

As the cases piled up after his team’s first Tide-theft bust, [Organized Retail Crime Unit sergeant] Thompson sought an answer to the riddle at the center of the crimes: What did thieves want with so much laundry soap? To find out, he and his unit pored over security recordings to identify prolific perpetrators, whom officers then tracked down and detained for questioning…. It turned out the detergent wasn’t ¬≠being used as an ingredient in some new recipe for getting high, but instead to buy drugs themselves. Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: ‘Liquid gold.’ The Tide people would never sanction that tag line, of course. But this unlikely black market would not have formed if they weren’t so good at pushing their product.

I’m going to ask my daughter to re-run her experiment. I mean, how can anyone say Tide isn’t the most bad-ass of laundry soaps?!

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