Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey says she ran into Swiss racism when a clerk at Trois Pommes, a pricey Zurich boutique, refused to show her a black handbag, telling one of the world’s richest women that she “will not be able to afford” the $38,000 price tag.
“She said- ‘No, no, no, you don’t want to see that one. You want to see this one. Because that one will cost too much; you will not be able to afford that,’” Ms. Winfrey, appearing on the U.S. television programme “Entertainment Tonight,” quoted the clerk as saying. “And I said, ‘Well, I did really want to see that one.’ And she refused to get it.”
Swiss tourism officials and the boutique owner were quick to offer apologies on Friday.
“We are very sorry for what happened to her, of course, because we think all of our guests and clients should be treated respectfully, in a professional way,” Daniela Baer, a spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism office, told The Associated Press.
The tourism office also posted an apology on Twitter, saying “this person acted terribly wrong.”
Boutique owner Trudie Goetz told the BBC that an assistant had shown Ms. Winfrey several other items before the “misunderstanding.”
The newspaper Blick described the bag as a crocodile-leather Tom Ford design named for actress Jennifer Aniston, a fan of the American designer. It quoted Mr. Goetz as saying the bag was priced at 35,000 Swiss francs.
“I have to admit that the employee is Italian. Of course, she speaks English, but not as well as her mother tongue,” Mr. Goetz said in a video interview on Blick’s website. “It was a real misunderstanding.”
It wasn’t the first time Ms. Winfrey has taken issue with treatment at a ritzy European boutique. In 2005, she was turned away from a Hermes shop in Paris 15 minutes after closing time. The store said it was closed for a private event.
A Hermes executive appeared on Ms. Winfrey’s talk show to apologize for the “rigid and rude” behaviour of the employee. Ms. Winfrey complimented Hermes on its response including sensitivity training for employees and urged viewers to buy the company’s products.