Winfrey told “Entertainment Tonight” the incident took place when she was in Zürich last month to attend the wedding of longtime pal and songstress, Tina Turner. The TV titan admits she was dressed casually when she ventured into the shop; she not want to mention the name of the establishment.
“I go into a store and I say to the woman, ‘Excuse me, may I see the bag right above your head?,” Oprah told ET. “And she says to me, ‘No. It’s too expensive.'”
Winfrey then asks the woman to see the bag again and the shopkeeper informed Winfrey, “‘No, no you don’t want to see that one, you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You will not be able to afford that.'” The bag had a price tag of $38,000, a mere drop in the bucket for Winfrey.
WHA, WHA, WHAT!?
Winfrey said she still attempted to convince the sales person to get the bag for her. “One more time, I tried. I said, ‘But I really do just want to see that one,’ and the shopkeeper said, ‘Oh, 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.’ And I walked out of the store,” Oprah recounted.
Winfrey said that she could pretty much surmise what was going on with the shopkeeper. “That clearly is you know … it (racism) still exists, of course it does.”
Watch Oprah talk about racism incident below:
Word of the Winfrey incident somehow got to Trudie Goetz, the owner of the boutique, who is ironically a friend of Turner’s and attended her wedding. Reportedly, Goetz profusely apologized to Winfrey for the “misunderstanding,” and said the sales woman failed to recognize Winfrey.
Switzerland’s national tourism board issued a more direct apology, with spokeswoman Daniela Baer telling the Associated Press, “we are very sorry for what happened to her.”
The head of corporate communications for Zürich Tourism, Christian Trottmann, told CBSNews.com the incident was “obviously very regrettable.”
Meanwhile, the Zürich Tourism representative said he would encourage African-American families to not be put off by the Winfrey incident because the shopkeeper’s attitude isn’t reflective of the city as a whole.
“You’ll find here very friendly people,” Trottmann told CBSNews.com. “We are, I would say, quite an open-minded city. We are used to having people from all nations and all cultures.”