Swiss luxury shop denies racism towards Oprah

Sales assistant refused to show crocodile handbag, saying it was "too expensive", says Winfrey.

Reuters August 11, 2013
File photo of Oprah Winfrey. PHOTO: FILE

ZURICH: The owner of a luxury goods shop in Zurich has denied that racism was involved when Oprah Winfrey was discouraged from buying a 35,000 Swiss franc ($38,100) handbag.

The US talk show host, recently named the world's most powerful celebrity, was in Switzerland for the wedding of singer Tina Turner when the incident occurred last month.

The broadcaster said in two US interviews that a sales assistant had refused to show her the crocodile handbag, saying it was "too expensive" and steering her towards other, cheaper ones.

Luxury shop Trois Pommes denied discriminating against Winfrey, an African-American, who asked to look at a "Jennifer" purse, designed by Tom Ford and named for actress Jennifer Aniston. The owner put the incident down to a language barrier.

"This is an absolute classic misunderstanding," shop owner Trudie Goetz told Reuters on Friday.

"This has nothing to do with racism, I am here for everyone and the customer is king."

The sales assistant had wanted to show Winfrey that the bag was also available in other materials, which may have given the TV host the impression the shop did not want to sell it to her, Goetz said.

"Of course that's not the case. Who wouldn't want to sell a purse for 35,000 francs?" Goetz said.

Trois Pommes operates various luxury-brand boutiques in Switzerland, including the Tom Ford shop in Zurich where Winfrey said she was refused.

Winfrey, 59, who runs her own TV network, earned $77 million in the year to June 2013, taking the No 1 spot on the Forbes most powerful celebrity list last month, the fifth time she has headed the annual ranking.

She also appears in a forthcoming movie, The Butler, which examines race issues in a story about an African-American who works at the White House under several US presidents.

The shop incident unleashed a volley of criticism in Switzerland.


n.o. shooter | 10 years ago | Reply

The west is the best. To make that state ment shows your ignorance and lack of knowledge of truths not truths.@Ch. Allah Daad:

Claire | 10 years ago | Reply

Some of these responses is why racism and prejudice thrive. All because it doesn't happen to you, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. There can be times where there are misunderstandings, but for a 59 year old Black woman who has spend the last several years shopping in high end stores, I think Oprah would know the difference between someone offering other items for sale or someone snubbing her.

Everyone commenting, have obviously never shopped in a high end store where if the customer asks to see the curtains on the windows, the service rep will take them down, dry clean them and send them to the customer immediately. Its all about making the customer feel as if they are the most important in the world. If Oprah asked to see a purse, and the first reaction of the rep is to offer another purse, and not the one she asked for, racism or not that is just rude and unprofessional.

Normally in these situations, the rep would have shown the customer the bag, allowed the customer to observe it, feel it, etc. Then read the customer to see how they react to the price or the material. It is only then that they are to offer alternatives. These people are highly skilled and trained to deal with wealthy customers and best believe, if Oprah felt snubbed, she was snubbed. Epic fail for this boutique.

Replying to X

Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.

For more information, please see our Comments FAQ