Swiss luxury shop denies racism towards Oprah

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

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.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • AluChat
    Aug 11, 2013 - 12:31PM

    So now they are calling her a liar as well. This is blatant racism.

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  • antanu
    Aug 11, 2013 - 1:45PM

    racism is vide spread in the west but foe pseudo-seculars amongst us west is the best.

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  • Khalid
    Aug 11, 2013 - 2:21PM

    I don’t blame the shop owner, with all her million$ and “powers” Operah is no Angelina Jolie – reality can be bitter sometimes.

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  • Khalid
    Aug 11, 2013 - 3:36PM

    If you look to be offended you often will be offended.

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  • hyl
    Aug 11, 2013 - 7:04PM

    This happens in Pakistan too. If you are male and wear Shalwar Kameez people look down on you.

    @Khalid:
    She’s worth billions. Not millions. Billions. What Jolie will make in her entire career Oprah makes every single year.

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  • stars
    Aug 11, 2013 - 7:11PM

    West is the best because it keeps fighting its social issues unlike the denialism found in pakistan…infact the whole idea of two nation theory is racism at its very best.

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  • Yousaf Hyat
    Aug 11, 2013 - 7:33PM

    Oprah should spend the money instead on a school in Africa so future generations of Africans are honorable aware and suave individuals …why buy a bag for 34000 US.?

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  • Dr. Asad Sadick
    Aug 11, 2013 - 8:18PM

    Switzerland, these days likes going racist these days. A few days back the Canton of Aargau has set a racist example, by restricting asylum seekers from using public swimming facilities and banned them from visiting other so called “sensitive” spot.

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  • Aug 11, 2013 - 9:00PM

    When a customer shows interest in certain item,a good salesman will always make sure that he/she is shown similar products available in different price ranges.It is then for the buyer to choose from among them which he/she likes and affords.I don’t think the salesman did anything wrong

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  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Aug 11, 2013 - 10:43PM

    @antanu:
    West is not the best but its much much better than us. Few instances of racism and behaviour of few is not the reflection of whole society. A fool would call western society an ideal one but it has covered a long way whereas we haven’t yet started.

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  • Parvez
    Aug 12, 2013 - 12:33AM

    ………..more publicity for Oprah ( not that she needs it ), but the real winner is the Jennifer purse and Tom Ford. Now guess who all will want four of them ??

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  • Claire
    Aug 12, 2013 - 7:12PM

    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.

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  • n.o. shooter
    Aug 13, 2013 - 8:48PM

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

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