Thieves seem to be embarking on an anti-grime spree, some media outlets are reporting, saying thousands of dollars in Tide detergent is being swiped from shelves across the country.
One Minnesota man stole about $25,000 worth of the liquid laundry detergent from a West St. Paul Wal-Mart over 15 months, authorities there say. Some stores, including a CVS in Prince George's County, Md., have taken to wrapping anti-theft devices around the handles of the orange bottles.
Several publications have described the thefts as a widespread crime wave, even calling the detergent "liquid gold," but law enforcement authorities and some retail operators aren’t so sure.
Reached by email, a CVS spokesman acknowledged that the chain had put security devices on some bottles. But, he said, "Theft of Tide is not a new issue in the retail industry, and this is not a chain-wide issue for us."
As for the Minnesota thefts, purportedly by Patrick Costanzo, 53, those have been the only instances in the Twin Cities metro area, Lt. Matt Swenke of the West St. Paul Police Department said in an interview with The Times.
Was Costanzo using the detergent in a literal money-laundering scheme? Did he sell it for dirty deeds?
“He told [police] he didn’t have a job and the state didn’t help him in any way so he did what he had to do to get by,” Swenke said.
Some stolen bottles -- with a retail price between $10 and $20 -- are reportedly resold at flea markets and on the streets at much lower prices.
Jennifer King, a blogger for Spend Less, Shop More, a popular online destination for shopping deals and coupons, has urged shoppers not to succumb to temptation in such instances.
“The counter-balance for these deals is that this is fraud,” King said in an interview.
She said that people in the couponing community were sometimes embarrassed by walking up to the register with a fistful of coupons.
“There [is] a push-back from others saying, ‘Oh, you’re one of those people.’ ”
The embarrassment could lead shoppers to seek black market bargains, King said. She suggested substituting other brands for the pricier Tide, saying she buys whatever detergent is on sale. She's working her way through a stockpile of Purex.
Be wary, she warned, of the vendors with 100 boxes of fabric softener at the swap meet.
“It’s the new Rolex on the side of the street.”
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