, ZURICH, August 9 – A Swiss luxury boutique denied any wrongdoing Friday after US chat show queen Oprah Winfrey claimed she had been the subject of racism when a shop assistant allegedly refused to show her an expensive handbag.
Winfrey, one of the richest women in the world, said she had been in Zurich for US singer Tina Turner’s wedding in July and had spotted a swanky crocodile handbag while out shopping.
“I’m in a store, a name brand store. I’m by myself, absolutely nobody else with me. And I say to the woman, ‘I would like to see that bag on the shelf’,” Winfrey told fellow US talk show host Larry King on Internet channel ora.tv.
“And she says, ‘No, that one’s too expensive. I’ll show you this one’,” said Winfrey.
She did not directly describe the incident as racist, but recounted it after telling King of a “racist moment” in New York years ago when she and her hairdresser were refused entry to a luxury store which had been robbed by two black people.
Trudie Goetz, head of the Swiss luxury chain Trois Pommes, denied her saleswoman had ever sought to stop Winfrey buying the bag.
“Everyone wants to sell a crocodile bag,” Goetz told AFP.
“It’s a misunderstanding,” she said, adding that the saleswoman always put the customer first and tried to be “too kind”.
“She explained how beautiful the bag was, then she said, ‘Honestly this bag costs 35,000 Swiss francs, but I can show you other versions in ostrich, in pure leather and in velour’,” Goetz said.
That sum is worth $38,000 small change for Winfrey, whose wealth is estimated at $2.8 billion by Forbes magazine.
On its Twitter feed, Switzerland Tourism apologised and said the saleswoman had behaved inappropriately.