August 9, 2013

"We are fuming - this person acted terribly wrong. We are sorry this happened to @oprah!."

So tweets the Swiss Tourism office after Oprah cries racism when a shopgirl deems a $38,000 handbag "too expensive" and steers her toward other merchandise. Racism has many manifestations, some terribly subtle. Who can tell the difference between a rich lady in don't-you-know-who-I-am mode crushing a humble retail employee and a woman imbued with racial memory vindicating centuries of suffering by perceiving the last nuance of insult?

61 comments:

Richard Fagin said...

A $38,000 handbag is too expensive for Warren Buffett's wife and he wouldn't tolerate her making such a purchase. What's Oprah's beef? The sales person was doing her a favor by the Buffett standard.

I'd never make it in luxury retail.

Martha said...

So the clerk would assume any white person walking into that store could afford a $38,000 handbag?

I doubt racism is the reason the clerk hesitated to show the locked up, most expensive version of the handbag to Oprah.
But when you are Black, every experience is seen through racist eyes.

cubanbob said...

Faux outrage from Oprah. I'm pretty sure she has a black AMEX card. All she had to do was flash the card and tell the clerk " don't worry honey. I can afford it." The grievance industry has just jumped the shark.

Moose said...

Sounds like Oprah. Sounds like modern race relations. Sounds like a typical snotty noveau riche person whom everyone tells she can do no wrong.

SteveR said...

Of course if it happens to Oprah, its racism. Criticism of Obama is racism, criticism of Jay Z is racism, "wolf!!" "wolf!!"

TosaGuy said...

Oprah's success was because she didn't engaged in this sort of crap.

I guess she doesn't need to maintain a fa├žade anymore.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

If Ms. Winfrey was dressed as she was in the second image down, I wouldn't have assumed she could pay $38K for a handbag either. Though the sales assistant might have found a better way of phrasing that.

The deeper mystery is why anyone would pay anything into even three figures for a handbag, let alone the price of a fairly upscale automobile.

jr565 said...

Why is Oprah looking to buy a 38,000 dolllar handbag? if she can actually afford that, with 99% of America suffering, she hasn't been taxed enough.

MadisonMan said...

Of course they're sorry it happened! They missed out on potential tax dollars!

If you live life seeking slights, eventually you find them, Oprah. Or should I say, @Oprah.

AaronS said...

I hope it wasn't an incident motivated by racism. But can we really talk about the bigger issue here. $38,000 is too expensive for a bag.

stellastruck said...

My hunch is that if you gathered 100 Oprah-looking black women and a hundred Oprah-looking white women and sent them into high-class stores, the black women would be statistically more likely to be treated as if they couldn't pay for the most expensive merchandise. However, I wouldn't know until someone actually did the experiment, and it's impossible to tell whether Oprah would have been treated differently in this one particular instance.

traditionalguy said...

Poor ole Ophrah can't get any respect.

She should have hinted the Swiss clerk that she was a Prussian Aristocrat and needed a bag to launder more of her secret stash of Nazi stolen Jewish Gold bars into the Swiss Banks.

Then the Swiss would have treated her with the highest possible honor and respect known to man.

hombre said...

If it had happened to a white, frumpy-looking fat lady, it merely would have been elitism and barely worth mentioning.

Btw, I doubt that Oprah's "racial memory" includes centuries of suffering at the hands of the Swiss.

Grant said...

Who in their right mind would pay 38K for a handbag?

Mousebert said...

Racism or the Pretty Woman Effect?

Left Bank of the Charles said...

I wonder if it has occurred to Oprah that the $38,000 handbag may have been on the top shelf for show and not for sale.

Not that the clerk wouldn't have sold it to her if she had taken the bait, which was designed to hook the nouveau riche who have a different kind of chip on their shoulder.

Edgehopper said...

I went to the Macy's jewelry counter a few years ago with my wife to look at wedding rings. We were out doing other stuff, so in T-shirts and shorts, and we happen to be fat white people. I'm a BigLaw associate making six figures, but the jewelry counter clerk thought otherwise and steered us away from the fine jewelry.

Where's my outraged news article?

mikeski said...

The grievance industry has just jumped the shark.

"Just"? Dude, turn around. See that dot way, way behind you? That's Fonzie. The grievance industry jumped awhile ago.

Ex-prosecutor said...

She raised a similar stink in 2005 when she showed up after closing at the Paris Hermes store to buy a $4,000 scarf and was refused admittance because she was (suprise!) black.

She's spring-loaded and looking for racism.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/23/AR2005062302086.html

n.n said...

cubanbob:

That would have been seizing the higher ground. Unfortunately, Oprah decided that a lighthearted rebuff was insufficient. Instead of making it a reconcilable moment, she decided to exploit it. This will only serve to reinforce the perception that there is a class divide. It will confirm that political, economic, and social success is not necessarily evidence of better judgment.

Hagar said...

I believe the shop's owner says his saleslady knows quite well who Oprah is, but her English is not so good.

LCB said...

Guys, guys, guys...and gals, gals, gals...you're all missing the obvious. It had NOTHING to do with race. It was European snobbery. Oprah was tagged as an American tourist by being a bore...and the clerk just knows that no American tourist can afford the ture luxeries of life! :-)

TJIC said...

> Who in their right mind would pay 38K for a handbag?

Someone who earns that much in the time it takes you to write that comment?

I'm sure you've paid $3 for a coffee at some point in your life. How do you answer a third worlder who doesn't earn that much in a week who asks you the same question?

There's only one valid answer and that's "I earned the money and this is what I choose to do with it."

William said...

Perhaps the $38,000 handbag was on display more as a fantasy object than as a sales item. Maybe it was the equivalent of the $1000 hamburger that some expensive restaurants put on the menu to attract attention rather than diners. Perhaps the saleswoman, who spoke English as a second language, was trying to divert Oprah's attention to a more saleable item......White people are always being asked to gut check their reaction to black people. If you formed a negative impression of Rachel Jeantel, you just couldn't appreciate her authenticity. Perhaps Oprah should gut check her touchiness.

Broomhandle said...

A $38,000 handbag is an obscenity. I'm all for rapacious capitalism but I'm totally against anyone stupid enough to throw away money like that.

MathMom said...

Oprah is acting like a bully. That "do you know who I am" crap is unattractive when John Kerry does it, and it's unattractive when Oprah does it.

Rush Limbaugh said that if he could go somewhere without being recognized, it would be really nice for a change.

The Roller said...

Similar to John Derbyshire's description of Rachel Jeanteal, "300 pounds of ghetto attitude"....

Oprah. 300 pounds of elitist attitude.

Illuninati said...

"Who can tell the difference between a rich lady in don't-you-know-who-I-am mode crushing a humble retail employee and a woman imbued with racial memory vindicating centuries of suffering by perceiving the last nuance of insult?"

The question is very well stated. In my opinion this is an example of a racist black woman, Oprah, who is rich and powerful and who has taken the opportunity to crush a humble retail employee.

The Godfather said...

It interests me that the News calls it a "racist" incident, not an "alleged" racist incident, or what Ms. Winfrey "thought" was a racist incident. I guess if you're Oprah, you're the final judge of what's in the hearts and minds of the people you deal with, and if you're the News you dam well better know that!

Inga said...

Why would the clerk assume she didn't have the funds to pay for the purse? Anybody even walking into that shop probably could afford it.

Hyphenated American said...

Move over, Trayvon Martin, Oprah Winfrey is the Emmett Till of today.

Freeman Hunt said...

“I could have had the big blow up thing and thrown down the black card but why do that,” Winfrey told ‘E.T.’s’ Nancy O’Dell.

Black card as in race or black card as in the one from AMEX?

Marty Keller said...

Ho. Hum.

RonF said...

With Oprah it's equal measures of both. The lady does not exactly have a self-effacing ego. Remember - she's got a magazine that only ever shows HER on the cover ....

wendybar said...

A couple of years ago in Paris, Oprah went to a Hermes store that was closed for a private party, and was convinced that they wouldn't let her in to shop because she was black. Oprah needs to get off of her high horse. http://edition.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/06/22/oprah.apology/index.html


And why does it always happen when she is seeing Tina Turner??

Kelly said...

In Germany a waiter ignored me when I asked for another serving of delicious goulash suppe (for my three year old). In Paris I was snubbed when I asked for another cup of coffee. That made me sad because it was the best cup of coffee I ever had. Europeans are snobs, even the servers. Not all, but some. I can't imagine what a high end business must be like.

wendybar said...

http://edition.cnn.com/2005/SHOWBIZ/TV/06/22/oprah.apology/index.html

Oprah did this to Hermes in 2005, (again when she was seeing Tina Turner)
The store was closed for a private party, and Oprah wanted them to open for her. When they wouldn't...they were racists.
Pretty sad actually.

Shanna said...

She didn't want to make a scene at the store, so she had a press conference? Whatever Oprah.

Birches said...

I disagree with most of these comments. The sales lady probably didn't think she should bother showing Oprah the handbag, party because she's black. However, this just exposes how racist the "enlightened Europeans" really are. My Uncle spent time in Finland. He's a very light Mexican (some might say a White Hispanic). And he was called the n word repeatedly. This was in the 70s.

rcocean said...

The problem isn't racism, its the Oprah wanted to spend $38,000 on a freakin' handbag. How much did that handbag cost to make? Is it made of Gold? What's the shop markup?

And think of all the kids in Africa that could have have gotten Malaria vaccines with $38,000.

Mamie said...

Perfect timing -- maybe Obama can work this incident into his remarks when he presents Oprah with the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this year. In the interests of furthering our national conversation on race.

Tom said...

Oprah marketed victimhood for years. Why should that change? If the clerk was being a racist, that sucks. Personally, I'd be thankful that a sales associate was trying to find me the best deal, not just trying to show me expensive stuff. And, I have a hard time feeling sympathy for someone who can afford a $38k purse. I don't think this is a case of "what you do to the least of us, you do to Me."

n.n said...

I wonder if this could have been the saleswoman acting as a personal shopper. Salespeople are notorious for steering people to purchase specific items. Perhaps she was overly presumptuous. Either way, Oprah fumbled what could have been a reconcilable moment.

Hagar said...

When I go to Walmart to replace my watch with the specific model Casio watch and Speidel band I wear, I do not get away without the saleslady trying to direct my attention to all the other watches and bands in her display case.
And we are talking about less than $35, total incl. tax.

That is al that happened here, plus the saleslady was a German speaker, fluent in Italian, but not so good at English.
You don't work in a store selling handbags for 38 grand without knowing who is who and who is not among the beautiful people.

Oprah just jumped to concussions and flew off the handle for no good reason - again.

MrCharlie2 said...

Nobody actually gave a shit, other than some dueling PR hacks

jr565 said...

She was profiled I tell you.
Two quick things though. One, how many black women do you think can afford one of these bags statistically? Its probably pretty low, considering most black women are not rich the way Oprah is rich.
And two, how could she not recognize Oprah?
Should we be outraged about this the way we should be outraged about black men not being able to get cabs in NY?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Oprah just jumped to concussions

Now that's a keeper.

Darrell said...

Last time Oprah made a stick about Hermes not letting her in when the store was closed for a private art party (that she didn't know about and that she wasn't invited to) she got more free stuff as an apology than even a rich person will ever see. I see free leather goods heading her way. The rich get richer.

Btw, the two saleswomen in the Paris Hermes store were in a rush moving all the floor merchandise to open up a space for the party people to set up. They had never done it before and the store manager was running late. They just told Oprah to come back the next day. It wasn't racism then and it isn't now. Oprah made her reputation with her giveaways of $millions in merchandise that didn't cost her a cent--it was all provided by the manufacturers.
Maybe she can claim that Trayvon Martin AND her are like Emmett Till now. We'll all cry.

colleen cafferty said...

When we go to the wineries, galleries, and boutiques, the "shop girls" can smell easy money on my sister and focus all their attention on her. Same race. Same class. Same family. And they are right. She is a much easier sale. You can tell by her soccer mom chartreuse leather jacket.

That's all it is - they're doing their best to sniff out the money. If they are wrong either way, they'll get in trouble. They are just freaking shop clerks.

Nevertheless, it sucks when it happens to you.

madAsHell said...

How's her new network doing??
Yeah....I think that explains her response.

madAsHell said...

Oprah just jumped to concussions

Hilarious!! I'm stealing it!!

Darrell said...

They would let me in The Swiss Franc Store, where everything sells for a Swiss Franc. I was not amused.

David said...

The shopgirl is correct.

The handbag is too expensive.

Even though Oprah has the money to pay for it, it's too expensive.

The woman has lost all common sense, which was her trademark.

Kirk said...

When was the last time you were steered to something less expensive by a sales person?

I'm poor by modern American standards, but I have yet to have a Family Dollar employee steer me to an item less expensive.

Oprah should be thanking the sales person. $38,000 for an accessory? That's money for Hillary's campaign.

cubanbob said...

It's all in the attitude you convey. Me: I'm late middle-aged, fat and balding and don't care to dress to well. The young, good looking shop-girls normally wouldn't look at me even if I was on fire. But, in the rare times I go to the expensive stores in the expensive mall and go to the counter and politely ask let me see this or that, then the clerk realizes I'm a live one, a real buyer, not a looker or wannabe. The change in attitude is immediate and palpable. And after the purchase is made I am truly noticeable in her eyes, why I suddenly became an interesting man. It's all in the attitude.


Freeman when I said a black AMEX card, I meant the one you need to spend at least one million on over a not too long period of time to even be considered for an application. Pardon the pun but Oprah qualifies for that in spades. Now why the hate for her thinking of spending thirty eight grand on a handbag? She has the money, she earned it legally and she won't miss a meal buying it. It's not even a rounding error at her level of wealth. What's the point of having that kind of money if you enjoy it as you wish?

Ben Calvin said...

She was profiled as not being Saudi.

el polacko said...

the store owner has not apologized. she blames mis-communication in that the clerk was only trying to explain that the bag is available in other fabrics when oprah mis-understood and flew into a rage. the issue has more to do with her sense of entitlement and the thinness of oprah's skin rather than the color of it.
oprah visited another shop where she was having heavy items brought down from the second floor for her inspection. when the shopkeeper suggested that it might be easier for her to simply go upstairs to view them, he was told by an aide that "oprah doesn't do stairs."

James Graham said...

Two anecdotes that might shed light on what happened.

In the process of shopping for (and buying) a slick desk lamp at an upscale Milan shop my translator passed along a request from the mono-lingual shop assistant, "Stop touching the lamp." I had tried the switch and tested the adjustablility of the lamp I was about to buy.

My European-born, but raised in America, girl friend would take European female visitors with her while shopping in NYC green grocers. The Euros were all amazed that the shopper could select which tomatoes she wanted. In Europe if you want a pound of tomatoes the shop keeper decides which ones you will buy.

Probably the Italian shop assistant would not have shown that very expensive bag to any customer (excepting perhaps Queen Elizabeth and Sophia Loren) for the simple reason that she was trained to believe that protecting the merchandise was a primary function of her job.

Too bad Harpo-spelled-backwards doesn't have people on staff who could have advised her better on the matter instead of "going Sharpton."

Hagar said...

I am beginning to wonder about this whole story.

$38,000 for a handbag seems an awful lot, even on Oprah's level. Could the bags have been priced in some other currency? Swiss franc would make it even worse, but how about French franc or Italian lire?

And Oprah does not walk around by herself. When she and her security entered the store, the staff would have gone on high alert, whether recognizing the big money, or suspecting a heist if not recognized. The clerk would have to be comatose to not see that something special was going on.

Mark Trade said...

Apparently the same thing happens to Glenn Beck. He claims to have been refused service because the store clerks looked at him, the way he was dressed, and judged by his appearance that he couldn't afford it.

Link to video clip at The Blaze TV.

Oprah and Beck are rather alike, actually, forming media empires centered around their own personalities.

richard mcenroe said...

I have a feeling this has more to do with Oprah's anger that someone didn't recognize who she thinks she is.