The Swiss sales assistant who refused to show Oprah Winfrey a luxury handbag costing nearly $35,000 claims the superstar lied about what happened in the Trois Pommes luxury boutique where she works.
Speaking anonymously to Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick, the Italian bag lady said she felt “powerless” and in the grip of a “cyclone” after Oprah Winfrey went on TV in America to claim she had been the victim of racism.
Oprah Winfrey was in Switzerland in July when she walked into the Trois Pommes boutique in Zurich looking for a handbag to match the outfit she was going to wear to old friend Tina Turner’s wedding.
She claims the sales assistant refused to show her the black crocodile leather bag because – seeing a black woman – she automatically assumed she would not be able to afford it.
Now the saleslady has hit back, stating: “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.”
She emphatically denied ever saying to Oprah 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.”
She has worked in the store for five years and says 50% of the clientele come from abroad and that a bag costing nearly $35,000 is sold “only a few times a year”.
Asked what she would say to Oprah Winfrey 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.”