Stole Tide

By Jane Beathard

January 28, 2014

A minor shoplifting incident on Jan. 15 at London’s Kroger, 230 Lafayette St., illustrates a bigger problem associated with the shadowy culture of drug abuse.

According to a city police report, a man entered the grocery about 8 p.m., loaded a cart with two 24-packs of bottled water and two large bottles of liquid Tide detergent, priced at about $18 each, and ran past the checkout to the parking lot.

He loaded the items into a silver Toyota, but not before a manager jotted down the vehicle’s license number.

That number traced to an Enon resident who appeared to match the appearance of the alleged shoplifter as captured by Kroger’s security cameras.

Local police checked with authorities in Enon and learned the man was a known heroin addict from the area whose last known address was a homeless shelter in Clark County. He wasn’t located.

Was the caper merely a homeless drug addict needing to do laundry? Not exactly.

Liquid Tide is a known “street currency” among drug traffickers. Its nickname is “liquid gold,” according to published reports.

Unlike baby formula that is an ingredient of crack cocaine, Tide has no use beyond the laundry room, London Police Chief Dave Wiseman said.

Popularity, effective advertising, and a surprisingly high wholesale price led to the detergent’s black market value.

The American Marketing Association defines brand loyalty as when ” a consumer generally buys the same manufacturer-originated product or service repeatedly over time rather than buying from multiple suppliers within the category.” And “the degree to which a consumer consistently purchases the same brand within a product class.”

Tide is a model of brand loyalty. It is the nation’s most popular liquid laundry detergent, owning a 30 percent market share, despite being sometimes more than three times as expensive.

“When it comes to brand loyalty – consumers are often more committed to their laundry soap brand than they are to their spouses,” according to an article by professional and self described “Mom-Spirational” blogger Stef Daniel.

Tide users cross all income levels and continue to pay up to $20 for a 150-ounce bottle, despite the economic downturn.

Tide can cost three to four times as much as lesser brands and consumers still prefer it as their brand. The retail profit on a 150-ounce Tide can be anywhere from $10 to $15.

The unscrupulous often prey on that loyalty.

Less-than-reputable retailers, often in low-income neighborhoods, buy stolen commodities, then mark them up for resale, Wiseman said.

Tracey L. Long, a spokesman for P&G which makes Tide, said it is, “an unfortunate fact that retail theft is an industry issue covering everything from luxury goods to everyday consumables.”

She added, “We have no reason to believe that Tide loyal users are acquiring the product inappropriately.”

Cigarettes are another “hot commodity” in the drug culture, Wiseman noted.

During a break-in last year at a London carryout, thieves by-passed the cash register for cartons of cigarettes.

Wiseman said the cigarettes were more valuable.

Thieves can sell a $6 pack of stolen cigarettes for $3 — a bargain for shady retailers who then resell the smokes at state minimum, Wiseman said.