Cleans Clothes and Pays for Drugs

New York magazine has a fascinating piece looking at the black market currency power of Tide detergent, which is being stolen from stores all across the nation:

Tide bottles have become ad hoc street currency, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 worth of weed or crack cocaine. On certain corners, the detergent has earned a new nickname: “Liquid gold.”

It’s not just for drugs either—people steal the detergent and sell them to other stores, too. Tide detergent is expensive even for wholesale prices, which means the profit margin is slim.

In general, a retailer clears just a few percentage points on a Tide purchase. A store that charges $19.99 for a 150-ounce bottle might claim $2 in profit. But if it buys stolen bottles for $5, that jumps to $15.

Other things I learned from the story: “the average U.S. consumer buys 68 pieces of clothing a year,” Tide is everyone’s favorite laundry detergent by far, and people are loyal to the brand regardless of what’s happening with the economy.

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