August 12, 2013

"It is absolutely not true that I declined to show her the bag on racist grounds."

"I even asked her if she wanted to look at the bag," said the Swiss sales clerk who incurred the wrath of Oprah.
"I wasn't sure what I should present to her when she came in on the afternoon of Saturday July 20 so I showed her some bags from the Jennifer Aniston collection. I explained to her the bags came in different sizes and materials, like I always do. She looked at a frame behind me. Far above there was the 35,000 Swiss franc crocodile leather bag.

"I simply told her that it was like the one I held in my hand, only much more expensive, and that I could show her similar bags.... She looked around the store again but didn't say anything else. Then she went with her companion to the lower floor. My colleague saw them to the door. They were not even in the store for five minutes."
Now, I think this relationship got off on the wrong track when the sales clerk read the customer as best suited for the Jennifer Aniston collection. This would annoy me. You're steering me toward the Jennifer Aniston?! Why! But Oprah can't go to the press with that, because it doesn't say I was racially typecast. What does it say? You look like a middle class American. That's annoying, but not a topic for outrage. So Oprah points at the most out-of-reach item, figuring it's super-expensive, which it is.


The sales lady stays on track with her original guess that you look like you'd go for something Jennifer Aniston selected to put her name on. Arguably, that's the opposite of racist — looking at a black woman and thinking she's the Jennifer Aniston type? Oprah's outrage seems like what would rankle a white woman: I look merely middle class.

Oh, but isn't it a burden to be black and thus to need to wonder whether any given failure to genuflect is because of race? Even though Oprah's quite different from virtually every other black person who's troubled by that burden, she may feel the call to represent those burden-bearers... especially since she's starring in the latest medicinal movie about race and she'd like you to look at her character and think of her as stereotypically black and not as the huge celebrity Oprah, which is to say, she'd like you to see her as she claims that shop lady saw her. So could you please show her something in crocodile?

From the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary:
The crocodile was fabulously said to weep, either to allure a man for the purpose of devouring him, or while (or after) devouring him; hence many allusions in literature. (See also crocodile tears...)...

1590   Spenser Faerie Queene i. v. sig. E2,   A cruell craftie Crocodile, Which in false griefe hyding his harmefull guile,..Sheddeth tender teares....
a1616   Shakespeare Othello (1622) iv. i. 246   If that the earth could teeme with womens teares Each drop she falls, would proue a Crocadile....
1677   T. D'Urfey Madam Fickle iii. 36   More false than Crocodills, that mourn the slain, and yet delight to kill 'em.

39 comments:

Henry said...

Oprah's outrage seems like what would rankle a white woman: I look merely middle class.

Or worse: I look dumpy.

Oprah says "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."

And yet the sales lady thought she looked fat.

Expat(ish) said...

I think I caught a bit of the dialogue on this, maybe it was on Rush, I dunno.

I never worked retail, but I lived with a woman who ran a retail operation and lived on commission and I am pretty sure that if the lady selling the gizmotronic purse thought she could shift a $30K purse she'd have had it down in a twinkling.

I wonder what O was wearing? If she was "shabby chic" with no identifiable status symbols, the, well, I don't know why she'd be surprised that the purse was up high and away.

It's a very curious and self-promoting problem she's having.

-XC

Real American said...

when a person, such as Oprah, looks at every slight or insult or action through a prism of race, it's difficult for her to imagine others not doing exactly the same thing. OF course, she'll always be on the victim end of things, too, regardless of how powerful and wealthy she is. Once a victim, always the victim.

Tibore said...

The real problem here is that the whole notion of who's wronged is probably entirely backwards. Is this really a case of a white woman condescending to a black one due to race? Or a case of a rich person bullying a working class person due to her sense of entitlement?

Is that a provocative thesis? Yeah, but so what of it? It fits the details given.

Administrator said...

I knew this story smelled like two week old fish in the fridge.

But leave it to mega-millionaire Oprah to spin it into a grievance.

SOME rich people suck.

Levi Starks said...

I'm not certain if Oprah even has a show any more she started her own network, but if she does she could really teach that store a lesson by purchasing 35K purses and giving them out as attendance prizes to her audience. Even better just give them to the overweight black ladies.
In truth we know that what really offends her is that she was not immediately recognized as OPRAH by the store staff. Perhaps she had failed to be recognized multiple times previously that day, and had just had enough.
Certainly Barack Obama would be recognized anywhere in europe, and she's been around much longer than him. In fact she helped make him.
Yes, I think she's got plenty of reason to be ticked.

lemondog said...

It is an ugly bag**.

But, but, but....... isn't denying O's allegations ..... I dunno.....racisssst?!!!

** The HANDBAG, not Oprah.......

I wonder what O was wearing?

Hopefully nothing close to what she is wearing in the last photo in the article.

Illuninati said...

Tibore said...
"Is this really a case of a white woman condescending to a black one due to race? Or a case of a rich person bullying a working class person due to her sense of entitlement?"

Hear Hear Oprah's mask is off.

Ipso Fatso said...

I was taught an important lesson in sales many years ago at a Mercedes dealership in New Orleans. I was 20 years old, in dirty blue jeans and a t-shirt and was admiring a new car. The salesman walked up and asked, have you ever owned a Mercedes before? I chuckled and told the guy to not waste his time as I was just looking. But the important thing is that he did not judge me by my appearance. Chances are he had some other customers who looked a lot like me.

R. Chatt said...

Saying that Oprah has the vibe of an average normal person instead of the vibe of a super rich 1%'er might have been taken as a compliment if Oprah wasn't looking for one more vestige of racism.

Michael K said...

Black American students in college and post-grad studies, where I teach, are at a distinct handicap because of this race obsession by the rich blacks. Foreign born blacks have none of this obsession and do well. I've talked to them about it and they readily agree it is a handicap. If Oprah had children she might suspect it but probably not. I wonder how much this has to do with Jesse Jr's mental health.

fivewheels said...

Huh. A woman who has made a huge, singular (and negative) contribution to American culture -- the valorization of victimhood, turning it into a status symbol -- goes out of her way to portray herself as a victim so she can revel in it. Who'd have predicted that.

Winfrey might be one of the five biggest problems with this country in the last 30 years.

Ben Calvin said...

I think that If she was profiled, it was for not looking Saudi.

FleetUSA said...

Maybe she didn't even recognize her as Oprah. Some people don't recognize stars and Switzerland is far removed from Tabloid USA.

Otherwise, maybe Oprah needed a publicity jolt.

Rumpletweezer said...

For crying out loud, surely Oprah's seen "Pretty Woman."

Mark Trade said...

What a croc!

Original Mike said...

I'm surprised Oprah didn't already have a handbag.

bpm4532 said...

When you're out of the limelight, sometimes you have a hard time letting go. Failing to be recognized is often the worst perceived insult.

pst314 said...

Didn't Oprah dishonestly claim racism a few years ago when she tried to enter a Paris store shortly after closing time?

LilyBart said...

"Didn't Oprah dishonestly claim racism a few years ago when she tried to enter a Paris store shortly after closing time?"

She tried to get into Hermes after the store closed early for a special occasion. She came home to the US and expected all her middle and working class fans to be outraged that she wasn't treated like a princess. Oh the humanity.

Original Mike said...

35,000 Swiss franc for a hand bag. Maybe the clerk thought the woman standing in front of her looked smarter than that.

But I guess Oprah showed her.

LilyBart said...

Original Mike said...
35,000 Swiss franc for a hand bag. Maybe the clerk thought the woman standing in front of her looked smarter than that.

But I guess Oprah showed her.


Heh.

Hagar said...

I think Althouse is throwing rocks - or something - at Jennifer Aniston here, which complicates things, but the original spat was still a storm in a teacup.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Questioning the legitimacy of a claim of racist treatment? Kinda ugly....

david7134 said...

I can assure you that the Europeans profile and I have no problem with it. But it has nothing at all to do with race. As a male, I know that if I want respect in Europe, I dress accordingly. For a man that means leather shoes (this is mandatory). In addition, you wear slacks, not jeans or shorts (no matter what the weather), a long sleeve dress shirt and a jacket. If you dress like this, then you don't have any problem at all. Recently my wife and I toured Italy and she wanted shoes. But we had elected to dress like any average American with shorts, golf shirt and soft shoes. We did not get service in the shoe store as they did not bother with people who likely would not buy.

So, if you want respect, you dress accordingly.

Now, remember that Oprah is pushing a movie and needs publicity. She also is pouring money into the failing enterprise that is her network and also needs attention there. So true to form she gets the publicity by race baiting. This really makes me think less of this woman and her stunt ranks up there with Jesse Jackson and others.

At some point, we need to tell black people that no one is interested in their claims of racism. In my experience, blacks are far more racist than whites ever thought of being, that is to whites and other blacks. I have had enough of the constant victims from our black citizens, they need to grow up.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Questioning the legitimacy of a claim of racist treatment? Kinda ugly...

I join Senator Reid in hoping your motivation here doesn't have anything to do with race.

Xmas said...

I read this quote differently, "I simply told her that it was like the one I held in my hand, only much more expensive, and that I could show her similar bags..."

I read it as, "The style is the same as this one in my hand and I can show you a crocodile bag if you want to see the material and you can figure out what that bag up there is like."

fivewheels said...

I suppose it's stereotypically normal for a regular Midwestern dude such as myself to be baffled by high fashion, but at the link, wow, those are some pants on the shop owner.

Belial said...

Where are all the people criticizing Oprah for being such a plute as to want to spend 35,000 bucks on a purse? If this were a 1% Goldman Sachs banker wanting to spend that kind of money on a crocodile skin golf bag or whatever we'd never hear the end of it - live simply that others may simply live, blah blah blah.

n.n said...

So, it wasn't prejudice but economics which motivated this conflict. It seems that Oprah, with ulterior motives, intentionally fumbled a reconcilable moment. It's no wonder that people of lower economic classes have been thoroughly disabused of the elite's charm and moral superiority.

The Godfather said...

I've got nothing against Oprah -- I pay no more attention to her than she pays to me -- but this kind of story really hurts people of color and other minorities, by making a mockery of discrimination. I have been told that "racism" involves both discrimination and power. Who had the power in this confrontation, Oprah or the shop girl?

MayBee said...

I don't think the Aniston line is supposed to be middle class. I think it is supposed to be like the Kelly bag or the Birkin bag. Both named after actresses and decidedly not for the. Middle class.

William said...

I just hope on the Day of the Last Judgment that God takes questions. I would be interested to find out who committed the greater sin here.........Rich and important people should never throw their weight around. That's what the posse and assistants are for. Oprah needs a new personal assistant--someone who looks skinny and rich.......Oprah is generally pretty good at pr. She doesn't look good here though.

jr565 said...

Maybe she was directing her towards the cheaper bag because, even though it was in the store, she didn't want to direct someone to buy a bag for 40,000 dollars when a much cheaper bag was just as good.

It reminds me of the scene in Ruthless People when judge Reinhold is selling a speaker to a woman, and first he's really honest. The lady asks about the really big speaker (The Definator X1) and he basically says that the Defintor is a marketing gimmick that's heavily marked up but not a very good speaker.

Later on as he gets frustrated in the movie, another customer comes in and this time he tries being Ruthless and pushes the Definator X1.
When the guy asks him the cost he says "that's the beauty of it. If you can't afford it, fucking finance it! Who cares if its as big as a Subaru and ousts twice as much, you'll never have to upgrade it and when you die you can be buried in them!!!"

Then the customers pregnant girlfriend walks up, and he feels guilty that he tried to sell the piece of shit speaker to the guy who obviously can't afford it. And he goes back to pushing the budget speaker that is cheaper and better.

Now granted, Oprah is not some teenager that can't afford an expensive speaker. But maybe the sales woman is trying to direct her customers to not buy ultra expensive handbags that 99.99999% of the populace could never afford, and instead get a perfectly decent one that does the same thing but isn't ridiculously expensive.

And maybe the real problem is not racism, but that Oprah wants to buy a Definator, and doesn't like a salesman that treats her customer with integrity. (Ie not give them the big sell on crappy products). To Oprah, that's racism.

Well, to Oprah, I find it far moreoffensive that you would spend 40,000 dollars on a bag than that someone would assume that you couldn't afford it.

Charlie said...

Holy crap, not many billionaires are that large.

Steve said...

If her role in The Butler won't win her an Oscar perhaps her part in this morality play will.

Hagar said...

I think Althouse may be suggesting that the saleslady thinking that Oprah looking like someone who might buy Jennifer Aniston's stuff is a worse insult than that she might not be able to afford it.

Popcorn, beer, anyone?

jr565 said...

Some points from the shop woman that are very telling:
'I don't know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful and I am just a shop girl.
'I didn't hurt anyone. I don't know why someone as great as her must cannibalize me on TV.


This really comes across like bullying.oprah is SO powerful and here she is going on TV and ruining someone's life for what very well may be a misunderstanding.

Shanna said...

I was taught an important lesson in sales many years ago at a Mercedes dealership in New Orleans. I was 20 years old, in dirty blue jeans and a t-shirt and was admiring a new car. The salesman walked up and asked, have you ever owned a Mercedes before? I chuckled and told the guy to not waste his time as I was just looking. But the important thing is that he did not judge me by my appearance.

I did a brief stint in direct sales (knives!) many years ago and I went on a training sales call with a guy who had been working there for a while. We went to a trailer. He told me, and I've never forgotten, that the people in the trailers often had more disposable income than the ones in nice houses - precisely because they weren't spending it all on their house! And if they wanted a 200 dollar knife they would just buy it. That was good advice for sales.

I think this lady just misread her customer. Middle class american in this instance would NOT be an insult, because what she got instead was drama queen rich lady with a chip on her shoulder.