Monday, January 14, 2013

Tide Detergent as Drug Community Currency?

While at work this afternoon, I thought I heard on the police scanner a report of a large amount of laundry detergent stolen from a South Burlington, Vermont Price Chopper supermarket.

If that report is true, Vermont has finally joined one of the latest trends in American commerce: An underground Tide Detergent market.

My brother-in-law David Jenne alerted me to a bizarre New York magazine article about huge thefts of Tide detergent .

As I began reading the article, excellently written by Ben Paynter, I assumed there was something specifically in Tide detergent that could make meth or some other unhappy addictive drug.

It turns out Tide is great for cleaning clothes but as far as we know, it's worthless for making illegal drugs. But Tide is not worthless to people in the drug trade, oh not at all!

It turns out Tide has strong brand loyalty among many Americans and it has a cache in some circles as being the Alpha detergent, the one the cool people use.

So, people steal big piles of Tide in supermarkets, then drug addicts or distributers sell it to crooked bodegas or even chain stores, according to the New York magazine article. They use the proceeds from the Tide sales to buy their drugs, or whatever they want to spend their money on.

Tide is an easy product to steal, compared to other items. There's no theft detection equipment attached to it, like there might be on expensive items like watches or smart phones or other gadgets. You can't easily track a bottle of Tide once it's stolen, as Paynter notes in his article.

And if a menacing looking couple of guys blast through the supermarket checkout with shopping carts full of Tide and don't pay for it, a skinny little high school kid staffing the checkout isn't going to stop them.

Once again, I feel left out of a raging national trend. I have nothing against Tide, but that's not my laundry detergent of choice. So I use uncool detergent to clean my uncool clothes.

And  I live in an uncool place, apparently. If that South Burlington, Vermont theft report turns out to be true, and involves Tide, it's the first time I've heard about it happening in Vermont. The tide of Tide thefts began in earnest two years ago, apparently. So Vermont is way behind the times.

I know how this will play out. There will be songs glorifying Tide thefts. Maybe a few of the more rogue celebrities will sport jewelry and clothes that resemble the logo on Tide bottles. Then the trend will spread to hipsters. There will be a zillion Tide memes on Twitter and on Facebook.

Finally, everyone will be exhausted by Tide and it will go out of fashion and go back to being the old reliable laundry detergent typically bought by those choosy mothers who also choose Jif.

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