Oprah Winfrey’s brush with racism in Swiss boutique sparks international uproar after employee refused to show her $38K bag
European nation’s tourism board, Trois Pommes store owner apologize to star of ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ over handbag ‘misunderstanding’
By Ethan Sacks / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Switzerland is desperately trying to make peace with Oprah Winfrey.
A trip to a tony Zurich shop ended in a disturbing racial encounter for the billionaire media mogul — a national humiliation that forced the Swiss tourism board to issue a public apology.
Winfrey said she was in town for Tina Turner’s wedding last month and stopped in the posh Trois Pommes boutique where she asked a clerk to see a $38,000 Tom Ford bag behind a glass case.
“She says, ‘No, it’s too expensive,’” Winfrey, 59, recounted to Entertainment Tonight this week.
“She said, ‘No, no, no you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You won’t be able to afford that one.’”
“She refused to get it … she said, ‘I don’t want to hurt your feelings,’ and I said, ‘Okay, thank you so much, you’re probably right I can’t afford it.’ Now why does she do that?”
Winfrey, who Forbes estimates earned $77 million between June 2012 and June 2013, said she left without making a further scene over the “Jennifer” bag, which is named for Jennifer Aniston, rather than give the clerk a commission.
“I could have had the big blow up thing and thrown down the black card but why do that,” Winfrey said during the interview to publicize her new movie, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
Swiss officials are reeling over the bad publicity.
“We are fuming — this person acted terribly wrong. We are sorry this happened to @oprah!,” a rep for the Swiss Tourism office tweeted Thursday.
But the shop’s owner told Reuters the flap was all a big misunderstanding caused by the clerk’s imperfect English.
“This is an absolute classic misunderstanding,” owner Trudie Goetz, who also attended Turner’s wedding, told the news agency, suggesting that her employee had been trying to give Winfrey multiple options.
”Of course that’s not the case (that she was racial profiling). Who wouldn’t want to sell a purse for 35,000 francs?”
In an interview with Switzerland’s Blick newspaper, Goetz also publically apologized to Winfrey for any inconvenience at her store.
The incident comes eight years after Winfrey was turned away from a Hermes store in Paris a few minutes after closing.
The high-end boutique later apologized to Winfrey, but claimed the snub occurred because the shop was closed at the time for a private event.
On Friday, Winfrey tweeted she probably wouldn’t have bought the bag anyway:
“Turns out that store clerk did me a favor. Just found out that bag was $38K!!! She was right I was NOT going to buy.”