August 9, 2013

Oprah Winfrey in racism flap over Switzerland purse incident

Oprah Winfrey says that a sales clerk at an upscale Zurich boutique refused to show her a $38,000 purse because it was “too expensive.” Racism? Or a misunderstanding?

Switzerland’s national tourism board has apologized to Oprah Winfrey for an incident that occurred there last month when a boutique salesperson refused to show her a pricey handbag because it was “too expensive.”

Oprah was in Zurich for Tina Turner’s wedding and was shopping in an upscale shop when a $38,100 crocodile handbag caught her eye.

“I was in Zurich the other day at a store whose name I will not mention. 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,” she 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.'

“She said, no, no, no you want to see this one because that one will cost too much you won’t be able to afford that one ...

"One more time, I tried. I said, 'But I really do just want to see that one,' and the shopkeeper said, 'Oh, I don't want to hurt your feelings,' and I said, 'Okay, thank you so much. You're probably right, I can't afford it.' And I walked out of the store.”

Oprah, who was promoting her upcoming movie, “The Butler,” told the story as an example of ways she is subjected to racism.

“I could’ve had the whole blow-up thing and thrown down the black card, but why do that? But that clearly is, you know ... it (racism) still exists. Of course it does," said Oprah.

She didn’t make a fuss about the incident. But after the interview came out, people identified the store as Trois Pomme.

Daniela Baer, a spokeswoman for Switzerland’s national tourism board, told The Associated Press that “we are very sorry for what happened to her.”

On Thursday, the Swiss Tourism board tweeted: “We are fuming – this person acted terribly wrong. We are sorry this happened to @oprah!”

The manager of the boutique called the incident a “200 percent misunderstanding” and had nothing to do with racism.

"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," Trudie Goetz, manager of Trois Pomme, told CNN.

“Mrs. Oprah got the impression she didn't want to sell the bag to her because she wanted to show her other bags. This had nothing whatsoever to do with racism.

"Who wouldn't want to sell a bag like that? Everyone would. My saleswoman just wanted to do her best. She feels very bad because she feels the way it's being represented is very unfair.”

Goetz told CNN that Tina Turner was her “best friend” and that she attended Turner’s wedding, too.

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