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Crime & Justice

Tide detergent theft: Loads of dirty money leave a stain on brand identity

Photo by Brandi Korte via Flickr Creative Commons

Tide detergent bandits are cleaning up, as authorities across the country mark a rise in the theft of high-priced laundry soap. 

Police say the signature suds are being sold and traded on the black market for quick cash and drugs.

With a retail price of roughly $10 to $20 a bottle, the street value of Tide can go for $5 to $10, says the iPad-based publication, The Daily, who first reported the new, nationwide trend in liquid currency.

One police detective said of the transactions, "They’ll do it right in front of a cop car -- buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide...We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles."

In California, grocery chains like Ralphs have been on high alert in the area of organized shoplifting and retail crime, notes NBC LA. "These thieves target many different products like Tide, Red Bull, or shampoo," said a Ralphs rep.

Some officials have called Tide, "the item to steal" because of the difficulty in tracking the product. The dramatic increase in disappearing detergent has so soiled some cities that special task forces have been set up to stop it.

Retailers, like CVS, are so lathered that they've even taken special security precautions to avoid being hung out to dry.

So, why "Tide?"

In a fascinating case of consumer perception and branding backfire (or success, depending on the measurement), it appears Proctor & Gamble's immersive marketing strategies have made their product so popular that people are now stealing it. Police say the Tide-targeted specificity is about brand-name recognition.

Keeping their hands Seaside Fresh, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble told The Daily, "We don’t have any insight as to why the phenomenon is happening, but it is certainly unfortunate."