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‘Liquid gold’: How Tide laundry detergent is being used as hard currency by drug addicts buying crack on the street

By  Daily Mail Reporter

PUBLISHED: 17:42 EST, 7  January 2013 |  UPDATED: 18:00 EST, 7 January 2013

 

The pricey detergent is known as 'liquid gold' on the streets, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 of weed or crack cocaineThe pricey detergent is known as ‘liquid gold’ on the  streets, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 of weed or  crack cocaine

Police have finally discovered why Tide  laundry detergent is fast becoming one of the most-stolen item from shops and  grocery stores in recent months – drug addicts are selling it or exchanging it  to buy crack.

The pricey detergent – which has been  America’s number one since it was first released in 1946 – is known as ‘liquid  gold’ on the streets, with a 150-ounce bottle going for either $5 cash or $10 of  weed or crack cocaine.

In grocery stores, it sells at upwards of $20  per 150-ounce bottle, about 50 per cent more than the average liquid detergent  so is easily sold on to privately-owned  retail stores for a profit.

Police first reported the strange crime wave  sweeping the nation in March of last year and were baffled as to the sudden  surge in theft of the highly-recognizable  brand.

An investigation headed by Sergeant Aubrey  Thompson in Maryland found some explanation as to why.

The bright orange jugs became ad hoc street  currency due to the fact it was such a popular house-hold name – whatever the  income – and people were not prepared to forego buying the brand even in  recessionary times because it was associated with quality.

‘It doesn’t matter where the clothes come  from, if you wash them with Tide, they do have almost this prestige wash to  them,’ said Maru Kopelowicz, a global creative director at Saatchi &  Saatchi.

During his investigation, Sgt Thompson found  that the detergent was flying off the shelves.

Speaking about one grocery store in suburban  Bowie, he told New York  Magazine: ‘They were losing $10,000 to $15,000 a month, with people just taking it off the  shelves.’

Detergent made the National Retail  Federation’s list of most-targeted items last year for the first time ever.

Joseph LaRocca, founder  of the trade group  RetailPartners, who helped compile the report said: ‘Tide  was specifically  called out.’

Patrick Costanzo, 53, was arrested in West St Paul in February after police say he loaded up his shopping cart over a period of 15 months with the cleaner, wheeling it past workers 

Patrick Costanzo, 53, was arrested in West St Paul in  February after police say he loaded up his shopping cart over a period of 15  months with the cleaner, wheeling it past workers

 

Also, stealing the detergent garners a low  penalty conviction if thieves are caught – as opposed to mugging someone in the  street, for example, or breaking into someone’s home.

‘They are smart. They are creative. They want  high reward and low risk,’ Sgt Thompson said. ‘Theft convictions can come with a  maximum fifteen-year prison sentence, but the penalty for shoplifting is often  just a small fine, with no jail time.

‘It’s the new dope. You can get richer and  have less chance of doing jail time.’

A study of about a month's worth of security tapes showed Costanzo making four to five visits a week for the product, among other items, from January 1 to February 7A study of about a month’s worth of security tapes  showed Costanzo making four to five visits a week for the product, among other  items, from January 1 to February 7

Unlike other commonly-stolen items such as  smartphones or electronioc devices, bottles of the  cannot be traced, and  they are not locked up but freely available to take off the shelves as they are  so popular.

Sundar Raman, the marketing director of  Procter & Gamble’s North American fabric-care division, told New York  Magazine of the surge in Tide thefts: ‘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.’

From the East Coast to the West, some CVS  drug stores have begun locking up their detergent while some cities have set up  special task forces to tackle the recent spree.

Last year, a  Minnesota man  was arrested after allegedly stealing more than $25,000 worth of the  product.

Patrick Costanzo, 53, was  arrested in West St. Paul in February after police say he loaded up his  shopping cart over a  period of 15 months with the cleaner, wheeling it past  workers.

A study of about a month’s worth of security  tapes  showed Costanzo making four to five visits  a week for the product, among other  items, from January 1 to February 7.

‘It’s like he put the pieces in there like  Tetris pieces,’ said investigator Sean Melville of the West St.  Paul police to  ABC news.

‘He maximized that cart, there’s no  wasted  space,’ he said after watching the store’s surveillance  footage.

‘We don’t have any insight as to why the  phenomenon is  happening, but it is  certainly unfortunate,’ said  Procter and Gamble spokeswoman Sarah Pasquinucci said in March.

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