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.