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Shameless Exploitation in Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner


Rating: (Recommended)


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Worth the Hustle

Readers who are sick and tired of reading books by so-called experts who can provide us with little practical help will love reading Paul Newman’s reflections on his foray into business in his new book, Shameless Exploitation, written with his business partner, A.E. Hotchner. In almost every chapter, Newman and Hotchner describe what the experts told them, then say why they didn’t want to follow the advice of the experts, and go on to success by forging their own path. Here’s one example of that process, from Chapter 7 (pp. 35-37), along with a description of how Newman’s face got on the label, and the explanation of the book’s title:

While we were once again investigating possible bottlers, we were also trying to devise a label for the bottle-to-be. We had been warned by food gurus that it was very tricky business to produce an acceptable food label. They advised us to use only those few graphic artists who specialized in designing labels. Of course, all we had to hear was how things were always done for us not to do it that way. Paul had a racing buddy, Sam Posey, whose wife, Ellen, was an artist, whom he contacted. Although she had never done graphics before, she was willing to take a stab at it. Our first idea was to have a label that looked like parchment, but those early attempts proved to be too bland to stand up against competitive labels.

At this time Paul was driving for an old friend of his, Bob Sharp, who owned the factory-sponsored Datsun (now Nissan) race team, and it was on the way to a race at Lime Rock that Paul mentioned our salad dressing adventure. Bob suggested that we meet with his friend Stew Leonard, who owned a big supermarket in neighboring Norwalk.

We subsequently had lunch with Stew, who warned us (as we had heard many times by now) that his attempts to sell celebrity products had fizzled—Roger Staubach's peanut butter, Graziano's spaghetti sauce (which he said wouldn't sell even in Pittsburgh)—and he said that those products didn't sell because the products themselves were nothing special. "If your dressing is really good," Stew said, "you've got a good shot at it since you'll sell the first bottle because your face is on the label."

"Whoa!" Paul said. "My face is on the label?"

"Of course. How else do you get their attention? You said you weren't going to advertise, so how will the customer know it's you?"

"It'll say Newman’s Own."

"For all they know, that could be Seymour Newman from Newark, New Jersey. You will not be able to sell bottle one unless your face is on the label, that's for sure."

"My face on a bottle of salad dressing? Not a chance in hell."

"Not if the stuff is good. You'll be doing the customers a big favor. Tell you what . . . I'd like to set up a tasting. If your dressing is something special and you have a good label on it, I'll get Andy Crowley at Ken's to bottle it and I'll kick off your sales with a big promotion at my store."

"We don't think you'll get anywhere with Crowley. He already turned us down."

"Gentlemen," Stew said, "I am Andy's best customer—I sell more Ken's than all his other customers combined. If your dressing measures up, I assure you he will bottle it.


We are on the Caca de Toro, mock fishing. The president and vice president of Salad King are having an executive meeting, not knowing which will sink first—the boat or the business. Paul is still breeding over the tacky suggestion that he put his face on a bottle of salad dressing. Even though we weren't flushed with expectation, if it was necessary to do that in order to float the venture, it would be a new low in exploitation. Paul felt, "Put my face on the windshield of a Mercedes-Benz or a Volvo, maybe . . . but salad dressing?"

We floated along for a while, glumly watching the non-bobbing bobbers. Hotch suggested that perhaps the time had come to bag the whole idea. The bobber dipped and Paul reeled in a hermit crab.

"You know, there could be a kind of justice here, Hotch. I go on television all the time to hustle my films. TV gets me and my time for free, and the film gets exposure for free—mutual and circular exploitation, so to speak. Now then, if we were to go the lowest of the low road and plaster my face on a bottle of oil and vinegar dressing just to line our pockets, it would stink. But to go the low road to get to the high road—shameless exploitation for charity, for the common good—now there's an idea worth the hustle, a reciprocal trade agreement."


Then he and the hermit crab went in for a swim.

Shameless Exploitation describes how a successful organization was formed, has grown, and continues to thrive. The authors tell the story lightly, providing entertainment alongside lessons. Tears may come to your eyes when you read some of the stories of how the profits of the business have been used to improve the quality of life of children in need. Read Shameless Exploitation, and go buy a Newman’s Own product.

Steve Hopkins, December 22, 2003


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The recommendation rating for this book appeared in the January 2004 issue of Executive Times

URL for this review: Exploitation.htm


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