We’ve read numerous articles about the recent faux pas which occurred between an employee at the famous Swiss boutique, Trois Pomme, and world-renowned billionaire, Oprah Winfrey. The Headlines are everywhere: Oprah Winfrey’s Brush with Racism in Swiss boutique, Trois Pomme Denies it was Racist, Trois Promme Employee Refused to Show Oprah $38K handbag. Although we’ve seen many, one headline was missing, Oprah Winfrey Humiliated at Trois Pomme Boutique – Zurich’s Apple of Discord.
Why is it that these exclusive, overpriced, for-the-rich-only, stores in Europe, keep turning Lady ‘O’ away? I said stores, because on June 14, 2005, a similar incident happened when Ms. Winfrey attempted to enter the Hermes boutique on the Rue Faubourg Saint Honore in Paris, but this time she was refused entrance and never made it past the front door.
Now depending on what Hermes version you believe, (and there are two,) you can conclude for yourself, what happened. Version 1: Alleged that the shop employee who flagged Oprah, stated that the store had been experiencing problems with North African women shoplifting so they didn’t let Oprah in. Version 2: Oprah was recognized but asked to come back later, because the store was closed for a private function? And then there’s my version, ‘they just didn’t want to let her in.’ Undoubtedly, to have a well-known celebrity like Oprah being photographed at your store, would not only boost sales; but the coverage would be viewed by, and plastered over, every television station, newspaper, magazine or tabloid, from Europe to the Uranus. Now I ask you, what store clerk in his or her right mind, wouldn’t want to make a commission off of something that costs as much as, or more than, a modest home or luxury car?
During her interview with NY Daily News, Oprah stated “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.” She further stated, that she 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.”
When asked about the incident, the luxury boutique owner, Trudie Goetz, told BBC News that Winfrey was “absolutely allowed” to view the $38,000 Tom Ford purse, saying her employee was struggling with a language barrier when the encounter with Winfrey took place.
Winfrey who is staring in the upcoming Lee Daniels’ film, The Butler, said she was denied service because the sales clerk didn’t believe she could afford such a pricey purse.
Michelle Smawley, award-winning news, director, writer and media consultant, produced a social experiment in 2009 for ABC News’, entitled “Shopping While Black”. The purpose of the experiment was to see how other customers would react when a black shopper was humiliated and deemed as ‘unsuitable’ to shop in an upscale NYC boutique. In one instance, the discrimination was so blatant that it drove one customer tears.
Maybe Oprah should have that viewed the video before shopping at Trois Pomme.
Written By DeBorah Heggs