Tide Detergent Thefts

What’s going on with the thefts of Tide brand laundry detergent I’ve been reading about? It’s being shoplifted so much that some stores put security tags on the jugs, and in at least one case, some flake was stealing pallet-loads of it from a Wal-Mart. Apparently it is just Tide and not other brands. They say Tide is some sort of currency on the street. I knew the US Dollar was in decline, but this is a bit much. What are they doing with this detergent, making bombs or methamphetamines out of it? Why not other brands —or are other brands also being “boosted” like this?

Snopes gives it an “undetermined”

A quick Google shows a lot of articles, but most seem to lead back to the same source from the Snopes link.

This seems to be an old story and not very widespread.

Snopes is skeptical that there are widespread Tide focused thefts.

It’s true. This recent article from New York Magazine describes why.

In summary, it’s stolen because doing so is a low-penalty crime (compared, for example, with holding up a convenience store at gunpoint); basically it’s a shoplifting offense. For the buyers (retail stores, mainly) they get inventory at a price below what the legitimately purchased product costs. The article goes into how expensive Tide detergent is and why; the expensive ingredients mean that it’s a low-margin item for the retailer. And for the end users, it’s desirable as a status symbol (it costs a lot more than other brands of detergents).

I dispute the middle statement; Tide may be heavily marketed and thus “prized” as a status symbol over generic brands, but I seriously doubt it costs one dime more a bottle than any other brand. Detergent is detergent, blue crystals and smothering scent aside.

Besides, it stinks so much I don’t know how anyone can stand to have a bottle in the house. (In general, I don’t know how that overpowering chemical-floral scent got associated with “clean” in the public mind… well, yes I do, but I can’t believe it.)

Did you read the article? It says, “P&G’s proprietary surfactants and enzymes are relatively expensive to produce, notes Bill Schmitz, a Deutsche Bank analyst, so Tide’s wholesale cost is steep. Only so much of that can be passed on to customers. ‘It’s so tight,’ says Schmitz of the profit margin. In general, a retailer clears just a few percentage points on a Tide purchase. A store that charges $19.99 for a 150-ounce bottle might claim $2 in profit. But if it buys stolen bottles for $5, that jumps to $15.”

By the way, if you object to the odor of the regular stuff, you could do as I do and buy the unscented version.

But it’s the same old reference from Maryland that Snopes talks about. So yeah, maybe sometimes, but I doubt it’s the latest underground currency all over the US.

Yes, I read this and it comes straight from P&G press handouts and marketing materials. There are decades of reports that show almost zero difference in brand-name laundry detergents, other than scent and the color of the Magic Crystals tossed in. I doubt P&G is really paying any more than any other maker for their ingredients, and I suspect that margin cost is exaggerated as well.

I do. But it means walking down an aisle as choking as any hard-hat chemical or processing facility I’ve ever been in, and I am perpetually boggled that the P&Gs of the world have sold people on the idea that that lung-searing FRESH, I SAID FRESH GODDAMMIT scent equates to “clean.”

You’re wrong. The price difference between Tide and the other brands of detergent is staggering…I’m always SHOCKED whenever I see the “per ounce” price posted at the grocery and I NEVER buy Tide for just that reason.

This is the part that doesn’t make sense to me. Besides a very few instances where someone steals the stuff by the pallet, I have to assume they are stolen one detergent container at a time (note: it’s hard to stick more than one container of detergent in your jacket or pants without it being obvious). What retail owner wants to consitently buy their detergent inventory onesie twosie from thieves in an dark alley? It just doesn’t make sense to me.

I’m not disputing that Tide is PRICED high but that its production cost is any higher than any other national brand. Both consumer laundry tests and chemical analyses have shown next to zero difference between the performance and composition of the major brands, and little between them and lower-tier brands.

Any R&D costs were likely amortized before most of us were born.

Tide’s main and costliest ingredient is the sort of intense marketing usually reserved for men’s razors and beer.

I don’t believe it is accurate that consumer tests show no difference. I remember seeing tide consistently at the top of Consumer Reports.

I just checked - and it is the only brand - with a full red circle - under cleanability - in their latest test. Granted this was the powder - and not the liquid I think the article referred to. Not all of their versions got the full red circle, but they were all clustered at the top - with a version of wisk, all, and up&up in between.

I was very surprised about this article. Most crack addicts/members of the criminal underground - don’t drive. A 150 oz bottle is almost 10 pounds. This is - as already has been mentioned - not very portable. While I don’t doubt that this happens in some cases (I had a homeless guy try to sell me a cake a few days ago) - I find it hard to believe this is more than a few isolated incidences. I think this is great PR for tide.

OK, I misunderstood. By “cost” I thoiught you were talking about the cost to the end user.

And I totally agree, that’s why I consider buying Tide a big old waste of money…I’d rather take that extra 10 bucks and buy a couple of cartons of good premium ice cream.

Simple answer. because its pricey ($20 big bottle) If you are equipped a steal a pallet or two you are looking at around 100 bottles or $2K retail per pallet. head for the nearest swap meet, sell for $10/bottle. any full size pickup can handle two pallets, the trick would be not being noticed.
Once you have the stock, moving it via swap meets, craigslist, even legit places like amazon or ebay, would be simple.

Even onesie twosie thefts from a dozen stores a day could make for quite a basic income. I’m sure the thieves target other items as well.

The writer believes everyone did their laundry using washboards and bars of soap until that stupendous, magical year of 1984.

From the story (bolding mine):

Wikipedia’s Tide entry:

“Hi, honey. I hope you fixed the washboard yesterday and scrubbed my other white shirt because I’ll need a clean one after a hard morning splitting atoms down at the cyclotron.”

You people are really over thinking this thing, it’s pretty simple really. You cannot buy detergent, toilet paper or tooth paste with food stamps. So people steal them them for themselves or for trade. When you got kids and you are not a drunk/druggy this stuff matters; drunks and druggy thieves will bring it to you at a reduced cost vs going to the dollar store. If you are going to steal/barter anyway you want the best so that you can swing the best deal; thus you go for Tide, Cottonell and Crest when you can.

You’re talking about the miniscule differences of a CPU benchmark test, where the chart bars might range all over the page but in the wider view (such as, two years later when performance has multiplied by 2-4 times) are so close together as to be identical. All modern detergents clean equally well, slight variations on stain types and test variations aside.

To put it another way, either the Camaro or the Mustang wins every time Car and Driver tests them… but it’s rare for them to be more than a few percent apart in any one test.

Tide is an all-time marketing success story and little more.

Like most such stories where a business writer spends three days writing up a nationally significant product, it’s about 90% unquestioned manufacturer information and 9.5% a quick glance at standard references.

I appreciate the analogy to CPU tests, but consumer reports doesn’t do that - they have no problem producing a report where everyone is given the same rating.

But perhaps it is semantics - they do say all clean “reasonably well” - and mention the difference in stains that you do.