Example: [Collected via e-mail, March 2012]
Origins: On 12 March 2012, The Daily, an iPad publication, reported on a "Grime Wave": a rash of store thefts of Tide brand laundry detergent that had left law enforcement officials across the country puzzled. According to the report, some cities were setting up special task forces to stop Tide theft, retailers were taking special security precautions to protect their Tide, and one Minnesota man stole $25,000 worth of the product before recently being caught. The proffered reasons behind the Tide crime wave were that laundry detergent is a household staple with a relatively high price ($10 to $20 a bottle) which is easily resold to consumers (or other stores), that it's impossible to track, and that Tide is the most recognizable and popular of detergent brands.
One portion of the Daily report linked the Tide-stealing spree to the drug trade and left some readers wondering whether the article was intended as satire:
"These are criminals coming into the store to steal thousands of dollars of merchandise," said Detective Harrison Sprague of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, where Tide is known as "liquid gold" among officers.
He and other law enforcement officials across the country say Tide theft is connected to the drug trade. In fact, a recent drug sting turned up more Tide than cocaine.
"We sent in an informant to buy drugs. The dealer said, 'I don't have drugs, but I could sell you
Police in Gresham, Ore., said most Tide theft is perpetrated by "users feeding their habit."
"They'll do it right in front of a cop car — buying heroin or methamphetamine with Tide," said Detective Rick Blake of the Gresham Police Department. "We would see people walking down the road with six, seven bottles of Tide. They were so blatant about it."
Lt. Matt Swenke of the West St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota referenced one case of a man suspected of stealing $25,000 worth of Tide detergent from a Walmart in West
But, Swenke said, "We haven't noticed anything in terms of this being a rising problem." He said of the five major retailers in the West
"As of yet, we have not been contacted by any of our larger retail establishments," Swenke told FoxNews.com. "I don't know any other jurisdictions in Minnesota that have had that volume."
Authorities in Kentucky also backed away from the claim that Tide theft is on the rise.
Lt. Shannon Smith of the Somerset Police Department recalled a case from 2011 in which three individuals were charged with shoplifting from Cincinnati-based Kroger stores as well as from a local Walmart. Smith says the alleged shoplifters made off with several items, including Tide detergent, and then sold them on the black market to small, privately-owned stores. [H]e stressed that Tide theft, in particular, is no more widespread in the Somerset area than theft of other popular household items.
Retailers, meanwhile, also are denying reports of a new spike in stolen Tide products.
"We are not experiencing a 'wave' of Tide thefts," CVS/pharmacy public relations director Mike DeAngelis wrote.
In Prince George's County, police said they learned from informants, undercover officers and other sources that drug dealers encourage their customers to pay with shoplifted Tide instead of cash.
"I'm out of marijuana right now, but when I get re-upped I'll hook you up if you can get me 15 bottles of Tide," one dealer was quoted as telling an informant, according to police.
Surveillance videos from a Safeway in Bowie, Md., showed crews of two or three people entering the store, loading up shopping carts and rushing outside, where they loaded the detergent into a waiting car. Police made nearly 30 arrests when they broke up the theft ring last fall.
Employees at a Duane Reade drugstore inside New York City's Penn Station said that a few weeks ago, a man walked in with a suitcase and filled it up with bottles of Tide. He was caught on a security camera and detained.
Several retailers were tightlipped about the problem. A Safeway spokesman said only that Tide thefts aren't unique to the chain's stores. A Target representative said the company is aware of the issue and encouraging stores to be vigilant.
Beno, Leah. "Police Catch Serial Tide Detergent Swiper in Minn." KMSP-TV [Minneapolis]. 12 March 2012. Corbin, Cristina. "Police Say Reports of Nationwide Spike in Tide Thefts Doesn't Wash." FoxNews.com. 13 March 2012. Nestel, M.L. "Grime Wave." The Daily. 12 March 2012. Nuckols, Ben. "Thieves Rolling Tide Detergent Out of Stores." Associated Press. 14 March 2012.