In the latest developments of she said she said, now comes the Swiss boutique sales assistant who purportedly denied showing Oprah Winfrey a luxury handbag because she assumed Winfrey as a black woman could not afford it. Except the sales assistant, who happens to be Italian, has now come out to say that such assertions are false and absurd.
The brouhaha first came to light when Oprah Winfrey, who happens to be a billionaire went to tell that she was mortified that a Swiss sales agent declined to show her the store’s pricier goods, presumably because the associate assumed she could not afford it because of the color of her skin.
Needless to say the presumption also comes into play that the Swiss boutique associate did not know who happened to be at the store at the moment, otherwise she would not have purportedly balked.
That said the sales assistant has now come out to publicly defend herself and to tell that Oprah Winfrey categorically lied about what actually happened in the store when she dropped by this past July whilst shopping for a matching handbag.
Speaking anonymously to Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick, the Italian sales associate went on to say that she felt ‘powerless’ and in the grip of a ‘cyclone’ after Winfrey went on TV in the United States to claim she had been the victim of racism.
Told the Italian sales associate: ‘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.
‘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. ‘
‘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.’
The associate then goes on to emphatically deny ever saying to Winfrey: ‘You don’t want to see this bag. It is too expensive. You cannot afford it.’
The saleslady went on: ‘This is not true. This is absurd. I would never say something like that to a customer. Really never. Good manners and politeness are the Alpha and the Omega in this business.
‘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.
‘If it had all taken place as she claimed, why has she not complained the next day at the wedding of Tina Turner with Trudie Goetz, my boss? She was there also at the Turner wedding as a guest. I don’t understand it.
‘I spoke to Oprah Winfrey in English. My English is okay but not excellent, unfortunately.
‘I didn’t know who she was when she came into the store. That wouldn’t have made any difference if I had.
‘We work really hard to greet all the people who come into the store with the same level of respect and treat them all equally.
‘If someone asks me whether he or she can see an article, I always present these. Because that person is a potential buyer. And my job is to sell it.
‘I’m glad if I can sell an article. It is a reward for me, if I can sell a nice piece. This means that I’m good at my job.’
The Italian journal then goes on to note that the associate has worked in the store for five years, says 50 per cent of the clientele come from abroad and that a bag costing nearly £25,000 ($39 000 USD) is sold ‘only a few times a year.’
Asked what she would say to Oprah now she added: ‘I would apologize and say it was all a misunderstanding. I surely did not intentionally want to insult Ms. Winfrey. I hope this nightmare ends soon.’
Which raises the question, perhaps the misunderstanding was all in Oprah Winfrey’s head who unfortunately jumped to conclusions and preconceived presumptions of why she was not necessarily shown the pricier handbag. Which is to say Ms Winfrey might be right to surmise that racism is ripe and rampant but quite wrong to believe that everyone is guilty of it, even if sadly it is an unspoken rule that African Americans and minorities are often at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to affording pricier items. Not that we like to talk too much about such unsavory topics in the real world, never mind boutiques that casually sell handbags beyond 99% of most people’s price range….