Soap Thieves, A Surprising Lesson About Prepping


Soap thieves, who knew?

soap thieves

Image from Priceonomics Blog

The other day, we found a news story that taught us a lesson every prepper should know and follow.

If you live in a city, you may have seen local drugstores lock up items like soap and shampoo. This sounds odd: why would low-value items like soap need to be kept under lock-and-key? As it turns out, thieves can use stolen soap just like currency. Priceonomics blog explains the reason:

Products like cigarettes and soap perform some of the major functions of money very well. Since there is a consistent demand and market for them, even when they're not on store shelves, they retain their value. (Unlike an iPod, they never become obsolete.) Since they have standard sizes, they can also be used as a unit of account. You can pay for something with one, five, or ten packs of cigarettes depending on its value. In areas where fences or other buyers are always willing to purchase stolen products like soap, it's just as good as money.

When you’re a thief, items like massive amounts of laundry soap always have value and can’t be tracked by police, unlike stolen cars or jewelry. That means it’s safer to traffic in stolen soap than other more expensive stolen goods.

While it may seem a little weird to use laundry soap as currency, think about it: our current currency is simply little pieces of paper and metal! According to basic economics, anything can be used as currency as long as all parties participating in an exchange agree how much it’s worth.

What Stolen Soap Can Teach Preppers

By this point, you’re probably wondering why we’re sharing a message about criminal economics on a prepper blog.

No, we’re not encouraging a life of crime. But we are pointing out that any item with real value, even soap, can be used in trades and exchanges if other currency becomes unusable.

Here’s a realistic scenario: say there’s a major spring storm in your area. It’s going to be days until FEMA can show up to provide relief efforts. In the meantime, you need to make it on your own.

If there are supplies your neighbor has that you need, having extra supplies — such as soap — means you have something to trade. You can go to your neighbor and propose an exchange. Since you have extra supplies on hand, you can freely trade your surplus in order to get what you need. Everybody wins.

What Kinds of Items Should I Stock Up On?

It’s a common practice to stock up on cash and gold, but it’s smart to invest in other types of non-perishable items of value, too.  (You can’t eat cash or gold if you’re hungry!)

With some help from our friends at Back Door Survival, here’s a big list of items you could potentially use in place of currency:

Basic Survival Necessities

Medical Supplies and Toiletries

  • Prescription drugs

  • Painkillers

  • Disinfectants (like Sovereign Silver Aid Gels)

  • Toilet paper

  • Cough syrup and other remedies

  • Disposable razors/razor blades

  • Feminine products

  • Diapers

  • Toothpaste, floss, and extra toothbrushes

  • Soap and laundry detergent

  • Shampoo

  • Condoms

Day-to-Day Items

  • Reading glasses

  • Tools like saws, machetes, hammers, hatchets, and other general-repair tools

  • Fuel (any kind)

  • Fuel treatment (like fuel stabilizers)

  • Paracord

  • Duct tape

  • Plastic sheeting and tarps

  • Solar battery chargers (don’t forget rechargeable batteries!)

  • Pencil and paper

  • Seeds

  • Vinegar and baking soda (for making your own cleaning supplies)

  • Games (like board games, cards, etc.)

  • Sewing needs/crochet needs and yarn

You’ll notice ammo isn’t on this list. There’s a reason for that. As Back Door Survival explains, “In a post-collapse society, you might not know your barter partners well and may run the risk that they will use these items against you so that they can steal the rest of you stuff.”

If you do exchange ammo, make sure to never go alone and have someone else there who can back you up if the trade goes south.

Almost Anything Can Be Traded

The list above is by no means comprehensive, but it should communicate the point we’re trying to make: everything with value can be traded in an emergency scenario. Make sure to stock up on items with a long shelf life so you’ll have plenty to barter in a post-collapse environment.

Did we forget anything on this list you think should be here? Do you have any stories of bartering items after a disaster? Let us know in the comments!



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9 Responses to Soap Thieves, A Surprising Lesson About Prepping

  1. Gray Fox 114 March 29, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    Candles, lantern wicks, mantles for pressurized lanterns…..the list goes on and on, but we’re talking bartering, not our own long term survival needs….so, in addition to the above: Knives, all types and qualities, hatchets and axes(I buy them at yard sales, any condition, and refurbish them to sell or trade. At one time, I had about 20, total investment of maybe $10, sold them at a garage sale and made about $100…)Nails, all types and sizes, take little space and everyone will need them. Ever try to hold plastic sheeting by tying? A flat board and nails makes securing them easy!
    And of course, batteries, all sizes and types, and a cheapie solar charger. Batteries, if they have a charge, will be worth their weight in gold, if not more! Just a few random thoughts!

  2. Mama Grizzly March 30, 2014 at 7:11 am #

    And even though I use neither, some of the hottest commodities for bartering include alcohol and cigarettes. I can’t bring myself to purchase the cigarettes, but can justifiy stocking up on cheap vodka, in that I can use it for disinfecting and making herbal tinctures.:-S

  3. Josh March 31, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    I’m with Mama Grizzly… Alcohol will be a major bartering tool. Understanding how to use a still to produce spirits will be a major benefit. And not just for drinking. Sanitation, pain control, sterilization etc. Many high proof spirits can even be used as fuel for heat, light, and even to power an engine.

  4. Jocko April 1, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    I don’t use them but. Feminine hygiene products , any and all.

    Files and stones for sharpening tools. rope. shovels. tools that don’t need fuel or electricity. Brace and bit = hand operated drill and bits.

    Avoid trouble and keep your head down.

  5. Ronald April 8, 2014 at 6:48 am #

    Fyi. In Day-to-Day, Reading glasses are listed twice.

    Remember to stockpile based on whether you plan to stay put or bug out. Fifths of Jack are hard to carry, but some Ibuprofin works great. Bandaids are a good bet in my book too. Light, cheap, but necessary for cuts, blisters, and preventing infection.

    Remember bartering items like knives and axes potentionaly arms possible hostiles. While ammo is more dangerous, I don’t like taking a chance. I would rather trade medical supplies and play it safe. Plus medical supplies run out while an axe may remain useful decades after a SHTF senario. So medical supplies become more valuable over time.

    My $.02.

    • jeff April 8, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

      Thanks, we updated the list to have Reading Glasses only once.

    • Chantel April 8, 2014 at 4:03 pm #

      I agree, aspirin, etc…will keep for 10 years, bandages, etc….I also stock pile vitamins, especially vitamin C. Never know when you might not be able to get the foods and fruits that contain it. We also stock pile coffee. Even old coffee is still coffee. The most important thing not listed is…..WATER.
      On another note, pet food. The prices doubled in the last couple of months.

  6. BGenie April 8, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    I think the writer of this article needs some reading glasses…

    Grey fox has a point with the batteries and charger.

    I’m like Mama Griz, in that, I can’t bring myself to buy something I’ll never use (tobacco). I’d rather spend money on a surplus of things I know I will use, and can barter with.
    The economists say that in a depression, the only commodities that increase in sales are tobacco, alcohol and chocolate. The author covered what people need; I’d add anything that people are addicted to, like coffee. BTW, tobacco does not have to be cigs; it comes in other forms like cigars and chew.
    …so I guess my addition to this article would be chocolate and coffee, and one less pair of reading glasses 😛 .

  7. mariowen April 9, 2014 at 4:27 am #

    Chew may be a better item to use for barter than cigarettes. That is because you can use it without it giving away your location – no smoke. So for those who are interested in OPSEC, chew might be your best bet.

    And the best thing to do: Un-addict yourself of things that may be hard to come by. If you are hooked on something, then you are at a disadvantage. So break the habit while you are not in the middle of a crisis that will make it that much harder on yourself. No point in making a hard situation even worse. You will be forced to go without your addiction if soup hits the fan – unless you have a deep supply on hand.

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