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Shock: Oprah Winfrey has told how she was refused service by a 'racist' shop assistant in Switzerland
She is one of the richest and most famous women on the planet.
So when Oprah Winfrey popped in to an upmarket boutique for a new designer handbag she was taken aback when the shop assistant refused to show her a bag.
She said the £24,460 crocodile skin item was ‘too expensive’.
Instead of making a scene, the billionaire TV magnate calmly left the Swiss store.
But she has now hit back at her treatment in a furious interview on US television, claiming she was a victim of ‘racism’.
Miss Winfrey, 59, said: ‘I was in Zurich the other day, in a store whose name I will not mention. I didn’t have my eyelashes on, but I was in full Oprah Winfrey gear.
'I had my little Donna Karan skirt and my little sandals. But obviously The Oprah Winfrey Show is not shown in Zurich.
‘I go into a store and I say to the woman ‘‘Excuse me, could I see the bag right above your head?” and she says to me “No. It’s too expensive.”’ Miss Winfrey asked a second time to see the bag, which was locked in a cabinet to deter shoplifters.
But oblivious to her fame and fortune, the shop assistant allegedly replied: ‘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.’
It may have been beyond the salaries of ordinary mortals, but £24,460 is small change to a celebrity worth about £1.8billion.
Miss Winfrey added: ‘I could have had the big blow-up thing and thrown down the black card and all that stuff.
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Apology: Store owner Trudie Gotz said sorry for the incident but said it was due to a misunderstanding rather than racism
Controversy: The bag in question was a Jennifer bag in crocodile skin. Tom Ford designed the handbag for the actress, pictured with it left, and now makes it in a number of different finishes, right
Turned away: The assistant serving Oprah Winfrey in the boutique owned by Trudie Goetz (pictured) told Oprah: 'You will not be able to afford that' when she asked to see a hanbag
‘But why do that? But it [racism] still exists, of course it does.’
‘I left the store but it proves that racism is still an issue,’ she added.
Referring to a famous movie scene in which Richard Gere tells a snobbish boutique salesman that he wants to spend an obscene amount of money she added: ‘I wanted to create a Pretty Woman moment and come back and buy everything and say ‘‘Big mistake!’’. But then I thought she’d get a commission, so let’s not do that,’ she added
Miss Winfrey was in Zurich for the wedding of her friend Tina Turner to Erwin Bach last month. She was staying in the five-star Dolder Grand Hotel at the time.
The incident happened in a branch of the chic Trois Pommes chain of boutiques. Ironically, its owner Trudie Goetz was also a guest at Miss Turner’s nuptials.
Miss Goetz apologised for the incident, blaming it on a ‘misunderstanding’.
‘Everyone wants to sell a crocodile bag,’ Ms Goetz said. ‘It’s a misunderstanding. She insisted her saleswomen put customers first and try to be ‘kind’.
However, Zurich trade president Markus Hunig condemned the snub saying: ‘It’s totally unacceptable. I’ve never heard of anything like it.’
Swiss tourism spokesman Daniela Bar added: ‘We are totally ashamed about what happened. This sales assistant was completely in the wrong.
'We apologise on behalf of Swiss tourism for what happened.
‘This was a one-off and will not have a long lasting effect on the popularity of Switzerland, but the saleswoman should apologise to Oprah Winfrey.’
It’s not the first time that Miss Winfrey has had a run in with a high-end boutique.
In 2005 Hermes apologised to her after she was turned away from their Paris store because it was hosting a private function.
Miss Winfrey’s allegations come as Swiss authorities were criticised for introducing ‘apartheid’ style plans to ban asylum seekers from public places such as swimming pools, playing fields and libraries.
Switzerland has 48,000 asylum seekers or one for every 332 inhabitants, which is double the European average.
Race row: The owner of Trois Pommes, in Zurich, Switzerland, apologised after Oprah Winfrey said she had been the 'victim of racism' while visiting the store
Offense: A 'racist' shop assistant at Trois Pommes refused to show Oprah Winfrey a bag because it was 'too expensive' and she should look at the cheaper merchandise, the star claimed during a TV interview
Girls' weekend: Oprah Winfrey and best friend Gayle King ahead of Tina Turner and Erwin Bach's wedding celebrations in Zurich, Switzerland
Race row: Oprah Winfrey was a guest at the wedding of Tina Turner and Erwin Bach, pictured, in Zurich, Switzerland
Even if Oprah Winfrey had been allowed to look at the handbag, she may have thought twice before buying it.
The £24,460 bag was reportedly a crocodile-skin version of one of Jennifer Aniston’s favourite designs.
The Tom Ford Jennifer Bag, named after the 44-year-old former Friends star, is often seen on the arm of fashion-conscious celebrities.
But as Miss Winfrey is a strident opponent of animal fur clothing and was named 2008 Person of The Year by animal rights group PETA, she may have felt crocodile skin was a step too far.
The TV host has occasionally worn leather belts and scarves, but crocodile skin is seen by some campaigners as being particularly cruel, given the poor treatment exotic species are often subjected to by farmers.
A spokesman for Tom Ford could not be contacted to confirm if the handbag was made of real or imitation crocodile skin.