Suds for Drugs

suds130107_250This story of how Tide is stolen and used to purchase drugs on the black market is so fascinating I can’t even count the ways.

First, there’s the history and branding of Tide by Procter & Gamble; secondly, there’s the psychological connection consumers feel for it as a result of that marketing that allows the product to sell upwards of 50% more than other detergents — Tide retails for $20 per 150-ounce bottle, but it’s scientifically not much better than any other detergent you can buy. Thirdly, because of that, people steal it in droves to sell on the black market, or in some cases to bodegas or other retail stores, for $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine.

Finally, there’s the economic component to the story that makes all of this possible. Low-paid retail clerks don’t make enough to feel any sense of loyalty to the store and let thieves just walk away with the loot. Also, stores only clear about $2 in profit for every Tide bottle sold because of its high wholesale price, which means many stores are willing to buy black market inventory at $5 per bottle for the chance to make $15 in profit.

And then there’s Procter & Gamble, which doesn’t really give a shit either way: “It’s unfortunate that people are stealing Tide, and I don’t think it’s appropriate at all, but the one thing it reminds me of is that the value of the brand has stayed consistent,” said the company.

This feels like the most quintessential American story — something David Simon could only hope to dream up — that I’ve come across in a long time. [via @ben_rubenstein]

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