SOAP OPERA by Alecia Swasy


The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble
Email this review


 Wall Street Journal reporter Swasy was, she tell us, spied upon, followed, and bugged while writing this admirable--if ultimately somewhat disappointing--history of the dark side of Ivory-soap and Tide manufacturer Proctor & Gamble. According to hundreds of interviews Swasy conducted with current and former P&G managers, contractors, and company watchdogs, P&G--a founder of the national brand name and a pillar of Cincinnati civic life since 1837--turns out to be a paranoid corporate strongman obsessed with controlling the lives of its employees and preserving the sacrosanct reputation of its brands. In chapters devoted, respectively, to the single-minded career of CEO Ed Artzt, to racism and sexism at headquarters, to totalitarian demands for worker loyalty, to hushed-up environmental debacles in P&G plants around the nation, and, finally, to the ruthless marketing here and abroad of brands--including Crest, Pampers, Tide, and, most notoriously, Rely tampons (which were responsible for a number of deaths in the toxic-shock syndrome scandal of the 1970's), Swasy thoroughly dismantles P&G's wholesome image. The documentation of various kinds of corporate malfeasance--including the well-publicized but still shocking episode in which P&G persuaded friendly local county law-enforcement officials secretly to search the private phone records of hundreds of P&G employees, looking for calls to Swasy's Pittsburgh phone after an unfavorable story by her appeared in The Wall Street Journal--is heroic. But the cumulative tale isn't shapely enough to stand on its own as a cautionary story, and Swasy is too close to it to ask what it tells us about corporate America today. For all Swasy's careful work, the book finally has a little ring of an author's rant. Must reading, however, for company watchers, P&G shareholders, curious consumers, and citizens of Cincinnati. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs)

Pub Date: Oct. 4th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8129-2060-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Times/Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1993