News

Oprah: Clerk thinks I can’t afford $38k handbag

Oprah: Clerk thinks I can’t afford $38k handbag

The owner of a luxury goods shop in Zurich has denied that racism was involved. Photo: Reuters

ZURICH (Reuters) – The owner of a luxury goods shop in Zurich has denied that racism was involved when Oprah Winfrey was discouraged from buying a 35,000 Swiss franc ($38,100) handbag.

The U.S. talk show host, recently named the world’s most powerful celebrity, was in Switzerland for the wedding of singer Tina Turner when the incident occurred last month.

The broadcaster said in two U.S. interviews that a sales assistant had refused to show her the crocodile handbag, saying it was “too expensive” and steering her towards other, cheaper ones.

Luxury shop Trois Pommes denied discriminating against Winfrey, an African-American, who asked to look at a “Jennifer” purse, designed by Tom Ford and named for actress Jennifer Aniston. The owner put the incident down to a language barrier.

“This is an absolute classic misunderstanding,” shop owner Trudie Goetz told Reuters on Friday.

“This has nothing to do with racism, I am here for everyone and the customer is king.”

The sales assistant had wanted to show Winfrey that the bag was also available in other materials, which may have given the TV host the impression the shop did not want to sell it to her, Goetz said.

“Of course that’s not the case. Who wouldn’t want to sell a purse for 35,000 francs?” Goetz said.

Trois Pommes operates various luxury-brand boutiques in Switzerland, including the Tom Ford shop in Zurich where Winfrey said she was refused.

Winfrey, 59, who runs her own TV network, earned $77 million in the year to June 2013, taking the No. 1 spot on the Forbes most powerful celebrity list last month, the fifth time she has headed the annual ranking.

She also appears in a forthcoming movie, “The Butler”, which examines race issues in a story about an African-American who works at the White House under several U.S. presidents.

The shop incident unleashed a volley of criticism in Switzerland, where media reported this week that asylum-seekers are not allowed free movement to public sports venues like municipal pools, prompting criticism from advocacy group Human Rights Watch.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga denied there were particular access barriers for asylum-seekers.

The Swiss tourism association said it regretted the handbag incident and was “never happy when our guests’ feelings are hurt”.

Switzerland has contradictory attitudes towards foreigners: on the one hand, it employs large numbers of foreign professionals in big industries like finance, which accounts for roughly 6 percent of gross domestic product.

On the other, the Swiss People’s Party, the biggest in parliament, has long made opposition to immigration a key plank of its electoral appeal. It has been accused of racism for its campaigns which once featured a poster of a white sheep kicking a black one from a Swiss flag.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Oakland’s Johnson designated for assignment

Oakland Athletics pitcher Jim Johnson (45) is relieved by manager Bob Melvin, rear, during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, April 2, 2014. The Indians won 6-4. Johnson was the losing pitcher. In front is Athletics catcher Derek Norris.

Johnson, acquired in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles, was 4-2 with a 6.92 ERA in 38 games with the A's.

in Sports

Two Texas football players charged with sex assault

Texas head coach Charlie Strong listens to a question from a reporter during the Big 12 Conference NCAA college football media days in Dallas, Tuesday, July 22, 2014.

Spokeswoman Cindy Posey says the players charged Thursday are wide receivers Kendall Sanders and Montrel Meander. Sanders also faces a charge of improper photography.

in Sports

Cavaliers sign rookie Andrew Wiggins

Top NBA draft prospect Andrew Wiggins of Kansas prepares for an interview during the NBA draft lottery in New York, Tuesday, May 20, 2014.

The Cavaliers have signed No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, a contract that prevents him from being traded for 30 days.

in Sports

Knoblauch charged with assaulting ex-wife

Minnesota Twins' Chuck Knoblauch takes a hard swing at a pitch by Cleveland Indians pitcher Chad Ogea, and falls down as he misses the ball in the second inning in Minneapolis, Saturday, July 13, 1996.

Knoblauch has been released on $10,000 bond. His first court date is set for July 30

in National, Sports

Ohio State University fires marching band director

osu

OSU has fired the director of its celebrated marching band amid allegations he knew about "serious cultural issues" including sexual harassment.

Bellingham Traffic