Is Tide Detergent Liquid Gold?

Legendary investor Jim Rogers once said if investors want a better understanding of a country’s economy, they should visit the black market.  In the United States, authorities are reporting a growing black market for a popular laundry detergent.

Procter & Gamble’s (NYSE:PG) Tide detergent is experiencing a spike in theft.  Some cities are actually creating task forces to track the number of bottles in various stores.  Police believe thieves are stealing Tide in order to sell the soap on the black market.  While gold (NYSEARCA:GLD) is often seen as an alternative currency for international trade, Tide is considered to be liquid gold on the street.  The soap is one of the more expensive brands and retails for $10 to $20, but is sold for about 50 percent less on the black market in order to obtain cash or purchase drugs.

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The amount of Tide theft is simply staggering in some cases.  ABC News (NYSE:DIS) reports, “Near Minneapolis, cameras caught 53-year-old Patrick Costanzo stealing more than $25,000 worth of the product over the course of 15 months.”  Costanzo would load up his cart with Tide and other products, then simply push the stolen goods right past workers.  Now, stores such CVS (NYSE:CVS) and Walgreens (NYSE:WAG) are increasing security measures.  Some locations even keep detergent in a locked container, requiring an employee to retrieve it for customers.

Tide is a popular choice among thieves, because like any good currency, it is a store of value, easily recognizable and measurable.  Laundry detergents have a long shelf life and the glowing orange Tide container is unmistakable.  The detergents also come in various sizes.  Furthermore, some Tide products do not contain traceable serial numbers, allowing thieves to make a clean getaway.

In the U.S., various forms of stealing and black market practices are likely to increase as the economy remains weak.  Earlier this month, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs in February, but the national unemployment rate remained unchanged at 8.3 percent.  Americans continue to also feel pain at the pump.  Last month, the average gasoline price per gallon broke $3.50, the highest average for the month of February in history.

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To contact the reporter on this story: Eric McWhinnie at staff.writers@wallstcheatsheet.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Damien Hoffman at editors@wallstcheatsheet.com