Tylenol poisonings - why were 'packages pilfered'?

I heard about the Chicago Tylenol poisonings on another thread (I’m from the UK, never heard this story before).

It states on wiki that:

“the culprit was believed to have entered various supermarkets and drug stores over a period of weeks, pilfered packages of Tylenol from the shelves, adulterated their contents with solid cyanide compound at another location, and then replaced the bottles.”

There is no cite for this. My question is, how can it be known that the packages were pilfered? And, more to the point, why on earth run the risk of stealing them in the first place? A bottle of Tylenol costs what, a couple of dollars?

I don’t think the intention of the culprit was to save money on Tylenol. I think this person’s motives were clearly to cause harm to the specific users of the adulterated pill bottles and also to cause a public disruption in the perception of drug safety. This person succeeded on both fronts, and you have them to thank for the plastic anti-tampering wraps on products of that kind.

EDIT: I guess we don’t know for sure the motivations of the perpetrator, but the fact that a poisonous substance was substituted for the tylenol pills makes it seem more likely that they were nefarious rather than just selfishly ignorant.

Since they never charged anyone with the crimes, the “pilfering” is all based upon speculation. The “pilfering” is really not relavent to the crime of murder.

I don’t think there was any proof that the original packages were “pilfered”. Apparently they think contaminated product was snuck back onto the shelves for unsuspecting customers to purchase.

The urban legend story about this says the FBI had found someone who heavily shorted Tylenol stock before this happened, but without physical proof, it was just circumstantial evidence. OTOH, they couldn’t find anyone who actually mailed anthrax for quite a few years either.

Possibly to avoid the risk being identified by a clerk who remembered someone buying multiple bottles of Tylenol.

I would think that this would be it. As well as keeping the shopkeepers (how quaint is that…weren’t the Tylenol bottles from major stores?) from re-ordering, restocking etc. or otherwise noticing the “extra” bottles re-appearing on the shelf. By pocketing them in the first place then replacing them there is no trail and it is more likely to go unnoticed (as it was) until it is too late.

If 10 bottles of Tylenol are purchased, then 10 bottles will likely be replaced, so when you return to put them back on the shelf there will be no room or you’d have to move or buy or steal the replacement bottles as well as leaving the clerks and stockers wondering why there 10 bottles when they just sold them, which may lead to investigation of those bottles and the tampering discovered before the goal was achieved.

You have to remember when this happened inventory wasn’t automated. You had to take it, even if you bought it no one would remember you nor would there be missing inventory noted, because you had to take inventory at set times, usually once per month.

There weren’t many bottles found on the shelf, it wasn’t like this guy was taking hundreds of them. Only eight bottles were found to be tampered with.

The scary part was if all those people in the same household hadn’t died so close it might have gone unnoticed for a lot longer.

It could also be a person wanting to kill someone and then cover up the crime. It was done years later with Excedrin, when a lady killed her husband with a tainted Excedrin pill, then she got greedy (an accident would pay more on the insurance), so she tainted other bottles and put them out there.

Oh I remember. I was just a little girl, but I remember how scary it was and what the shops were like. That is actually why it would be more noticeable if the bottles were purchased instead of stolen. If the clerks notice they are selling several bottles of something they usually only order once a month, they would be more likely to check the stock left and replace it if need be, even if it wasn’t inventory time. By stealing the bottles, you (the criminal) could be giving yourself up to a month before the missing bottles were noticed, and by that time you would have them replaced before anyone could suspect a thing.

Even at a larger store a few bottles could be significant. And even though only 8 bottles were known to be tampered with, that doesn’t preclude the idea that there could have been plans for more. The first wave might even have been a test-run of sorts, and if it had taken longer to track down the source, more and more bottles may have been involved.

If there were any batch numbers on the packs/bottles, and they were taken from multiple stores, adulterated, then put back in the stores without regard to their original source, this could create a trail from which it might be possible to infer the stated scenario.

I was working in Elk Grove Village at the time. Uniformed police went door to door confiscating bottles of Tylenol before the story had hit the news. I was alone at work, so it was kind of freaky. Handed over two bottles.

This was also the catalyst for tamper evident packaging.

Tampering was also a good method to cause previous employers hardship by ruining sales and recalling product. It’s your call on if this was the propose or just a want to kill people.

Yes, before this happened they did not seal the boxes or the bottles, it was very easy to tamper with over the counter drugs.

When I was in college I read about how the company did a very good job recovering from this , Tylenol sales went down for a short time but came back up to their previous levels. Part of that was their fast decision to make the packages tamper proof.

The tamper event packaging was for food too.