Pssst! Hey buddy! Wanna buy some Tide? Top quality detergent cheap!

The face of black market laundry detergent: Patrick Costanzo.

I’m rarely surprised by things people are willing to steal, but I have to admit that I was taken aback by learning that there is apparently a black market for laundry detergent. Specifically, for the Tide brand as thieves are making off with it by the, literal, cartload.


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.”

Seriously. I am just flabbergasted by that. I mean, I could maybe understand it if you were strapped for cash and were stealing it to do your own laundry with, but to resell on the black market? From the sounds of it the crooks are only going after Tide and none of the alternatives mainly because Tide is the most popular and recognized brand. There’s even a company developing some sort of anti-theft alarm system for bottles of Tide that’s being tested in CVS stores. Did you get that? AN ALARM SYSTEM FOR LAUNDRY DETERGENT!

“These are criminals coming into the store to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise,” said Detective Harrison Sprague of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, where Tide is known as “liquid gold” among officers.

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.”

Police in Gresham, Ore., said most Tide theft is perpetrated by “users feeding their habit.”

I had to double check to see that this wasn’t a parody story in The Onion. Especially after reading this:

“They’ll do it right in front of a cop car — buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide,” said Detective Rick Blake of the Gresham Police Department. “We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles of Tide. They were so blatant about it.”

But it’s no joke. That mugshot back at the top of this entry? That’s Patrick Costanzo who was busted for stealing $6,300 worth of Tide powder (video at the link). He’s no first timer either. Police say Patrick hit the same Walmart some 28 times to steal Tide and a bunch of other crap. He’s also not alone. That store reports thefts of Tide totaling over $25,000!

Just when you think life can’t get any stranger you find out folks are buying their illegal drugs with stolen laundry soap. I’m still trying to understand how this works out well for the drug dealer. I can only assume he must be able to resell the Tide for more than what the drugs were worth and yet still less than what it goes for in the store (otherwise why would you buy it from him?). I’m not sure if that says more about the price of Tide or the price of drugs.

4 thoughts on “Pssst! Hey buddy! Wanna buy some Tide? Top quality detergent cheap!

  1. Drug addicts have been shoplifting personal care items in Chicago for quite some time. I’ve wondered who would buy deodorant from a drug addict, but I’m told that they sell them to unscrupulous corner store owners.

  2. Well laundry detergent is expensive. My dad worked for Colgate Palmolive so we got all of that free for years. It was a big shock when I actually had to buy some of those products.

  3. I know that baby formula is used to “water down” drugs like cocaine, so I am wondering if the tide is also used that way. But if its the liquid kind, perhaps not… I work in a grocery store and I’ll keep an eye on the Tide a little more closely from now on.

  4. Well, the coke is so shitty since they killed Pablo Escobar, there’s no reason to dilute it, it sucks already.. WHat happened is the growing regions changed to ecuador and bolivia from colombia, which entailed different varieties of Ethroxilium Coca that have different alkaloid profiles.. Plus, the war on drugs means closer watch on chemicals and supply routes.. So the coke is shittier, I mean WAAAAAY shittier.. Yet is more expensive and profitable then ever.. War on drugs.. Go figure..

    all they care about now is making horrible crack with it.. The addictive properties are what count now.. Not the quality of the chemical.. So, as usual, the drug war has made everything worse. More deaths. More profit. More bullshit..

    And the cartels laugh all the way to the bank.. As IF they cared abot anything but the profits that the governments of the world have handed to them on a silver platter.. by the criminalization of drugs..

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