The PJ Tatler

It Must be True. I Read It on the Internets

You’ve probably heard the report that has swept the internet in the last 24 hours about how Tide laundry detergent is being stolen off the shelves of our stores in record numbers. The problem has gotten so bad that some cities have set up special task forces to combat the problem.

It’s a great story. Too bad it’s not true.

Fox News:

Police and retailers are pushing back against a report claiming that theft of Tide laundry detergent is on the rise nationwide and that some cities are devising special task forces to crack down on the alleged phenomenon.

The Daily, an iPad publication, reported Monday that authorities from New York to Oregon are combating a new wave of Tide theft at popular retail stores, like CVS and Walmart. The story quickly spread virally across the Internet, and was even the subject of a segment Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

While police acknowledge that name-brand household items are commonly swiped from store shelves, authorities in at least two states referenced by the publication say they have not seen a specific rise in stolen Tide detergent.

Lt. Matt Swenke of the West St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota described laundry detergent as a “needed commodity” – much like baby formula and toilet paper – that he said is often a target for shoplifters looking to profit by reselling the items to privately-owned retail stores.

He referenced one case of a man suspected of stealing $25,000 worth of Tide detergent from a Walmart in West St. Paul over a 15-month period. He said the man, identified as 53-year-old Patrick Costanzo, was seen on surveillance video stocking up his shopping cart with various items, including Tide, and walking out of the store without paying.

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 St. Paul area, only one store – Walmart – came forward to police about thousands of dollars of missing Tide inventory believed to have been taken by Costanzo.

“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.”

Similar denials of a massive Tide theft problem have come from other locales mentioned in the article.

Internet rumors run the gamut from the serious — like the report that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been assassinated — to the silly — such as anything to do with Snookie. It reminds us of the tremendous value of an open internet as well as the potential downside.

We’ve all been caught up in one or more of these false internet rumors. I imagine we’ll continue to get fooled as long as people can put whatever they want to on a webpage and hit the “Publish” button.