Oprah Winfrey was refused service at a fancy boutique in Zurich: shady?

I’m one of those annoying people who asks for the price of an item before I even ask to touch it. And if I don’t like the price, I’m one of those bitches who will side-eye the clerk (like she’s responsible for it) and say, “NO. That’s too expensive.” I’m super-cheap. But if I had crazy Oprah money? I would probably approach shopping very, very differently. I would be one of those people who would walk into Cartier and just start pointing at things saying “I’ll take that, and that and that.” Well, as it turns out, even if you have crazy Oprah money and you are actually OPRAH, you still can’t walk into certain stores in Zurich and expect to just be allowed to spend your money freely:

It’s hard to imagine someone not recognizing Oprah Winfrey — but that’s exactly what happened when the talk show host attempted to purchase a $35,000 Tom Ford bag at Trois Pommes in Switzerland last month.

Speaking to Entertainment Tonight on Monday, Aug. 5, the 59-year-old star of Lee Daniels’ The Butler said she was denied service because the sales clerk didn’t believe she could afford such a pricey purse. “I was in Zurich the other day at a store, whose name I will not mention, and I didn’t have my eyelashes on, but I was in full Oprah Winfrey gear,” she recalled. “I had my little Donna Karan skirt and my little sandals and all that on, but obviously The Oprah Winfrey Show is not shown in Zurich. This doesn’t happen to me unless somebody obviously doesn’t know it was me.”

During her solo shopping trip, Winfrey asked the clerk to show her a luxury crocodile bag. “She says to me, ‘No. It’s too expensive.’” Winfrey asked to see it again, but the clerk once again denied her request, saying, “‘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.’” Winfrey then said, “‘No, I really did want to see that one.’ And she refused to get it!”

The clerk proceeded to show Winfrey “these other little bags,” but the star was unimpressed with the other options. “One more time, I tried. I said, ‘But I really do just want to see that one.’ And she said, ‘Oh, I don’t want to hurt your feelings.’ I said, ‘Okay, thank you so much. You’re probably right. I can’t afford it.’ And I walked out of the store.”

After Winfrey told her BFF Gayle King about the experience, King said she would have returned to the store and caused a scene a la Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. The TV mogul, however, she didn’t want to give the clerk commission.

“I could have had the big blowup thing and thrown down the black card and all that stuff,” Winfrey said, “but why do that?”

Trudie Goetz, head of the Swiss luxury chain Trois Pommes, denies that Winfrey was discriminated against because of her race. “This is an absolute misunderstanding,” she tells Us Weekly in a statement. “Any sales person would love to sell a crocodile bag. She simply explained [to Oprah] that the bag she wanted to look at was beautiful but in a very high price range and suggested lower priced models in leather, ostrich and so forth.”

Goetz adds, “It was a misunderstanding. The staff member who welcomed Oprah is one of the hardest working and regularly deals with VIP clients. There was no discrimination.”

In a separate statement to the BBC, Goetz said the employee in question is of Italian descent. “Of course, she speaks English, but not as well as her mother tongue,” she explained. “It was a real misunderstanding.” (Ironically, both Winfrey and Goetz were guests at Tina Turner’s wedding celebration that same weekend.)

The Swiss Tourism Association also issued a statement saying it regrets the pain and embarrassment the experience caused Winfrey. “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,” spokeswoman Daniela Baer told the Associated Press.

[From Us Weekly]

The Swiss Tourism Board issued a few different statements about the incident, and I get the feeling that they are particularly embarrassed – Zurich isn’t known (to me) as a major shopping destination (unlike, say, London or Paris), so they probably don’t want to be known as “the city that denies Oprah Winfrey the right to spend her money.” While it’s possible that the store owner is correct and it’s a genuine misunderstanding, I’m erring on Oprah’s side – if she felt like she was being shaded by some bitchy shop clerk, then Oprah probably was being shaded. And she’s right, the best thing to do is just not give those people a commission – don’t spend money in that shop. And maybe write a letter or an email to the owner or manager. I’m big on writing emails to complain about really terrible service. I’m totally that person too.

Photos courtesy of WENN.

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318 Responses to “Oprah Winfrey was refused service at a fancy boutique in Zurich: shady?”

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  1. Monie says:

    Good move Oprah. Don’t beg to let them allow you to spend your money. They lost a sale and purchased some bad publicity.

    • Ave says:

      Instead Oprah got some good publicity for her movie “The Butler”.
      A pure coincidence?

      • Len says:

        Ave is right.

        We should all just shut up in the face of prejudice. Hear that fellow peasants? When humiliated by someone paid to provide a service, whether on account of your class or race, you dear lambs should keep your peasant gossipy ways in check.

      • Monie says:

        Yep she set this all up for publicity. Next…

      • Viola says:

        @Monie. You are being sarcastic right? Hope so but cant tell.

        To the apologists of that horrible employee……… Oprah raised this after being asked in an interview whether she still encounters prejudice. It came up organically. Not that anybody should need a reason to shade bad behavior. Its called Word of Mouth. Every business owner gets its power.

      • Annie says:

        This is the same woman who cried “racism” when the Hermes store in Paris refused to let her in after they were closed for the day. DIVA

        While I kind of get that the sales clerk was trying to find something in what she thought was her price range, these people DO tend to judge your spending power based on what you’re wearing or carrying. It has zero to do with race. Had she walked in there with a $10,000 Birkin bag on her arm, thatbcroc bag would have made it’s way out from behind the glass no matter what colour Oprah is. Had she been wearing Chanel, ditto. It’s snobbism, not racism.

      • Kitten Mittens says:

        Absolutely! Either this is an exaggeration or an amazing coincidence. And those more expensive destinations rarely refuse a sale since most people there can afford to be in that high priced area.
        I just don’t buy this and Oprah lost me a long time ago.

      • littlemissnaughty says:

        @ Annie: Word. A few months ago I wanted to splurge and went to a few luxury stores. These people can be such awful bitches, it’s ridiculous. Especially if you consider the fact that they can’t afford to buy what they’re selling. I’m not wealthy or anything but hell, I make more than a sales clerk so I’m not sure how they get to judge. I’ve long ago learned not to try and estimate how much money someone has by looking at them. It’s unimportant and plain stupid.

      • Jane says:

        She was asked a question about prejudice and she answered honestly and demonstrating it is alive and well and she is not immune. She didn’t offer the story.

      • Adrien says:

        Ave, she was promoting The Butler on Entertainment Tonight when the interviewer asked her if she still experience racism now that she’s a billionaire. They tackled earlier about Paula Deen and the ‘n’ word. Not coincidence.

      • Lia says:

        I don’t think this was an “organic” comment in a random interview. Celebrities often dictate which questions they want to answer before an interview, and how hard would it be for Oprah to quietly say “ask me about racism” before they started chatting?

    • T.C. says:

      You know when sales clerks are bitchy to me I usually will go out of my way and spend more money to “show them” but I like Oprah’s advice about not giving them the commission. I will just walk out next time. By the way I think Oprah looks better with more weight like in the pictures. Makes her look younger and sexier.

      • Annie says:

        I’ve had this happen when I wanted to buy the matching bag to the shoes I’d already decided on in a mid-scale boutique in Paris. The clerk kept telling me how expensive the bag was (it wasn’t that expensive relatively speaking, less than €800). So I let him talk me out of it saying “I guess you’re right”. The look on his face when I pulled out the black Visa card to pay for the shoes was priceless.

        I went to a different branch of the same brand the next day and picked up the bag there from a very nice salesperson who didn’t pull the “maybe you can’t afford it” BS on me.

      • Suzy from Ontario says:

        How stupid are these salespeople that think they know how much someone can afford?!! If you are selling a purse and someone comes in and asks to look at it, then show it to them! That’s what it’s there for! Sheesh! Ever heard of not judging a book by its cover. Sometimes the people that *look* rich and are wearing all the labels are the ones who are in debt up to their eyeballs and vice versa. The store looks very stupid defending this saleswoman for what she did. I’m not sure it’s racism or just snobbery on the woman’s part. I suspect she probably would’ve done the same to a white woman who walked in wearing flipflops and jeans, but then again, maybe she wouldn’t have. I don’t know. Still, stupid, stupid, stupid. She deserves to be fired, not just lose her commission on the sale!

  2. Insomnicole says:

    Team Oprah! And I like her attitude on this one too — “Why fight this and end up giving that woman a big commission?”

    • Sabrine says:

      The clerk saw the color of her skin and didn’t want to get the bag down because either she thought she couldn’t afford it, (which was none of her business), and that would be wasting the clerk’s time, or she thought she’d take off with it. The excuses are extremely thin, not really any kind of explanation.

      This clerk was rude and judgmental.

  3. Dawn says:

    So Ophra didn’t make a fuss in the store which is good for her and yet the story is leaked to the press and the rest of us are making the fuss for her! I think the sales person was just a bitch and since I don’t know her personally I don’t know if she is a racist or not. But I am sure she has learned a valuable lesson on judging people.

    • Annie says:

      She also may have waited long enough for the security tape to be overwritten. The Hermes “racist” incident was caught on tape and showed that the store’s version of what actually happened was correct. The sales clerk is apparently saying that Oprah is lying about how it went down.

  4. Nicole says:

    Oprah is ridiculous. I’m sure she enjoys plenty of other privileges in life, and i’m sure she gets star treatment in most other shops, she visits, why not just quietly let this one go. Fair enough don’t give them your custom any more but why broadcast it in such a public way? I will not give sympathy to a woman who enjoys so many other luxuries and successes in life but broadcasts this one misfortunate event.

    • Jane says:

      A’men. I recall she pitched a fit in another boutique because she got their 15 minutes late and because she was “Oprah” wanted to get in and they wouldn’t let her. She indeed enjoys tons more luxuries 75% of us would never enjoy. Was that bloody bag so important? She should have kept this quiet.

    • Biz says:

      No…you are the ridiculous one…you are saying that Oprah should let go being discriminated against because she’s rich….get the hell out of here…I can’t even go there with you.

    • Kiddo says:

      @The Original Mia, I think it is about racism, snobbery and ego all wrapped up in one, if there was no miscommunication.
      Someone below said the Swiss press is reporting that the clerk wanted to show the purse in a private room; not sure if I believe that or not. I’m leaning not.

    • inthekitchen says:

      Nicole – the problem is, what make you think she has only had ONE unfortunate event? Most black people suffer microaggressions/outright racism on a REGULAR basis. So, to me, this story illustrates that no matter how rich or famous a black person gets, some people will still assume they don’t belong in said shop and can’t afford to shop there and therefore they (shopkeeper) have the right (in their mind) to discriminate against them.

    • Sanaa says:

      Its unbelievable to me that sane unbigotted persons would not be outraged by this bs shopclerk.

      Oprah is a queen for making this public. Perhaps next time some snobbish and likely racist cow wants to act a bitch she will think twice.

    • samsam says:

      I disagree…it’s people like her who will get the much needed attention to bring things to order. An ordinary person would not have been able to bring this to light, and as such the sales clerk would have continued with discrimination/racism/ etc etc.

      On that note, use your celebrity status for other good causes too..I believe Oprah does…and oh..I’m not black…

    • shelley says:

      NO..you’re ridiculous. Discrimination/racism is wrong. Period.

      • Shelley says:

        Sorry that was really rude of me!

      • Chinoiserie says:

        There is no proof that this is about racism at all. I mean we do not even know how much the purse cost. It could have cost millions and only VIP clients could afford it (and the clerk did not know who she was), and the sales clerk could have just tough that it would be pointless to show something like that without no proof Oprah could afford it. If I walked to expensive store they would not show a purse that would cost a couple of thousand and it would have nothing to do with racism. I can not believe that all of you just jump to her defense and cry racism because she did not get a purse.

        Not every wrong that happens to a black person have something to do with racism and I think that Oprah comes a gross childish since she needs to tell this to everybody and need a apology. If the store owners had thought that this had anything to do with racism they would have fired the clerk.

        But anyway I have never really liked her and it is just strange to me that everybody just takes her side of this based on absolutely nothing.

      • Memily says:

        Exactly. The person who is shouting the loudest isn’t necessarily right. Oprah assumes she was denied because of her race and some of us assume otherwise.

        Oprah did not question this at the time she instead took the ‘moral high ground’ and made a scene in the press instead of in the shop.

        It’s impossible to prove motivations behind actions, there is just a positive and negative spin that can be applied in retrospect. To condemn this sales assistant and posters as ‘racist’ because they haven’t put the same negative spin on this ambiguous action in my opinion shows a narrow mind.

    • Tara says:

      You are speaking out of ignorance. Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Chanel and many other luxury boutiques actually pride themselves on giving VIP customers opportunities to shop after hours. They need and desire pribacy. The boutique provides two clerks, a style assistant, a product assistant and a fitting assistant as well as a porter and someone to provide tea and coffee. If the customer is extremely exclusive then arrangements are made to have a body model there with similar measuremenys to parade back and forth in certain outfits while an assistant writes down what the customer approves of.

      So maybe Oprah did not have an appointment but do not think for one second that these places will not throw open locked doors for the right celebrity. It could be just snobbism in Oprah’s case but you are not qualified to say that it was not racism. You do not know.

    • Adrien says:

      She should make a fuss. If a media mogul like her experienced that imagine us peasants.
      Switzerland is full of asylum seekers. There is a town there accused of having apartheid style restrictions.

  5. Melissa says:

    I am Swiss Jew (Ashkenazi Jewish mother and Ashkenazi Jewish/Arab Dad) and I’m appalled about what happened to Oprah at the store. However, the media is making it appear as if the entire country of Switzerland is racist. That is simply not true, no country is perfect, and Switzerland is certainly not; but it’s no more racist than America where I’ve been denied service many times when I wear “Jewish” clothes or when my father wears a thwab.

    Again, no one should be subjected to racism (or blatant lack of professionalism) when visiting a place of business, although many people from different races have been told they couldn’t afford something by grumpy, rude, and snobby salespeople.

  6. janie says:

    The best thing to do was go public? Sorry, I think this whole thing is ridiculous. She is no longer relevant, anything for publicity. Not everything that happens is racist. Good grief.

  7. Maddie says:

    Sorry but no clerk who works in retail in any country will tell a customer that they can’t see an item “to save them the embarrassment” of not being able to afford it.

    Plus why should Opra be pained and embarrassed if they have a saleswoman who acted like an idiot.

    The store, its owner, the sales clerk and the country should be pained and embarrassed.

    • Kim1 says:

      Bullsh#t I was told that a bag was”quite expensive” after asking to see it twice at a boutique in Houston a few months ago.After the lady claimed the manager was needed,I walked out.It happens

      • Maddie says:


        Then they haven’t taught their employees how to treat customers.

        What store/business would treat their client this way and expect repeat customers or new customers.

        Word of mouth is more powerful than advertising be it positive or negative.

      • KG says:

        @ Maddie…

        Customer service rarely exists in Europe, they just don’t kiss people’s ass like they do in America. Most of this is the result of these contries paying their workers fair wadges and not tips/ commission. I’m a 30y/o white female and I’ve been told this a few times in Paris. Even had a lady follow me around a boutique smoothing out the clothing I touched. It may be their snobbery, it may just be their pragmatic attitude and lacking the need to kiss ass to make a sale. No need to criticize them, it’s how it is.

      • RocketMerry says:

        Yep, happens all the time in European stores, to pretty much everybody. It depends on the stores, though; some are a lot more snobbish, others are not.
        It’s not funny and it can get irritating, but eh, I find that by being extra nice and admitting beforehand that I probably would not be able to buy the item in a million years, I usually get to at least see/wear it.
        “Trying it on doesn’t cost” is one of the favourite sayings of clerks in Italy, IF you are super nice they usually let you try the accessory/clothes on. I recently tried on an over 1000 euros coat: never thought to buy it but the clerk insisted I try it on. If I had smiled just a little less, the woman would have said “Errr, NO”.

        Different shopping cultures, I guess. It could feel insulting if you’re not used to it.

      • ds says:

        I was once told that a dress was too expensive for me. Woman looked at me from head to toe and just decided I wasn’t good enough. I just had my finals at University and decided I wanted to reward myself so I came in the store all excited – no make up, jeans and t-shirt. I just answered: are you sure it’s not too expensive for you? I never went back there. Prejudice is ugly

      • stinky says:

        GOOD ONE ds… ill have to remember it for future use (haha!)
        PS: Zurich is one BORING city!

    • lenje says:

      Then you haven’t seen enough. And not only “exclusive” boutiques do that.

  8. Bodhi says:

    It sucks to be treated like that, but theres got to be some super secret online boutiques for the ultra-rich where she can order the bag from the comfort of her hot tub.

    Also, I truly love that bag. I don’t think I’d want it in crocodile skin, but its a lovely, lovely bag

  9. I’ve lived in Switzerland, in Zurich, for almost 7 years and just returned home to Germany recently. I can say with almost 100% certainty that this was in no way an example of racism. Swiss sales people aren’t racist, in my experience, but at high-end stores they are quite snobbish and they fat-shame as much as they can. In my opinion, the sales lady saw a fat woman walk into the store and decided she wasn’t worthy of their brands and couldn’t possibly have the money. Because time and time again, I’ve experienced that the Swiss view fat people as lazy and thus as penniless. I am a big woman myself and have had more than my fair share of that in Switzerland. Also, the Swiss don’t know Oprah that well, so it’s very possible that she wasn’t recognised, adding to the confusion and disastrousness of the situation. That sales person should be fired, but for fat-shaming, not racism.

    • Kiddo says:

      Fat shaming? I missed that.

      • stinky says:

        even the statures in Zurich are thin, i tell you…. it was one of the first things i noticed cause i really DO love to gaze at statues, monuments etc when traveling. The human and animal forms looked thin and wimpy and it was odd. i typed it in my emails home to family and friends. SERIOUSLY. Skinny lions. Skinny bears. I’m telling you.

      • taxi says:

        That was my first thought as well. Oprah in her “little Donna Karan skirt” and “little sandals” probably didn’t look little. Zurich is a business city, and I’m treated differently there depending on how I’m dressed. Conservative attire, nothing too short, and closed-toe shoes get me a much better service from sales people & restaurant hosts than very casual clothes do. Oprah was right to feel disrespected & leave, but it may not have happened solely because of her skin color.

      • Kemper says:

        Fat shaming. Julia Roberts should move there.

    • Ebbi says:

      Plus, she is not famous at all in most European country.
      She is less popular than a z-list actress.

    • Lucinda says:

      This makes more sense to me than racism. But given Oprah’s life experience, it makes complete sense to me too that she would assume racism. Our experience affects our perception.

      • Rhea says:

        +1. I don’t think it’s a hundred percent because of her race. If it’s a regular person—-whatever their race might be—-who doesn’t “smell” and “look” like your typical of person with a gazzilion bucks in the bank, the clerk would also show the same attitude. With that said, the clerk still the one at fault here.

      • emmie_a says:

        That makes more sense than racism… Not that anyone should be judged by their looks alone but it happens everyday.

        I’m guessing this high-end boutique has a security system – I’d love to see the footage from Oprah’s transaction… That’s one Oprah special I’d actually watch!

    • kibbles says:

      Discrimination can be caused by a variety of factors including race, weight, the way you dress, your level of attractiveness, etc. Snobs who work at these luxury stores will analyze everything about the way a customer looks, trust. I have experienced it first hand. If I’m dressed well, I get sales clerks smiling at me, catering to my every whim. If I walk in with a t-shirt and sneakers, they will give me the once over and a look that clearly states why the hell would a person like me even step foot into their store. They definitely do not like women who aren’t conventionally pretty and thin. Attractive women who are well-dressed get the best customer service. It wouldn’t be surprising to me that any overweight woman of color who isn’t in designer clothing and clearly showing off her wealth would be snubbed at a luxury department store not only in Switzerland but anywhere in Europe. My mom who vacationed in France and Belgium several years ago also had a bad experience and felt like people at restaurants and stores were judging her and she had received poor customer service at hotels and stores. Asia has the best customer service. Regardless of your race, you can walk into a store and a sales clerk will bow and you’ll have several people trying to help you at once.

    • Samtha says:

      I’ve gotten fat-shamed at high-end stores in the US, back when I was trying to lose my baby weight. A woman at Chanel actually told me I’d be better off at a Macy’s once, and I was completely refused service once at a Louis Vuitton in Bellevue, WA.

      I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence this was racism–a good 60% of clerks at stores like this will judge the hell out of you for what you’re wearing, your weight, etc.

      There’s no evidence it wasn’t racism, but I’m loath to automatically jump to that conclusion when it could be any number of other things.

  10. kibbles says:

    This happens all too often to regular people. Sometimes it is due to racism but a lot of the time it is just snooty salesclerks who snub you if you aren’t dressed well or look rich to them. I went to a store with my mom to look at jackets and coats and we were dressed very casually because I didn’t know I needed to wear a designer outfit and heels to get good service. Anyway, we asked to see a particular leather jacket and the woman told us that we “wouldn’t be able to afford it”, which I think is even worse than if she had said “it’s too expensive”. Seriously, people like that should simply be fired for bad judgment. I personally have the money to buy several of those jackets. I’m well-educated and have a good job. Even if a person doesn’t have a good job, they can still choose to buy expensive items using a credit card. These salespeople need to stop being such snobs. I personally think a $35,000 purse is a ridiculous purchase regardless of how much money you have, but anyone has the right to see an item for sale, not just Oprah. Any of us who walks into that same store should have the right to see that purse even if the salesperson doesn’t believe we can afford it or won’t buy it. If you don’t like “normal” people looking at the items you sell, then don’t put them on display. If they are so worried about poor people touching a $35,000 purse, then put a sign up stating that customers have to make an appointment and show proof of income in order to see the bag.

  11. Suse says:

    after hearing the story of the boutique owner and (today) the saleswoman… i don´t know what or whom to believe…

    This shop is for very rich people. Zurich is a hotspot for rich “colourful” foreigners. So, it is normal when a black (or brown, yellow, pink) woman shops at an expensive boutique like this.

    Oprah has to promote a movie. And wasn´t there a similar story with a shop in Paris?

    The biggest loser in this is the poor crocodile…

    • Mich says:

      What? A black woman is only allowed to experience racism once? Anything after that becomes self-promotion?

      • Ebbi says:

        I have seen some candids of her during her vacation. She looked like a homeless.
        You have to know that in some cities in Europe people usually dress properly even to take a walk.
        They saw a fat mature woman poorly dressed asking for a super luxury bag.
        This has nothing to do with her being a black woman and its quite strange she didnt realize that she is not famous in Europe the way she is in US. Where she can ask to close a boutique because she bothers seeing other less important customers while she is enjoying her shopping. I imagine those customers, pressured to leave the shop, can feel the same humiliation she felt in switzerland.
        Having said that, I think that those shop managers should train better their assistants. And why mentioning the fact the involved assistant is Italian? gross.
        Stupid behaviour , indeed.

      • Whatta says:

        @ebbi So it’s gross to mention that the clerk was Italian, but Oprah is out of line for describing a situation where she was treated poorly? People who walk into these shops have money. They shouldn’t have to ask (and get denied) three times to see a product the shop is trying to sell.

        And they mentioned the clerk was Italian because its her native language and she was speaking to Oprah in English. It’s not irrelevant.

      • Masque says:

        No but in both this instance and the Paris/Hermes Oprah ASSUMED racism. No where in her own statements did she say the employees used racist language. So why is she assuming racist intent?

      • Yup, Me says:

        @ ebbi- Clearly you missed or ignored the part where Oprah said she was in “full Oprah gear,” wearing Donna Karan and whatnot but not wearing her eyelashes.

        That doesn’t sound much like she was out looking like “a homeless.”

      • emmie_a says:

        Yup, Me: Have you seen pics of Oprah when her hair & makeup aren’t *done*? She’s doesn’t look anything like what you see on tv. And a lot of Donna Karan’s clothes have a very natural look to them, despite costing thousands of dollars. …so don’t worry. We didn’t miss the details in the story. Those details just don’t mean much to the big picture.

      • Merritt says:

        @ Ebbi

        And how is that any different than how many celebrities seem to dress when are are shopping? So often celebs are shown wearing worn out stuff, while they are out and about.

  12. vava says:

    Oprah has class!

    What do you bet that the store sends her the bag, free……….to make things right.

  13. Cara says:

    I think it is appalling that the first thing Oprah would assume in an interaction with someone where she did not get her desired outcome would be racism. It must be exhausting to live your life through a lens thinking that every outcome is race based rather than simply a miscommunication. She is so short sighted and was offended that she didn’t get HER desired outcome, that she has had to smear this poor girl in the press. Shame on Oprah.

  14. Kiddo says:

    Probably racism mixed in with a heavy dose of snobbery and classism.

    I will add, though, in Oprah’s case, there was probably a bit of hurt also felt by her with the clerk not knowing who she was. Big stars become very accustomed to being treated at a level above and beyond what the common plebe can expect.

    • ORLY says:

      At least Oprah didn’t pull the “don’t you know who I am” crap.
      She took the high road and didn’t even mention the name of the store. I’m not a fan of Oprah but I don’t understand why people are mad at her, she was asked a question in an interview and she gave an example.

      • Kiddo says:

        I didn’t say I was mad at her. I was trying to evaluate it as objectively as I was capable of. I was taking into account that Oprah was upset that a store, in the past, would not accommodate her after the closing time, so there was a level, at that point, of her feeling entitled to special service, at least that was how it was reported back then. I don’t know if there were indeed racial overtones then also, it’s possible. At the same time, I think Oprah does see herself as elite. I was attempting to balance these things out in my head. There being racism is not mutually exclusive from Oprah also having the feeling of “DO you know who I am”. ( Like Witherspoon, for example)

        The New York Post, in its Monday Page Six gossip column, reported she was turned away because the store had been “having a problem with North Africans lately.”

        In comments to CNN, an Hermes spokeswoman categorically denied that allegation.

        “There was never any discussion of North Africans,” she said. “The story is not true.”

        The spokeswoman said Winfrey came to the store 15 minutes after closing and a security guard informed her the store was closed and gave her a card, telling her she could come back the next day.

        Surveillance videotape of the encounter supports the store’s account, according to the spokeswoman.


      • ORLY says:

        Kiddo – I wasn’t speaking to you. My response fell under your name because we both responded to the same person.
        That’s how comments appear on this site.

      • Kiddo says:

        It’s okay, ORLY. I didn’t respond to anyone, but no matter. :)

    • mayamae says:

      I don’t think Oprah is upset that she wasn’t treated like a celebrity, but that she was treated like every other rich woman who walks in the door.

  15. Kaboom says:

    Zurich is the shopping destination for people with real money who also do their banking there. It’s no coincidence that the lake shore along the lake it called the Gold Coast. There’s also shoppers of all shades of skin tone and the staff is familiar and at ease with that. Random strangers without the means do not stroll into these stores. The whole story to me seems to be a ploy to garner attention for the movie Oprah’s in that opens this weekend (The Butler) and that would make it quite a disgusting way of promotion at the expense of the store clerk (who happens to be an Italian working in the german language part of Switzerland and thus a foreigner herself).

  16. JennJ says:

    That is horrible, but of all the things to make a fuss over when you have Oprah’s clout and ability to generate headlines.

    A salesperson at a snooty store was rude. And in other news, the sky is blue.

    And why would anyone of integrity want a purse that costs that much? I really don’t get the appeal other than it being “look at me, I have more money than you.”

    • stinky says:

      im w/ YOU. this ‘purse’ thing is just insane. it IS gross to spend in that manner whether you have billion$ at your disposal or not. AND CROCODILE.

    • Tara says:

      When you build schools in Africa so girls gan receive a superior education with no cost to them then you have earned the right to question Oprah’s integrity. She can do whatever she likes with her money. She has given millions to charitable causes and employed thousands over the years – famous for paying superior salaries with exceptional benefits and tons of perks. You have no idea what you are talking about.

  17. ncboudicca says:

    Trudie Goetz’s statement is ludicrous – why would a clerk in a luxury store think that part of their job is to be a financial counselor? That’s weak.

    • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

      Really. And an establishment like that is going to get a lot of English-speaking customers–it’s the business language, right? So if your employee’s English is poor enough to cost your company money, fire her and hire someone who can speak it with more ease.

  18. Jade says:

    Dear Oprah
    Most people in Switzerland do not know and you also do not care and I think here is your the problem. You are here not a princess just an unknown person.
    But as a Personality with style, would have charged the boss of the shop and the problem as solved and not worn it as a sensation in the world and certainly not under the cover of racism
    We have here in Switzerland, not more racism as in other countries.
    The whole thing is just ridiculous.

    And by the way, the seller was Italian …….

    And another question ….
    what does an animal rights activist with a crocodile leather handbag?

    • Kiddo says:

      I didn’t know Oprah was an animal rights activist. I think the bag is obscene for the price alone.

    • Ebbi says:

      You are not racist, but you make a point by saying that the seller was Italian…of course. In some advertising of yours Italians are described as rats…
      She is an employee of the shop, she follows their policies and she has been trained by them.

      But you are right. You are not racist provided that people that come to visit your country take big money with them, legally or not.

    • cs says:

      I think you miss the point here.. and I’m not a big fan of Oprah. But she ask to see the bag. The bag was in the shop for a reason…to sell. So, this clerk decides who can afford this bag or not?
      Based on what??
      I don’t know if it was racism or not but, she clearly was deciding based on appearance. Maybe, if a Courtney Love rolled up in the store she would’ve received the same reaction. I hate making this comparison to down-ridden drug addicted white woman to a Black female Billionaire.
      But, I do have the feeling if a blond/blue eyed well-dressed woman came into the store it would’ve been a totally different scenario. I just saw a video where a store owner was thanking Taylor Swift profusely for just coming into his store in Europe. I like Taylor but, she has no where near the wealth of Oprah.

    • Whatta says:

      It doesn’t matter that she’s not famous or recognized in Switzerland. Any customers should be treated with respect, famous or not. Everyone who walks into those shops is rich, and the customers that come in already know everything in the shop is crazy expensive, so it’s ridiculous for the clerk to assume, for whatever reason, a customer can or can’t afford.

    • Switchoff says:

      @Jade your comment stinks of snobbery, arrogance and DENIAL.
      Typical of most Swiss, Dutch, French and even Germans I’ve met. The culture towards non-whites in your countries is appalling and what is scary is this hatred is passed on to all new migrants in this case an Italian.

    • Angie says:

      You do understand that Italians are white Europeans, don’t you? What exactly is the point of this ‘btw’?

      Even stranger that the shop owner felt the need to specify this, too. What the hell are Italians dealing with, there?

    • Sana says:

      It doesn’t matter if the salesclerk recognized her or not, the fact is, Oprah was denied the chance to see the purse she wanted. If Oprah was white, would the lady have been insisting she look at “less expensive” bags as well?

      Also, the whole misunderstanding spiel the boutique owner is shilling still reeks racism to me. Why would it matter that the clerk didn’t say Oprah couldn’t afford it and that what she meant was “here are some less expensive bags?” Who was she to tell the customer what she can and cannot see?

  19. The Original Mia says:

    I’ve been in stores where the clerks thought I couldn’t afford something or thought I was going to steal something. It’s uncomfortable and embarrassing. Those are the stores I walk out of without spending a dime. There are other places that’ll take my money gladly & without preconceived notions about my wallet or self.

  20. Cora says:

    An incident very similar to Oprah’s happened to me and I’m white. It happened at a boutique store in Vancouver and it was a neighbourhood I lived in! I was mortified. The store clerk managed to make me feel absolutely humiliated and I actually did have the money to pay for the item I was looking at. To this day I get angry just thinking about it.

    • Katia says:

      Really! Which store/ neighbourhood? I’m guessing kits or south Granville? I have the opposite effect people think I can afford stuff and pressure me so I just avoid atores that make me sad

    • ORLY says:

      Vancouver Washington or Vancouver BC?

    • Ktx says:

      I’ve had sales-people be snobby to me and look me up and down (and I’m white), but an incident that comes to mind is one that happened to my father at a jewelry store in Highland Village in Dallas. It’s a by-appointment-only store, and my father showed up to pick up a piece that he’d had custom-made for my mom. The sales-person would not unlock the door for my dad to let him in, not believing that he could possibly be a customer there. Finally the manager came to let him in. My dad laughed it off, but I was angry. It was a classist issue. My dad has plenty of money but unless he’s going to work in a suit, doesn’t look like a swanky Dallas man in European designer duds (if you’ve been to Highland Village or many other parts of Dallas you’ll understand). My point is….it happens to white folks too. I think, as a poster above mentioned, that this was a size issue, more than a race one. I also think Oprah’s ego was somewhat bruised because she was not recognized. I do think, though, that the clerk was very wrong and stupid to discriminate against Oprah, or any customer, for that matter. I don’t think this is merely a language-barrier misunderstanding.

      • emmie_a says:

        I think this is exactly what people who are crying racism don’t understand: This isn’t about skin color, it’s about snobby salespeople who judge customers by their size, shape, weight, hair, what they’re wearing, who they’re with, what bag they’re carrying, what shoes they’re wearing etc… It’s possibly elitism but not racism.

  21. Amy Pond says:

    Apparently in the Swiss papers the clerk said the bag was too expensive to show in that showroom and invited Oprah up to view it in a private room…

    • Kiddo says:

      Now, that is an entirely different narrative and not racist at all. I don’t know what the truth is, but the back peddling seems strange.

    • kibbles says:

      That would honestly make a lot more sense. As I said in my comment above, if it is on display, everyone should be allowed to see it. However, I thought that for real luxury items in the tens of thousands, they would have an item like that securely stowed away in a showroom so there might be additional protocol like scheduling an appointment or going to a private room to check it out. The salesperson could still be rude and snobbish, but I doubt they would allow anyone walking into the store to put their hands on a $35,000 bag.

    • NDM says:

      I live here. I’ve been reading all newspapers and I have to say that’s a recent addition, then – I certainly haven’t seen it any of the original reports, all of which had been supposedly verified by the shop keeper.

  22. Mich says:

    Man, there are some ‘interesting’ comments on this thread.

    Racism exists and those who are on the receiving end know full well when it is being directed at them. Only a privileged white person who has never been on the receiving end of subtle and blatant racism would make some of the ignorant comments I’m seeing here.

    • NM9005 says:

      My friend who is white, skinny and blue-eyed was denied trying on clothes in a shop because she didn’t look the part (it was high end and she looks like a hippie). They didn’t like young people trying expensive clothes when they didn’t look like they have money. My friend’s mom had a clothing business too so needless to say, she made sure that her customers were aware of the snobbery of that store.

      Sometimes it’s just really about brand protection = snobbery.
      Fat people and people who don’t dress to the nines can be discriminated too but in Oprah’s case, it’s always about racism which is also a valid assumption of course because like you said: racism exist.

      I just wouldn’t dismiss other reasons as stated in other comments. Just look at famous people digging in Adele when it’s about fashion and weight (Lagerfeld, Gaga). Some people are just assholes.

      • Pinky says:

        Oprah was clear in her explanation that she WAS dressed, perhaps not to the nines, but to the eights!

      • NM9005 says:

        I did not say at all that mich was wrong in her assumption.

        I said that other people (non-white) have witnessed or underwent this kind of treatment too for other reasons mainly because high-end stores can be very snobbish.

        For Oprah though, it is logical to assume that her skin tone is what made the sales person judge her ‘worth’ negatively as she can dress to the nines, be a fashion size 0 but she’ll always be black and like I said, some people are just f* assholes who look down on you for that.

      • emmie_a says:

        Pinky: It goes beyond the clothes. Oprah could wear thousands of dollars worth of clothes and still look *poor* to the salesperson. Snobby salespeople will be rude if they don’t like the way you look. It’s not right but it happens. Everyday. To people of all shades & sizes.

    • Monie says:


      Easy to downplay racism when you have never been on the receiving end of it. Same as women saying men should not be commenting on women’s rights/health. Don’t tell Oprah that she didn’t experience racism if you don’t even know how experiencing racism feels.

    • Maddie says:


      Well its 2013 and we have a black dude in the oval office, scratch that half black dude, so that means racism disappeared over night and when something like this pops up its all in our imagination.

      Racism, sexism, ageist? and all the other “ism” will always be around because we’re humans with the will and freedom to be ignorant.

      • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

        Yes. Who’s playing the ‘race card’, now? I’ve not been to America yet, (I know, I know, I’ll get there), but bad things can’t happen to me because ‘What About Obama?’ That’s just science, right? Ugh. The paternalism here is suffocating, like right-minded and intelligent and perceptive (I’ll go there) whites understand the lives and experiences of blacks so much better than do blacks (or, at least, the three that they’ve met), who always just want a reason to shift responsibility and culpability and blame those benevolent people who have risen above the petty squabbles of racism (which is so much more dignified than perceiving it to be denial and deflection and a very easy thing to do if not part of your experience) because that’s just what these people do: blame. Blame the people who have treated them badly for treating them badly and then having the peanut gallery pillory them for not being meek enough, or not explaining it away. You think all of this racism stuff is exhausting for white people? Let me tell you about exhausting–or no, don’t. Because it makes your head hurt if I don’t pretzel myself thinking of ways to talk around what happens.

        People frequently don’t the gears of white privilege turning because a white person may have led a really difficult life full of terrible and undeserved strife or worked hard to achieve what they have so the incorrect conclusion often made is that those who don’t benefit from the privilege just want an award for having been born or want to cause trouble to spread blame to others and reap the spoils that follow. That people actually think that it’s finished because or a handful of minority celebrities is just…whatever, it’s dumb.

    • Ag says:

      agree. Until they can walk in my shoes do not judge!

  23. NM9005 says:

    The manager’s defense was all over the place when I heard the audio yesterday. Like she said, she wasn’t even there so why bother trying to justify or explain such a horrible incident? And having little English speaking skills is no excuse for her employers, don’t hire her then if it’s going to cause misunderstandings.

    Furthermore, she even said herself that she isn’t even sure she was talking about Oprah, I mean, shut up then. It’s possible that Oprah exaggerated the story but there must be a huge truth in there too otherwise why go out of a limb to protect your brand when it wasn’t mentioned by Oprah at all?!

  24. e.non says:

    i bet oprah’s more pissed off that she wasn’t recognized than she was that she was turned away cause she’s black…

  25. JennJ says:

    These stores exist because of the exclusivity and snobbery of the image that they project. The clerks’ job is to to maintain that image. Oprah can make a fuss about it because she is Oprah and has the money, but I am sure that it happens constantly with other people who end up feeling humiliated and embarrassed. They end up questioning their clothing, weight, race, attractiveness, attitude, etc. etc. and it could be one or all of those reasons.

    The problem is that we buy into the system and allow ourselves to feel bad, giving power to the brands. When, really, it is all so superficial. What matters is what is inside, not outside.

  26. Mitch Buchanan Rocks! says:

    Another explanation is that OW came in at the last minute when the shop was near to closing? Last minute shoppers suck.

  27. Kemper says:

    I am just upset that a handbag costs more than my car & can pay off my house.

  28. The Original G says:

    Zurich has amazing shopping. It’s financial capital.

    If a clerk doesn’t have the language or social skills to service a customer, she should get a more appropriate job.

    If she’s just a snob or a racist it sound like she she fits right in with Trudie Goetz. The explanation that the problem was not that Oprah was black but that the clerk was Italian, doesn’t really ring with equality either.

  29. moonchile says:

    As I see it, the story went like this. This handbag is a unique peace being stored in a special secured place.
    The clerk showed the cheaper bags so that the customer would get an idea about what this unique bag looked like. They cannot take the expensive bag and let everybody handle it, without buying it in the end.
    Anyhow, if I had been Mrs. Winfrey I would have asked for the manager of the shop and not walk out and give the story to the press.
    Is it really necessary for big Mrs. Winfrey to get a small clerk out of her job?

  30. Tessa says:

    This seems cut and dry to me. Racist, and perhaps a twinge anti American. I’m not sure if any American walking in off the street in Donna Karan looking low profile would have faired better, it’s hard to know. I am an upper middle class white girl, and I have been completely ignored when I walk into high end stores myself. The sales people have some sort of training on how to be complete jackass snobs, and they play on your insecurity. Maybe if I had more money they’d actually look at me, etc etc.

    Moral of the story is that girl is an idiot, and Oprah has every right to be peeved. I won’t go into how gross I think buying a $40,000 handbag is because it’s besides the point.

    • Nev says:

      Perfectly said.

      Also some of the comments on here are quite sad. This is racism through and through. And to try as insinuate anything different is annoying as hell.

      Check our/yourselves folks.

    • Annie says:

      I really don’t think it was racism. I’ve had exactly the same sort of thing happen to me in Europe when I’ve been dressed down and shopping and I’m white. Also, Switzerland is where many of the ultra rich “store” their money and go shopping. They’re well accustomed to people of various skin tones and nationalities being able to afford expensive things. Where do you think all of those African dictators / Presidents for Life and families have their money and spend it?

      I think it was simply snobbism. Donna Karan isn’t that expensive in the fashion world scheme of things and being an American designer, might not be as recognizable there as Dior, Chanel etc. Also, the first thing they look at is what’s on your feet. Sandals might not have been the best choice. No mention of whether or not her pedicure was up to date, but if it wasn’t, or was of some “in style back home, but considered tacky here” variety, that right there would have cemented in that clerk’s mind where this customer stood on the “economic scale”. I’m not saying it’s right, but it doesn’t equate to racism.

      Has no one asked themselves WHY the bag was behind glass? At 35K, they’re not going to be pulling it out for every curious person who wants to see what a 35K Croco bag looks like. One scratch on the leather from mishandling by a curious customer, and it’s worthless. I’ll bet the salespeople wear gloves when they do actually pull it out. The “showing in a private room” thing, whether she proposed that option to Oprah or not, is probably true as well. From a general security point of view, you don’t show something that expensive to anyone where you don’t have some control over who else is around. Too many gangs of theives who have the “create a diversion in the store to distract the staff and have the accomplice make off with the expensive goods” target exactly these sorts of things.

      • AKA says:

        Exactly! Donna Karan isn’t exactly a high priced fashion house. The reality was probably that the sales person couldn’t recognise her, took one look at her attire and really did think she could only afford something in the $6,000 range. As for those crying racism, the biggest consumers of luxury goods in Europe are Middle Eastern, then Chinese, followed by Indians. And in most Hermes outlets in London I’ve seen British Africans who are dressed to the nines. There are some very rich Africans I’ve seen around too. So according to me this is a case of snobbery and not racism.

      • endoplasmic_ridiculum says:

        I agree – I used to summer in Switzerland and half the people in the most expensive stores were not white. Zurich, Lausanne, geneva etc are gathering places for the world’s uber wealthy and I assure you the main consumers of these luxury goods are of Middle Eastern and Far Eastern decent, with a fair proportion of Africans. Hell, I used to see tons of extremely wealthy , black families dressed in their national dress shopping in the most exclusive boutique stores. We’re talking full Dashiki let alone Donna Karan, yeesh.

      • Annie says:

        Maybe there’s an unofficial mental rule of thumb… if you’re wearing what looks to be $6000 worth of clothes, they direct you to things in that price range.

  31. JJ says:

    Funny, you never hear those kind of stories happening to Tina Turner and she lives in Zurich. Oprah LOVES being a victim, esp when she needs PR for a movie!

    • Garvels says:

      Bingo..it all feeds into her movie promotion for the Butler.

    • Bijlee says:

      ….and? Our First Lady is black doesn’t mean America has overcome their racism problems.

      I feel there is an underlying current of racism in Europe that is not properly dealt with or talked about. Racism is just obscured and rationalized to a different degree over there. There seems to be a feeling that they’ve overcome racism because of their history of war and the scars left behind.

      I once had a Danish guy tell me it’s not fair for minorities to complain about not getting enough movie roles especially lead ones because its “white” cinema that the majority of the regions where movies are created are in predominantly white countries. It’s just business and luck that “white” cinema is popular throughout the world. And then he any into a rant about how Bollywood and Chinese cinema don’t give white actors lead roles why do western countries have to strive to that?

      All I could think was holy crap this boy does not get it and he absolutely refuses to try and understand. He seemed like a smart, well educated, and overall liberal guy so it confounded me even more. It feels like people won’t say they have “racist” thoughts because they know racism is bad and therefore they are above it. But we’ll rationalize the hell out of ourselves to never accuse us of doing something so categorically bad. We’re smart, we have black friends(!), etc etc etc. It can’t be racism, it always HAS to be something else.

      But whatever I’m not European yell at me all you want for my ignorance or arrogance.

      • sputnik says:

        “over there”? you realise there are over 50 countries and territories in europe. that’s a lot of different cultures. but you met one douchey dane and there’s an “undercurrent of racism”? that does sound ignorant.

        as to oprah, the shopgirl was being a bigot. it’s shameful. and this kind of behaviour should always be brought to light. i don’t understand why anyone would defend her.

      • Bijlee says:

        Note how i said I FEEL. Look I read a lot. I’ve read about European history, studied a bunch of different cultures, studied european history including the extensive history of imperialism, and have tried to keep myself as up to date as I can about issues around the world.

        Immigration in Europe has come under a lot of scrutiny and debate and some of the things I’ve read have come off as racist. And honestly I haven’t seen it as that much different from how America deals with immigration or talks about it. My statement of ignorance was meant for you to understand that I have never lived in Europe for an extended period of time so what I’ve studied and read may not fully capture the reality. Especially since I know I’m not an expert or have a phd level of understanding of these issues.

        My statement of “over there” was a geographical statement. I live in America an Europe is over there. And yeah I’m well aware of how diverse Europe is and could be with regards to this issue.

        It’s not the first European I know who talks like that just an anecdotal example of what I’ve found or have PERCEIVED to be true. Most Danes seem to feel this way as do the swedes, judging by statistics or news articles or the academic articles or etc etc etc I’ve read. Again because I MOSTLY read and interact with people online or real life but have never been is what I’m trying to get you to understand. I don’t disagree that I may be ignorant.

        People seem to have no problem sh*ting on India despite being ignorant of the culture, the history, and the current political atmosphere. Or the Middle East for that matter. Or china or Africa or korea or japan etc. A little criticism of Europe is where we draw the line apparently.

      • melior says:

        I live in France and I agree with the first part of your argument. Rationality is the operative word in western Europe. They have intellectualized their history of racism and slavery but of course the feelings of racism, of discomfort, rejection are still there and they don’t know what to do with that. They’re often perceived as hypocritical by the minorities and I’d say they’re better at hiding their racism than Americans.

      • Katia says:

        I’ve lived in Europe for a year. Paris. If you had lived in any European nation for a year or even 6 months maybe you would understand anti immigration opinions about Europe. As a caucasian female, in 12 months i was often approached and men tried to lure me, prevent me from leaving the train, mugged, even groped(thank god not worse) and none of the men Were french or westerners. Targeting women like that, its no wonder french people might hesitate on inviting more people from certain areas to be there. The boy who mugged me (with bear spray) was a kid (9) born in france to immigrant parents (he was caught so i know his history and saw his father at the police). Some cultures just aren’t a good fit with others so why force it? My incident is not unusual and perhaps parents think of who there kids will grow up with? There is even an issue with sharia law in England already. The world is changing so fast and not in a controlled way. Japan is a smart nation in that they try to preserve their culture and keep immigration conservative. By the way i feel all stable nations should definitely help refugees,but anyone else? Not a moral obligation at all. There are many ways to look at it, one is the fact that you drain the brightest people out! About Hollywood movies, having a husband of Chinese descent I do get annoyed about crazy stereotypes (the hangover- awesome actors im a bradley cooper fan but what a disgusting asian man gig that guy had, i am embarrassed for whoever wrote it)and how Asian males are certainly underrepresented. But he’s correct that its always western cultures that are accused of racism while for example, Indians and Chinese can easily exclude Everyone else and it just doesn’t matter. You didn’t explain why you feel strongly that he’s wrong and I’m curious !

      • Katia says:

        I’ve lived in Europe for a year. Paris. If you had lived in any European nation for a year or even 6 months maybe you would understand anti immigration opinions about Europe. As a caucasian female, in 12 months i was often approached and men tried to lure me, prevent me from leaving the train, mugged, even groped(thank god not worse) and none of the men Were french or westerners. Targeting women like that, its no wonder french people might hesitate on inviting more people from certain areas to be there. The boy who mugged me (with bear spray) was a kid (9) born in france to immigrant parents (he was caught so i know his history and saw his father at the police). Some cultures just aren’t a good fit with others so why force it? My incidents are not at all unusual and perhaps parents think of who their kids will grow up with? It’s hard enough to raise kids with new challenges like Internet bullying is it a great idea to invite misogynist’s children to be close to yours? There is even an issue with sharia law in England already. The world is changing so fast and not in a controlled way. Japan,for example, is a smart nation in that they try to preserve their culture and keep immigration conservative. By the way i feel all stable nations should definitely help refugees,but anyone else? Not a moral obligation at all. There are many ways to look at it, one is the fact that you drain the brightest people out! About Hollywood movies, having a husband of Chinese descent (refugee from Vietnamese war) I do get annoyed about crazy stereotypes (the hangover- awesome actors im a bradley cooper fan but what a disgusting asian man gig that guy had, i am embarrassed for whoever wrote it)and how Asian males are certainly underrepresented. But he’s correct that its always western cultures that are accused of racism while for example, Indians and Chinese can easily exclude Everyone else and it just doesn’t matter. You didn’t explain why you feel strongly that he’s wrong and I’m curious !

      • sputnik says:


        racism absolutely exists in europe, no sane person would deny it. and i agree that to an extent it is more intellectualised. an attitude certainly exists that america is a messed up, institutionaly racist country and that europe is above all that, ignoring the anti-immigration sentiment in a lot of places. my issue with your statement is the lumping together of all these countries, cultures and problems. there is no “european” problem. lots of separate ones. the patterns of immigration over the years has been so markedly different that each country and area has a different cultural make-up. for instance, spain has only been open to immigration for a couple of decades. do you think it has the same race issues as germany which has many multi-cultural cities? even in the uk, the race issues are hugely different depending on where you are. england has generations of people of afro-caribbean ancestry, scotland almost none. i’m from glasgow where the majority of people from immigrant background are asian. i’m not saying any of these places are more or less racist, just that the issues are different. so if it seems like racism’s an issue that’s not discussed, that’s because it’s a myriad of different issues in different places. there isn’t one big conversation to have. do you see what i mean? i’m not entirely disagreeing with you, there are problems, but there is no big bad “over there.” and unless you spend your time checking out a multitude of media in different languages then how can you know? that’s all i’m saying.

      • Bijlee says:

        @Katia see I’ve heard things like this alot and I’m hesitant to not believe you because that makes me highly uncomfortable. But I think the issue is a lot more complicated than that. And Japan is a multi-ethnic society that is having trouble with a few of its foreigners as well. I tend to see that in countries where foreign employment is in “low wage jobs” or service labor there tends to be a perception of them committing more crimes etc etc etc. Japan has it’s own complicated history with xenophobia, racism, discrimination, and imperialism.

        And from what I gathered from his conversation was that he was annoyed that “white” countries are expected to open their borders and allow for immigrants and treating them nicely etc. The problem is this fellow has not understood the vast history of imperialism and why these countries are in the state they are often in. I don’t know his whole spchiel just seemed kind of racist and what the conservative republicans say down here in the good ole south about immigrants too. Maybe I’m equalizing them too much.

        But we were also talking about black people in film roles specifically. And well I don’t know he refused to see it any other way. And as for the whole Chinese Bollywood thing. I just can’t. Hollywood is ubiquitous around the world. They have a market in countries whose own artists are not allowed to show their films or are heavily censored. The fact that they tend to whitewash a lot of movies is also depressing. I don’t know it does bother me.

        @sputnik You’re right, Europe is diverse and it wasn’t fair for me to characterize the countries I’ve read about as indicative of the general feeling. I shouldn’t have said “over there.” The countries I’ve read about the most is England, France, and the Nordic countries. Again I don’t deny that I may be ignorant.

    • Kim1 says:

      Tina discusses racism in the interview she just did with Oprah two weeks ago,I guess you will doubt her too

    • ORLY says:

      Or… Tina Turner lives in Zurich, therefore she’s easily recognized?

  32. Garvels says:

    I highly doubt that this had anything to do with racism. Oprah does not look like Oprah without her full make up, and Oprah on many occasions looks like a sloppy fat lady when she is dressed casually…so the shop keeper immediately assumed that she could not afford the handbag….which is completely judgemental and wrong on the shopkeeper’s part I highly doubt that it had anything to do with race…more like weight. There are many people who are snobby towards fat people.

    • Jayna says:

      Oprah said she was dressed nicely, put together, just not her false eyelashes. Sorry, It was racism.

      • Garvels says:

        You can not quickly assume racism,especially when this incident occurred in a very wealthy country who has a multicultural tourist industry where many tourists and residents have no problems in purchasing a $38000 handbag.

        White people like myself have experienced this also while shopping in exclusive stores. My mother even made a comment,on more than one occasion that we must be invisible!

        Oprah is blowing up this incident because it feeds into the new story line,for her new movie,the Butler.

  33. bettyrose says:

    I was really bothered by the comments about this on NPR’s site yesterday. A lot of people were like “why the hell is NPR covering celebrity gossip involving $38K purses?” Which totally misses the point. If it happens to Oprah even once, that means this happens to non-famous people *all the time*. Oprah is in a position to bring attention to it, and I hope that store is truly ashamed of glorifying ignorance.

    As far as the purse goes, I object less to the price tag (Oprah is worth billions and gives plenty to charitable causes, so who cares is she spends pocket lint on a purse?) – but an exotic animal skin belongs on the animal, you know?

  34. Robot Rosie says:

    Maybe she was just trying to save Oprah some money? I have had nice salespeople in Europe show me similar items that are less expensive than what I’ve asked to see alongside the original item, for purposes of comparison. I think this may have been a miscommunication – but even if the situation involved discrimination of some kind, or a case of Oprah not being recognized…go buy the bag elsewhere?

    • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

      I’m sorry, but what in the world are you talking about. What store is this that doesn’t want to make as much cash as possible? It’s not as though she’s on a preferred customer mailing list, or anything. If a customer tries to give you money, you take it.

  35. Mew says:

    This has been made to be all racist thing however, I’ve heard similar things happen to plenty of white folks as well. It was just really awfully bad customer service and that happens all the time. It’s nice that Oprah has the power and chanels to make a huge fuss about it, as 99,9% of us can’t do the same… we can only write stories in FB and hope others to read them.

  36. Ebbi says:

    Whatta, its irrelevant because anybody in that shop isnt a native English speaker.
    Anyway, the version of the sales person is quite different and has more to do with a company policy, i.e. You dont show a purse like that standing on your feet in the middle of the shop. You ask the client to sit down and you show her other options.

  37. carnivalbaby says:

    Oh my God! Love this website but the comments here are scary. You’re trying to excuse one type of discrimination with another! Racism, ethnic discrimination, discrimination on the basis of nationality or how much a person weighs is all wrong. The clerk was lazy, being unfair and extremely unwise! Show the woman the item she wanted to see or don’t work in retail. Simple.

  38. Miss M says:

    “And she’s right, the best thing to do is just not give those people a commission – don’t spend money in that shop.” This is exactly what my family did a t a Louis Vuitton store in Rome. We spent one morning visiting a few of the historical sights and, then, we decided to go shopping. We were dressed up as tourists who were walking all day, nothing glamorous. I don’t need to say people were not nice to us, right?! Anyway, the next day we went there carrying all the purses my sister bought that day (Gucci, Prada, etc). Do I need to say how nice they were? We bought nothing there, nothing!

    • lrm says:

      what cracks me up about all of this is how people fall over themselves to buy bags with ‘logos’ on them…corporate logos. It’s like wearing your favorite sports team on a purse. nothing against your purchases, i’ve been thinking this while reading this whole thread.
      And like others have mentioned, these stores have a brand/image to uphold and if people buying their bags/products don’t feel it is ‘exclusive’ enough and
      not for the peasants’, well, they will shop at a place that does exude this image/attitude. New money is famous for this sentiment.
      European shops are generally notorious for this kind of superficial snobbery along with a very different approach to, ahem, customer service.
      That is my experience when visiting Italy, France, etc. And it’s funny b/c I just don’t care about these shops. at all.
      I live in so cal in the US, and don’t even like going to beverly hills. there’s nothing there for me. I find most of it superficial clothing, not fine fashion. Though I do enjoy eating at Il Fornaio, though there’s one in Del Mar near my house anyway….
      I like well made items and quality food, etc. but this superficial status cr*p is just tacky to me. I’m not wearing free advertising for these companies just to prove I have money or imply that I think I am better than others….

      • Miss M says:

        People like different things and they spend their money in what they want. If someone likes purses, they won’t buy anything just because there is a logo, they will buy something with quality and yes, brand. Some brands do sell things are not great, you choose what you want.
        I don’t judge people’s choices in what and how they want to spend their money. I like to spend in concerts, trips, theater, etc. My sister likes to spend hers in purses and a friend of mine likes to spend hers in shoes. I don’t think, in my case, it has anything to do with being superior or inferior, unless someone who thinks this way feels inferior.
        I wish people were less judgmental, narrow-minded and misinformed.

      • Jaxx says:

        That free advertising bit is my pet peeve too. If I’m going to wear something with your logo or brand all over it then you can pay ME to wear it.

      • Aud says:

        All this designer gear is just BS.
        The quality is only represented in a minor way within the price tag. The rest includes: advertising [everything from editorials to models], lawyers [for the counterfeiting lawsuits], store rentals around the world [because outside their own nations, they rarely own the store/property].
        So a consumer pays for the logo, the rent, the advertising and so on. Every overhead.

    • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

      They don’t deserve your business. Here’s what I don’t understand. If all of these companies are talking themselves out of revenue by behaving this way, why isn’t there a greater discussion about it? You’re not only going to get WASPS who are dressed to the nines patronizing your shops. I suppose there’s some of the allure of the mean friend in there-getting the ‘right sort’ to deem you as worthy and honour you with the gift of taking a lot of your money has cultural cache, and they’ve got their hoards of regular clientele and huge profits made off of pieces that cost so much, so I can see they’re doing very well. It’s about creating an image and ‘lifestyle shopping’ as much as anything, but I’d love to watch the way in which the staff is trained and how exactly they can get us to believe and operate in a way that says, ‘Well, we’re a business, so your business and money is very important to us. Also, we don’t need you or your money, or your grotty ‘tennis of the running shoe’, or whatever you call it.’

  39. Elle Kaye says:

    It may have been racism, I don’t know, so I won’t assume. I do know that I have walked into several stores in the US where the sales clerks spoke to other customers, but they did not speak to me. This has happened to me all of my life. It used to bother me, but it is just a fact of life now. I am not a black woman, but I know I am judged by how I look. I am always nice to salespeople…everyone. We all work for a living, we should all be nice to each other. Stereotypes and bigotry exist for more than just the racial classes.

    And Oprah did the right thing. Walk out. They deserve nothing from her. She can always buy her bag elsewhere, from people who will respect her.

  40. Dirty Martini says:

    Did it happen because of racism, fat-shaming, or just plain snotty European sales attitudes as compared to American ones ?

    Who knows for sure? No One. Absolutely no one. Heck, the salesperson in question may not know herself really.

    But this I know: We are all centers of our own universe and whenever anything bad happens to us, we all immediately go to the place of….

    This happened to me because I’m female. Or a person of color. Or I went to the wrong school. Or I live on the wrong side of town. OR OR OR

    Just insert however you feel different from the person on the other end delivering the perceived mistreatment.

    However you finish the sentence “this happened to me because….” reflects as much about your own biases and insecurities as anything else.

    • kibbles says:

      I agree. Good comment. Injustice is wrong no matter what, but when we have been slighted, it is good to take a step back and try to understand the entire situation before jumping to conclusions. The truth is that all of us are making assumptions (many of us based on our own personal experiences with snooty salespeople), but not really knowing all the facts of this particular incident involving Oprah. I am only guessing that it was a combination of racism, fat-shaming, and snootiness on the part of the saleswoman. That said, we are basing this on mainly Oprah’s perspective. The saleswoman might see this entirely differently. Maybe she thought she was just doing her job by not allowing a woman she thought wasn’t rich enough to touch a $35,000 handbag.

      • Dirty Martini says:

        Thanks for the affirmation. As someone who grew up in the same south Ga town as Paula Deen (albeit 10 yrs later), trust me–I’ve seen and recognize real racism. Yet as someone who also oversees HR for a very large, multi city employer…..I’ve seen how easily the assumption of racism can sometimes be claimed despite evidence to the contrary…..or at least, conflicting evidence of more to the story.

        We are all flawed human beings who bring our own issues to most situations.

  41. Amanda says:

    I wonder if maybe people from Switzerland don’t know who she is and assumed that she wasn’t wealthy enough to shop there, or perhaps she arrived at the store after they closed for the day. Who knows?

  42. JudyK says:

    So the Great One didn’t make a scene, so she’s even “greater” than we thought.

    So self important.

  43. AG says:

    I have worked in fashion for many years. The luxury market survives because it doesn’t just sell high end products, it offers its clients EXCLUSIVITY. The luxury market has a very narrow clientele, and most, if not all of these stores know every customer by name, reputation and preference. Many do not sell to just anyone – if their regular customers were to discover that the store sold to anyone walking in, they would not be back. I know it’s snobby, but the snobbery is what sells the product and makes everyone else aspire to be able to afford it.

    I work with upscale independent designers around the world, helping them sell to stores, and I walk into upscale stores all the time to check out what brands they sell, how they merchandise the store, etc. I’m almost always dressed in jeans and just a shirt, and I have ALWAYS been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment. I get the very obvious once over, and then the salesperson either turns their back on me or I get the not so subtle – this store is too expensive for you – type of remark. I’m white, well-educated and presentable, but jeans, sneakers and minimal or no make up just doesn’t cut it in these stores. It is pointless to say anything, especially in luxury stores, because the behavior will not change.

    I was in Paris many years ago and I was stopped on the Ave. Montaigne by an Asian couple – tourists – who asked me if I would go into Louis Vuitton and buy a wallet for their daughter for them. She wanted a gift from the “original” Louis Vuitton store. The couple was not even allowed into the store by the doorman (who probably instantly suspected they were buying something to knock it off – may or may not have been the case). They gave me some cash (!!) and I went in. Again, jeans and shirt. I stood at the wallet counter for about 15 minutes with no one paying attention to me, even when I asked for service in French. Finally, I pulled out the cash and waved it, a woman came over. I told her about my treatment (in French) and to her credit, she was super apologetic, told me there was no excuse for that and then treated me like I was the only customer in the store. However, it took waving cash in their face to have someone come over.

    A good part of the behavior, unfortunately, is because it is what the regular customers expect of “their” stores. These stores cater to a consistent (and snobby) clientele and need to conform to keep their business. Disgusting, but an unfortunate reality.

    • Resa says:

      You say you were always in jeans and a shirt when you experienced this type of rejection from salespeople. But Oprah was not. She was wearing a skirt and sandals, per her own admission, done up in full Oprah gear–minus the eyelashes. So if she is dressed to the nines and still denied service, we can’t compare her experience to your jeans-and-shirt ones, can we? This had everything to do with her race and nothing to do with her apparel. Can’t believe the hoops people are jumping through to pretend that race had nothing to do with this. Just plain sad.

      • taxi says:

        She was not dressed to the 9s. She said she had her “Oprah gear”, specifically referring to her “little” DK skirt and “little” sandals. A couple of extra pounds in a DK skirt can make it look like a Target special. Possibly she left off some of her usual make-up besides just the eyelashes she said she didn’t wear.
        The clerk was wrong, this should not have happened, & O may have been discriminated against only because of her race but I’ll bet if Naomi Campbell or Iman had walked in & asked to see the purse, it would have been shown.

      • AG says:

        Perhaps I should have added that I regularly walk into stores where customers of other backgrounds come in and are immediately greeted and attended to, and I am ignored. I don’t see it as racial, I see it as ignorance and snobbery. It has everything to do with someone making an instant assumption about someone they do not know. That assumption can be based on race, but it is not always. Reducing this to race diminishes the real issue – deciding instantly that anyone should be excluded and discounted.

        To give a wonderful example of how store owners should deal with this – many years ago when a friend of mine just got out of school and had no money was out looking at engagement rings with her boyfriend. They walked into a store they clearly could not afford (rings started at $10k and this was about 20 years ago). The shop owner came up to them and asked if he could help them, and they both quickly said they couldn’t afford anything in the store. He said to them, please look and try on something you like. She did and they had a wonderful moment where she was able to put on rings that cost more than they both made in a year. As they were leaving they asked the store owner why he gave them his attention and he said that one day they would be able to afford to buy a ring for a special occasion, and he hoped they would come back to his store. And you know what – they did!

      • Nibbi says:

        This. I feel lately like people jumping to deny that race can be an issue in instances like this (or all the crap I’ve seen in my Facebook feed about the Trayvon Martin thing being “blown out of proportion” by the liberal media and stuff) is really sketchy. I feel like it’s almost akin to Holocaust denial, which is an actual crime in some European countries… Denying or downplaying clear prejudice against a group of people is simply wrong. There is so much evidence that it is still a problem in this day and age, and that some people are always willing to discriminate against other groups.

    • erika says:

      Excellent overview of the luxury goods, clic (sp? clic like special group, not cliche!).

      I would LOVE to be rich, but HATE this kind of, ‘selective merchandising’? selling to a very particular niche.

      I worked in fashion/merchandising for the gap brands, we wanted store sales reps to weed out…well….uhm..absolutely NOBODY! not even a dog!!! haha..(I’m thinking of all the doggie stuff old navy has)

      i loved canal st., in NYC when it was jumping but I never bought the knock offs, well, I bought a lot of stuff, but i wasn’t searching for the Dior and Vuitton stuff where the initials of the brand (like VL) are what people pay $$$ for.

      i always thought the VL luggage is ugly, and tacky looking. maybe because i saw soooo many spring chickens walking around the city, ass strutting their stuff wearing jean cut offs, shades, thongs but dripping in LV handbag!?!?

      like…”wow, you look so high end! and Rich! and Famous!”

      i HATE labels. from GAP sweatshirts to luxury stuff- its like wearing the sales receipt of everything you’re wearing.

      back to the point, i don’t care what the swiss salesperson’s issue was, i HATE oprah…esp now she’s philandering w/ Lilo

    • Aud says:

      I’ll have to disagree with you. Perhaps, once upon a time, they did sell exclusivity. But no more. Like Lagerfeld said, it’s all about the logo and the logo that is easily recognised enables sales. The interlocked ‘G’s and ‘C’s are the fashion equivalent of the golden arches. Brands like Louis Vuitton and Chanel have become like the McDonalds of fashion.
      Why do I say this? In the 80s many brands were being bought out by conglomerates: LVMH for example. So now if you gaze at any range from the brands within LVMH and you’ll see a type of standardisation taking place. Everything is corporate. There is no individualism where fashion is concerned, therefore no exclusivity.
      I can’t walk down certain streets in the city where I live without seeing 1 out of every 4 bags being Louis Vuitton. Twenty years ago, you’d have to fly to Europe to buy a bag from Louis Vuitton. That was exclusivity. When the stores open branches like fast food outlets around the world, the exclusivity is gone and, to a degree, so is the workmanship, because everything is standardised.
      And I can’t say that there is racism in Sydney, as 95% of the clientele are all Asian.
      As for your view regarding these stores not selling to anyone. That is a fallacy. Not every location is identical. Ultimately they’ll take their money wherever they’ll get it, as you mentioned. I’ve seen shoppers in stores that look like they’ve just woken up, bedraggled and the like, I’ve seen casually dressed shoppers. None are refused entry. Speaking for myself, I bought a cheaper LV bag a few years ago and entered the store in jeans and sneakers. I wasn’t refused entry.
      Designer stores? More like MacDonaldised fashion.

      Essentially, these brands would not survive today had it not been for the Asian economic boom. So they can’t really afford to be that fussy. Most of their wealthier clientele is not European. That is the irony. Middle Eastern and Asian consumers spend on haute couture and the like, very few others.

    • Annie says:

      The Louis Vuitton thing still happens. My understanding of it was that LV sells for much more in Asia than it does in Paris. There are a fair number of Asians who were coming there, buying 5 or 10 bags and then reselling them back home, undercutting the avtual LV stores.

  44. EscapedConvent says:

    I don’t think it matters at all who the customer was—Oprah, Mother Teresa or Honey Boo Boo. Since when does any shop not want to take a customer’s money?

    It’s none of the clerk’s business which bag the customer wants to look at. Someone comes into your shop, asks to see something, you show it to them. The clerk was being judgey & rude to a customer & it’s not her call who can or “cannot afford” something.

    This is shabby treatment of a customer & that’s without pulling out the race card, the famous person card, or any other card.

    Swiss Miss The Shop Clerk was completely in the wrong & has some `splainin to do.

  45. tricklady says:

    Excuse me but “My Little Donna Karen Skirt” since when does Oprah wear any thing little? Funny she got a taste of how the rest of us live. Oprah take you GINORMOUS “little Donna Karen skirt and go back to “Your Mountain” NO ONE CARES

  46. Mika says:

    I don’t think it was racism – it was just snobbery pure and simple. I lived in Switzerland for a few months so I know that those shops on the lake are for the millionaires only. That sales lady looked at Oprah and said to herself that she can’t afford this bag! Oprah does not give off a millionaire “vibe” when she is on vacation. I was passing through Paquis in Geneva, Switzerland a few years ago. There was a store on a side street that sold clothes for both men and women; it was being manned by an old white salesman. I asked him in my best French to see this amazing winter coat. He told me, “No, that coat is too long for you.” I asked again. He then said, “No. I don’t think that coat would suit you.” I gave him a look and then replied, “Do you want to sell the coat or do you want to close up today with no sales money?” He refused to get the coat down off the upper rack until I put my money on the counter. When I pulled out my Swiss francs, then he became the best salesman in the world – pleasant and chatty. Seems like boutiques in Switzerland require customers to walk in the store with the money in your hand in order to get some service!

  47. lisa says:

    i’d like to know what she was wearing

    if she went into the store in sweatpants then i cant say it was racist (although it could have been)

  48. aang says:

    She should have worn the wig from the picture, maybe the clerk would have thought she was Diana Ross and sold her the bag. Poor crocodile :( .

  49. Talie says:

    Zurich is one of the Top 3 most expensive cities in the world. I do find it strange that Oprah is well known there, but I feel like someone should’ve recognized her since that city caters to the world’s wealthiest people.

  50. NDM says:

    Originally from NYC, we are Americans currently living in Zurich. In the past 10 years we have lived in India, Bahrain, Hong Kong and now Switzerland. My husband (a senior executive at a bank) is of Indian origin and I am “Caucasian”. In no place that we have lived have we ever experienced racism to the extent that we do now. My husband more accustomed to it is somewhat immune – he shrugs his shoulders. I, on the other hand am both gutted and outraged by this – for me there is not a day that goes by in which *something* has happened. It’s strongly affecting our marriage – I want to leave before the kids are damaged by this. Our neighbors hiss at us, wrongly report us to the police, include for supposedly abusing our pets (when we were interrogated the officer – after seeing my husband – apologized!) and generally treat us like servants. Even while wearing a suit and Hermes tie he is spoken to dismissively on the trams. Maybe diversity is embraced somewhere in Switzerland, and maybe we unwittingly chose to live on the “wrong” (eg “white”) side of the tracks, but I – a seasoned expat – live in constant depression as a result of this nasty racism.

    • Chris says:

      Your assumption, that they are treating yourself bad because of your husbands Indian origin is for 100% racism.

    • GeeMoney says:

      Welcome to the world of what minorities go through almost on a daily basis. It’s easier in certain parts of the world, that’s for sure, but hell. People are racist.

      Grow a thicker skin. Be the bigger person. Especially for your children, since they are biracial and discrimination is going to be a huge part of their life. That’s all you can do.

      As a black female, that’s what I do everyday. And I don’t get angry at people who are racist. I feel sorry for them, b/c when you are that ignorant, you are probably miserable. And being miserable is no way to live.

    • Eleonor says:

      I know a lot of people who have worked in Switzerland: according to them is “the hell” for someone who’s stranger, even if you’re european. Be strong and go on.

      • Chris says:

        And I know a lot of people (Europeans, Americans, Asians and Africans) working and living in Switzerland and they like it.
        To be honest, I also know people having problems with the Swiss people but this has nothing to do with racism.
        The neighborshod behavior NDM described is typical for stuffy Swiss and we might have more stuffy people than other countries.
        Racism exist in Switzerland like everywhere, but over 21% of our population are foreigners and every third marriage in Switzerland is with a foreigner, iliving here can’t be that bad.

      • lisa says:

        i worked in geneva for a while and i loved it. i moved there in a second if i could. but they dont have super lenient immigration policies like the US.

    • Switchoff says:

      Oh my god…. I really feel for you and totally understand what you mean. I am Caucasian with dark hair and olive skin and I never felt as humiliated as I did living in Europe. Can’t you move? I only say it be you have children.

    • Annie says:

      As a fellow seasoned expat (20 years, 8 countries), my advice to you would be three-fold.

      Move houses. You’re obviously living next to *ssholes. I would also take the opportunity to file charges for harrassement immediately after you do if they’re doing things like calling the police for fraudulent reasons.

      Have a talk with your kids about what drives racism. Fear, the fundamental need of small insecure people to make themselves feel better about themselves by belittling others and then try to use what they’re experiencing as an example of why they should never do the same thing to others. Make a point of bringing up examples of Swiss people they interact with (friends, teachers etc) who aren’t like that as well as examples of why you can’t lump everyone in the same boat.

      And lastly for yourself… you can’t control what other people do, but you can control how you react to it. Keep repeating to yourself “water off a duck’s back” when this stuff starts to get to you. Ultimately, you’re letting the opinions of people who mean nothing to you and never will affect your life. They don’t deserve that much power over you, so take it back. I’m sure you’ve probably done whatever the local version of the International Ladies Club is, there will be a new crop of the “incoming” in September, feeling lost and looking to make friends too.

      Also, if you’re going through a bit of “the trailing spouse” syndrome, (been there, done that) you might think about taking advantage of being in a first world country to do some courses in something that interests you and that “travels” easily. There’s nothing like having your own interests and goals (rather than constantly being only “the wife of”) to give you back some of the loss of control you might be feeling. Documentary film making, Graphic, Interior, Jewellery Design, Photography (self publishing is so easy these days), IT security, Life Coaching, anything that allows you to work through the internet, get new clients when you move and keep the ones you have built up in your previous postings. It’s been a lifesaver for several of our wives and I’ll include myself in that.

  51. Elle says:

    Big Lie. She just needed a Story. She should apologize to the Shop Assistent.

    Please Stay in the US and make your Shows.

    • Caroline says:

      Have you ever been to a high-end retail store? I’m of asian descent, and let me tell you, these type of situation happens all the time, especially in areas not as tourisy or multicultural.

      Of-course it’s silly to assume a casually dressed customer in higher-end stores couldn’t afford the merchandise, but sometimes the dismissive attitude goes deeper than that one factor.

      I have encountered this prejudicial attitude recently at BCBG, where none of the sales clerks would even glance in my direction, even after I waved and called out to them after trying on a dress. At the time, I wore Sandro and carried Valentino.

  52. Megan says:

    I seem to recall Oprah having a similar incident years ago in Paris. I think she was trying to buy a gift for Stevie Wonder at Cartier.

  53. GeeMoney says:

    All I know is that if someone walks up into a store that carries $38,000 handbags, I’m going to assume they have the money to buy something there. I mean, I love Dior, Chanel, Versace, etc, but the hell if I’m walking up in there just to browse! Hell, a small wallet in one of those stores costs a fortune. If I were clerking there, a person’s race, gender, how crappily they are dressed, etc, would be irrelavent b/c I’m going to assume you have some money. No broke a$$ person is just going to roll up to a store like that to just “window shop”.

    I know I wouldn’t, and let me assure you… it’s b/c I need my paycheck for the middle class things in life. Like SURVIVAL.

    • taxi says:

      It’s incorrect to assume that people stay out of stores where they can’t afford to shop. Some people go specifically to steal. It happens frequently. That’s why Tiffany’s, Cartier, Hermes, Goyard, and many others in the USA have security guards stationed throughout the stores. In some US locations, including San Francisco & Rodeo Dr, the doors stay locked during business hours & an employee must buzz in every visitor.

    • lrm says:

      yea, and my spouse and I always mention how much we loved living in san francisco and marin [northern CA], b/c the guy who looks homeless on the bus or driving an old diesel volvo wagon coverted to vegetable oil, could well be a multi-millionaire [i know not the status of oprah or many other zurich shoppers, but just a case in point story here]….it’s fantastic and freeing to live somewhere where your image does not dictate your means or visa versa. Yes, SFO is also hipster pretentious, but it’s nothing like southern california where I now live-you are what you drive, what neighborhood you live in, etc. It’s comical but only when it does not get to me….Life has so much more to experience than simply status symbols and waving cash around….
      at least we have free, clean beaches. One of the great things about CA. It’s for everyone.

  54. Lark says:

    Racist, snobby, and shady, simple as that. Yes, the Hermes Paris thing was overblown but this situation is Switzerland was straight up racist. For all the people nattering on about the way she was dressed, you are ignoring the fact that she points out she was wearing designer clothes. Even if she wasn’t wearing designer clothes, everyone deserves to be treated with respect. Switzerland is not the most welcoming country to minorities or immigrants, either. People may shade France for some of their laws, but Switzerland is 100x worse.

    Side-note on how appearances can be deceiving: My mom’s good friend married a man who invented a piece of equipment (being vague here on purpose) that is often used in computers. Needless to say, they are multiple private plane rich. Silicon Valley tech guys rarely look fancy, and he is a little different because instead of looking like a docker’s wearing nerd…he appears to be an old sunburned surfer guy. My point is, even a person who is not dressed up could drop $100 grand in a store and an employee could earn a great commission.

    • lrm says:

      This is a great story…and similar to what i wrote about about living in marin and SFO. You simply cannot tell dot com moneyed elite by looking at them. Or even other elite, necessarily.

    • Lucrezia says:

      Same deal in my part of Oz. The weather-beaten guy in jeans and a t-shirt probably earns more than the guy in the suit, and could easily be a multi-millionaire.

      It’s usually a bit easier to tell with the women, but the richest person I’ve met was an older horse-mad woman (think Camilla Parker Bowles), and I had no idea she was so wealthy until I visited her house: which turned out to be a mansion, complete with a swimming pool for horses and 200-seat indoor equestrian centre.

    • Jo 'Mama' Besser says:

      It’s interesting, ‘Are you good enough for us to take your money?’ I think a job interview takes less preparation.

  55. lrm says:

    btw, I absolutely LOVE Montecito [next to santa barbara] where Oprah has a home…These wealthy areas of CA are for everyone-beaches ands hops are open to all and in fact the businesses rely on income from all sources, not just the super moneyed. Montecito is unapologetic in its wealth, but its an old money wealth and is worn comfortably, not showy or snobby. So much nicer.

  56. Claudia says:

    Anyone who does not denounce this as a case of possible and quite propable racism is walking on very thin ice. This isn’t about Oprah, she’s irrelevant to the story in a way. It is about about prejudices against black people. I say this as a European and as someone who doesn’t particularly care for Oprah.

    • Katia says:

      Well ok, you would know since you live in Europe . But if many of us white Americans also feel that European stores are snobby to us(I mean I even feel like a loser noob in tiny classic Parisian cafes like those old men can’t stand me in there), why is it only interesting when it happens to a black person? And if the store is normally friendly with other black people can we still call it racism? I was not aware that Oprah was well known in Europe. American movies are obviously popular but stuff like Oprah and “the view” gets lost in translation, in more ways than one. I’m sure typical Italians don’t watch
      Oprah and sales people are probably chosen for their mannerisms grace and charm more than their worldliness.

  57. Claudia says:

    Anyone who does not denounce this as a case of possible and quite propable racism is walking on very thin ice. This isn’t about Oprah, she’s irrelevant to the story in a way. It is about about prejudices against black people that continue to exist. I say this as a European and as someone who doesn’t particularly care for Oprah.

  58. Mabs says:

    Anyone thinking Oprah’s life isn’t carefully and strategically manipulated down to the second is drinking her very own recipe of bullshit properly marketed in next month’s magazine being pushed through her radio show.

    • Kiddo says:

      Telling the story now may be calculated, and I’m not a fan of Oprah, but clearly, she was denied service in viewing the bag. The store admits this. I get that, to a degree, you can leave up to debate the reasons why. Although, personally, I think they are pretty clear.

  59. Mabs says:

    And I’ll be damn happy when ‘shading’ dries up and blows away. I cast a shadow, true and I certainly enjoy a nice shady spot on the Caribbean, sipping a rita and eating fresh ceviche, but sugar-coating crappy character is weak.

  60. allheavens says:

    We’ve got classism, racism, cluelessness and just plain hateration going on in THESE comments. No need to travel further than some people’s front doors.

    “Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Mark Twain wasn’t just correct, he was prophetic.

  61. Kate says:

    Sales Assistants do judge by what you’re wearing, and in Zurich Oprah’s usual gear would scream ‘poor’ compared to what the average customer is wearing (Donna Karan vs. custom made Chanel). That might not be fair, but at the same time, many of the things in luxury boutiques and stores are extremely expensive, and if you pay a ton for something you don’t want to be the 100th person who’s handled it or tried it on, so the sales assistants protect the merchandise by only allowing serious buyers to take a look. If something like the bag Oprah wanted to buy is damaged, even in a very, very minor way (eg. a tiny hand cream stain on the inner lining of the bag), it’s no longer fit to be sold.

    The SA made a mistake in this case, but I can understand why. The kind of people usually looking to buy a $35,000 bag in Zurich wouldn’t bother trekking to the store, it would be brought to them. It’s mostly tourists who actually go to these stores during normal opening hours, and you might sell them a scarf or a purse, but the sales assistants wouldn’t be expecting walk-ins to spend tens of thousands of dollars or ask to see something not kept on the floor. The physical stores are there so they can say they have a store in Zurich, but the big purchases are either ordered via a phonecall and sent to hotels or the stores are shut down for VIPs. I think this was just a bit of a culture clash. In the US you get a lot more walk in’s looking to spend huge amounts of money, in Zurich it’s very unusual.

    • Aud says:

      I would imagine, as you said, that a bag that price would be brought to the buyer. But in addition to that, bags that are usually that price do require waiting lists, so if the SA didn’t recognise Oprah and took her to be a tourist, didn’t regard her interest in a serious manner. But still, even if the bag is slightly damaged, the retail price, as we all know, is all about paying the overheads.
      Stores make how many hundreds of a percentage profit.
      What would be the wholesale on a 35K bag?
      It wouldn’t be a huge loss.

    • stinky says:

      very practical explanation. thanks for sharing. its too bad its so far down the comment thread… it answers much of the outrage above. i’ve got a friend who is SO CONVINCED she’s being discriminated against everywhere we go, its become exhausting. i am literally standing right beside her and I’ve seen her go off on stuff that didnt even HAPPEN – she’ll accuse someone of dissing her who absolutely did not. I dont know what the answer is. AND, my sister (who no longer comments here because she gets attacked) worked in a dress boutique for many years, and she told me a story about how she was daydreaming about her boyfriend while standing behond the counter one day, when two women made nasty comments toward her as they were existing the store: They were talking extra loud to each other, so she’d be sure to hear them: They were suggesting that she was too snobby to serve them because they were fat, and that she didnt want them messing up the folded clothes! But she swears she never even saw them till they walked out. “Bitchy-resting-face” maybe, but not a diss. See what i’m sayin here?

  62. Jaxx says:

    I think Oprah is mostly steamed that she wasn’t instantly recognized and immediately fawned upon like she is used to. She has shopped in luxury stores all over the world and is sophisticated enough to know you need to dress the part when you shop in those places. She can usually get by with ignoring the dress code because she is so well known. She ran into one person who didn’t know her and was treated like the rest of us. Shocking!

    The commenter above me has it right. The sales lady was protecting an expensive bag from being handled by someone that she judged couldn’t afford it. She would have done the same thing to a casually dressed extremely overweight white, yellow, or green woman. It is blatant discrimination but I don’t believe her ill judgment was based on color.

    After the saleslady refused to show her the bag, Oprah could have identified herself and assured her that she could afford to buy everything in the store. She could have asked for the manager. But Oprah decided to set herself up as the victim and get some free publicity for her movie.

  63. Aud says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me that it is true. She experienced similar treatment at Bulgari as well.
    I think one of the reasons is not racial/ethnic, but when she is only holiday, she is low key and by that I mean that she is dressed very casual, to the point where you have to ask yourself if she is indeed a billionaire and most of these prestige boutiques do take consumers at face value.
    At Sydney where I live, there was an experiment done, with hidden camera, by two women that was shown on a news program. They entered stores like Louis Vuitton, Gucci and the like, and were all treated like pariahs. Rather than be acknowledged they were ignored. So I can imagine if they asked to see something, a similar outcome would have occurred.

  64. Stephanie says:

    I lived in Switzerland for a bit a few years ago and even though my German was horrible, no fashion sense and me being a short asian looking girl, the store clerks were more or less nice. Definitely more bitchy towards foreigners, but nothing too bad.

    HOWEVER. When ten or so of my college friends and I were entering a bar in Luzern close to the main train station, one or our Kenyan friend (a very sweet young man) was denied entrance. He had his ID, student card, everything but they refused to let him in. My then boyfriend, now husband nearly got into a fight with the bouncer who was HUGE, it was scary. We saw another two or three African men be denied access so we all left the bar because we didn’t want to give money to an establishment that was racist.

    I don’t doubt what happened with Oprah. My Kenyan friend was quiet the whole time, didn’t raise his finger or even really speak. He didn’t provoke anything but they refused him.

  65. Nibbi says:

    Poor Oprah. I remember when this kind of thing happened here in France… well, it wasn’t as blatant and disgusting, but pretty suspicious… Even though she’s an icon in the US and a billionaire, the Hermes boutique on Faubourg St. Honoré refused to let her in to shop near closing time- it was something like that, I can’t remember the details- although they regularly let VIPs shop after hours, they didn’t recognize her or something, and wouldn’t let her in. It’s true that she’s not that well-known in Europe, but that’s no excuse to write her off or assume she isn’t there to shop seriously.
    Anyway, their loss, the stupid fools. She could buy them out if she wanted to.

    • Annie says:

      They refused to let her in AFTER it had closed. I would imagine that most if not all of those people who shop in private after hours probably make an appointment to do so, which is the considerate thing to do. If they actually do allow it, since I’ve heard the contrary.

      You don’t just tap on the glass saying “Hi, I’m Oprah, let me in… Now”. If I remember correctly, the store was getting prepared for a photo shoot that was being held there that same evening as well. It was total Diva behaviour in that particular case, sorry.

  66. LaurieH says:

    This was a clear-cut case of classism (racism being a component of that). The 2005 incident at Hermes in Paris was different – in that case, the classism was being perpetrated by Oprah who thought, despite showing up after hours, she should be let in due to her celebrity. However, what happened in Switzerland is something most women can relate to. While there can be no doubt that Oprah’s skin color and even her weight fed the sales clerk’s snobbery (this can’t be denied), Oprah herself played into the snobbery by pointing out that she was wearing a Donna Karan skirt, as if the clerk’s behavior would have been understandable had she been wearing a skirt from Loft. Trust me, if a thin beautiful white woman walked into the store wearing Gap and carrying a bag from Nine West, she’d have been treated the same (if not worse).

  67. jwoolman says:

    Kind of doubt it was racism- are the Swiss or Italians known for American-style racism? (Italian is an official language in Switzerland so the clerk may have been native Swiss). They have other -isms, my first suspect would be classism if she didn’t dress “rich”.

    This was not a language problem though – the clerk clearly didn’t want to show her that bag and instead was pushing less expensive ones on her. They all sound gruesome, all those poor dead animals just to make pricey purses. Maybe this is a sign from above, Oprah- repent and buy plastic!

  68. Laura says:

    I have taken the time to read a lot of these comments, and some of them make me feel icky…for realz!! Oprah was asked if she still a victim of discrimination given her wealth, status etc. right? she then gave a story in which she was subject to discrimination. Discrimination is not only racism, it’s elitistims, sizism and all the other isms that people named. So it doesn’t matter what it was it was WRONG. So to see people trying to justify this incident, by talking about how she was dressed or her weight pisses me off. And really people throwing shade on Oprah cause she wanted a 35K bag? I’m pretty sure that’s the norm in hollywood. Seriously. People here seem to have a serious dislike for the woman.

  69. Kiyoshigirl says:

    Oh my God…such “pain and embarrassment” Give me a break. Pain and embarrassment is living on the street, eating thrown out food from garbage cans, not being denied the opportunity to purchase a $35,000 bag. Who cares.

  70. AKA says:

    Most designer brands produce certain very expensive handbag models in limited numbers and these are only shown to VIP customers. And by VIP customers these brands don’t refer to certain celebrity people, but customers who regularly buy from that brand and are in that stores system. Heck even a particular $4,000 handbag by Dior is only available for viewing to VIP customers, no matter how much cash that customer has. It’s about exclusivity and that’s what these brands thrive on. I think this was what the sales lady was suggesting to Oprah, but something got lost in translation. And I know it’s horrible to think someone can be denied service for looking like they can’t afford something, but in this instance the sales lady did think Oprah can afford other bags and was still trying to serve her instead of throwing her out. Usually if they sense someone is only there for window shopping they’d just alert security and keep and eye on you. Most high end stores have a sign outside saying “Rights of admission reserved” so it is what it is. The fashion world is based on image and exclusivity so nothing too surprising here.

  71. stinky says:

    Shop-girl’s version sounds pretty believable to me. I can envision the exchange rather easily. Altho its in direct opposition to what Oprah verbally stated, thats for sure.

  72. Ron says:

    This chaps me. I worked retail in Beverly Hills years ago. You NEVER KNOW who has the money to shop there, I would wait on anyone, sometimes you had more time and other times not, but I would not ignore or judge people based on what I thought of their appearance. You learn that lesson quickly. Also, when I was 18 I went to NYC for the first time by myself. I had never been there. I walked into Cartier and was amazed by the jewels. This lovely sales woman asked me if I needed help, they were not busy as it was raining and I looked like a drowned rat, and I said “Oh no, I can’t afford anything I just wanted to see the diamonds” and she asked if she could pull out anything from the case to let me see it close up and she showed me a few things including a 350,000 bracelet in 1982. I have never forgot that and have been lucky enough to shop for a great watch, which I bought from Cartier because of that experience.

  73. lena80 says:

    What amazes me is that some posters think classicism and racism can’t be delivered as a combo punch. The clerk observed a poorly dressed Black woman in her high end boutique. Make of it what you want, BUT let’s not pretend that even wealthy people of color aren’t discriminated against. Racism isn’t just burning crosses, lynchings, and white hoods, nowadays it’s downright insidious and no offense, but most White people aren’t capable of recognizing it because their knowledge jumps from slavery to the civil rights bill being passed.

    • Bijlee says:

      “knowledge jumps from slavery to the civil rights bill being passed.”

      Absolutely. I think that’s true for everyone. There’s next to no knowledge of either of these two events on either end of the spectrum anyways, just the romanticized it was all good that we learned BS.

  74. Mom says:

    Oprah had a similar issue years ago shopping in Paris. No eyelashes? She was missing more than that. We will never really know what happened this time.

  75. VrLux says:

    “I had my little Donna Karan skirt and my little sandals and all that on, but obviously The Oprah Winfrey Show is not shown in Zurich”…

    Well, you definitely gonna impress no one in Switzerland with sandals and a donna karan skirt, but as we say here ‘you may have millions but you can’t buy class’ !!
    NO, the oprah show isn’t aired in Zurich. Its not a MUST ! You’re not God !
    Finally, clerks here aren’t paid on commission, she’s gonna earn the same salary if she does or doesn’t sell this bag. Boom ! how’s that !

  76. Denise says:

    I don’t know. Zurich is ridiculously expensive, I believe it is considered the most expensive city in the world. So to be there in the first place, then going into a high-end boutique to look at bags, there has to be an assumption that you’ve got serious cash. Clearly she was being judged at least on appearance, whether her skin colour figured into that who knows, but she was being judged. And so is every single person who walks into a high fashion boutique.

  77. Dirk says:

    That’s Switzerland a neutral Country