Selling Tide For Crack? How Detergent Became a Key Player in the Drug Trade


Tide would seem to be something inconsequential. People do their laundry with it and that's about it. It, seemingly, has few other uses. Shockingly, Tide detergent has become a kind of currency in the drug trade, as dealers are trading Tide for drugs. A 150 ounce bottle can go for $5 in cash, or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. Tide, the last thing one would expect to exchange for crack, is apparently the ticket. In Maryland, as well as other states, retail stores are losing close to $15,000 a month from people shoplifting Tide. What this does prove is that if something as basic as Tide can be traded for drugs, we stand little chance of ever truly getting a handle on the illegal drug trade.

Am I advocating giving up fighting the war on drugs and making drugs legal? No, I'm not. What I am saying is that the war on drugs is not winnable. There will always be something like Tide which can be used in exchange for drugs. And the black market criminals will always be one step ahead of those trying to fight them.

This Tide for drugs scheme has been deemed "organized retail crime." How in the world can law enforcement officials keep up when it has been discovered that the Tide theft ring was highly organized with some two dozen thieves working around the clock to clean out local retailers of the detergent? The simple answer is, they can't.

Since Tide is a staple found in most households across the socioeconomic spectrum, it makes it an excellent currency for the drug trade. Everyone needs it, and they'll be willing to get it in any way they can. Additionally, Tide has no serial numbers so it's impossible to track it once it's been stolen. This is perfect for those in the drug trade. It's an untraceable product that is as good as cash for drugs. The Tide currency has gone national and quite possibly international as well. Tide is quite simply "liquid gold."

The reason Tide works in this scheme is because it is a quality product. People want it and they need it; it's the brand of choice for many people when doing laundry. Stealing Tide from retail stores is much easier than committing armed robbery, and the penalties for shoplifting are minimal. It's a win-win for criminals; minimal risk and maximum rewards.

It's also something so basic, it could avoid notice. But if the Tide for drug trade proves anything, it demonstrates that the criminals are always going to be one step ahead of law enforcement. It might be Tide today, but it will be some other product tomorrow. It also proves that there will always be a product worthy of currency in the black market drug trade. Right now, Tide is the winning currency. And everyone trying to fight the illegal drug trade is two steps behind.