Manufacturers strive mightily to promote brand recognition and build customer loyalty.
Procter & Gamble may have succeeded a little too well in that regard. Some of the most loyal consumers of its laundry detergent Tide are thieves. Police departments say the theft of Tide nationwide has become rampant. A Minnesota man was recently arrested for stealing $25,000 worth of Tide from a Walmart over 15 months.
You would think stealing a large, heavy, orange container would press the limits of shoplifting, but thieves have settled on a quite direct form of pilferage: They load a shopping cart with as much Tide as it will hold and run like crazy for the exit and a waiting getaway car.
Tide can be easily resold on the black market, generally for $5 to $10 a container, and apparently it's an easy product to exchange for drugs.
According to the Internet app The Daily, one suburban police department sent an informant to buy drugs. According to the detective on the case, "The dealer said, 'I don't have drugs, but I could sell you 15 bottles of Tide.'"
We suppose one positive side of the trend is that underground chemists can't turn Tide into meth or opiates or hallucinogens or date-rape drugs. All Tide really does is make suds.
Tide containers don't have serial numbers and putting tracking devices on them would be prohibitively expensive. Police instead will have to be on the lookout for suspicious persons wearing unnaturally clean clothes.
Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington.