Oprah Winfrey appears to have been the victim of racism whilst shopping in a Swiss handbag store. The talk-show host said, during a recent interview, a sales assistant in a Zurich shop had refused to show her a product because it was "too expensive".
Oprah Winfrey seems to have been the victim of racism whilst visiting Switzerland. The claim follows an incident in which a shop assistant refused to show Winfrey a bag, saying it was "too expensive".
Oprah Winfrey at the New York premiere of The Butler.
Winfrey was in Switzerland attending Tina Turner's wedding when the incident occurred in late July. Whilst shopping in Zurich, Winfrey told Entertainment Tonight: "I go into a store and say to the woman, "'excuse me, may I see that bag over your head?' and she says to me 'no, it's too expensive.'" Winfrey proceeded to ask again to see the bag but the sales assistant responded "no, no, no, you don't want to see that one, you want to see this one, because that one will cost too much and you will not be able to afford that."
After once more requesting to see the bag, Winfrey was denied. The 59-year-old television personality went on to tell the shop assistant "I really do just want to see that one,' and she said, 'I don't want to hurt your feelings,' and I said, 'OK thank you so much, you're probably right, I can't afford it and walked out of the store."
The Tom Ford bag in question was priced at $38 000, considering Winfrey made $77 million between June 2012-June 2013 (according to the Forbes List), the talk-show host could certainly afford the bag.
Winfrey is one of the richest black women in the world and a wonderful example of social mobility, especially in the US. Not only is she a talk-show host and TV personality, she has appeared in numerous films; written books and formed her own television network.
As such, Winfrey appeared more concerned with the sales assistant not recognising her. She focussed more on the ridiculous nature of the situation as opposed to any possible racist overtones. She commented of her own appearance saying ". I didn't have my eyelashes on, but I was in full Oprah Winfrey gear. I had my little Donna Karan skirt and sandals, but obviously The Oprah Winfrey Show is not shown in Zurich."
Oprah Winfrey after delivering a commencement speech at Harvard's graduation ceremony.
However, Winfrey referenced the incident whilst responding to a question about racism. She also addressed the audience of Entertainment Tonight with an open ended question: "Now why did she do that?"
Winfrey declined to reference the store's name; nevertheless it was quickly discovered and revealed as the Trois Pomme. The shop's manager Trudie Goetz claimed the incident was a misunderstanding. In a statement made to CNN, Goetz said ""Mrs Oprah said she just wanted to look at the bag, she didn't want it taken down, and because my sales assistant felt a little embarrassed about the price, she quickly said that she also had the model in other materials such as ostrich and suede, which weren't so expensive." She went on to say the sales assistant wanted to show Winfrey other bags and not because she had no intention of selling the shop's products.
She went on to say that the sales assistant "just wanted to do her best, She feels very bad because she wanted to show her other bags. This had nothing whatsoever to do with racism."
This is all well and good but Winfrey specifically asked three times to look at the Tom Ford bag, why did the assistant deliberately refuse to show her it? As for being embarrassed about the price - if you work in such an expensive shop surely you'd be used to telling customers such prices?
However much the shop assistant and the manager deny any racist motivation in this unpleasant scenario: it's fairly evident this sales assistant harboured outdated stereotypical views.
Oprah Winfrey at the premiere of Beyonce: Life is but a Dream, held at the Ziegfield Theatre, New York.