Oprah Vs. Sales Assistant: Racist or Misunderstanding?

Oprah in SwitzerlandWe'll never know what really happened in a luxury boutique in Switzerland when Oprah was visiting for Tina Turner's wedding. She accused a sales assistant of not showing her a £25,000 handbag because of her race, but the assistant denies the claim.

On "Entertainment Tonight," Oprah explains what happened: she asked the assistant to see a particular bag, and the woman said, "No, it's too expensive." Oprah says that she asked repeatedly to see the bag, but the assistant "refused to get it." 

The sales assistant gave her perspective on the interaction: 

"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 also said that if she spoke to Oprah, she "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."

At the premier of her new movie, Oprah told reporters, "I'm really sorry that it got blown up. I purposefully did not mention the name of the store. I'm sorry that I said it was Switzerland."  

She also said, "It's not an indictment against the country or even that store," Winfrey explained. "It was just one person who didn't want to offer me the opportunity to see the bag, so no apologies necessary from the country of Switzerland."

Discussion Starters: 

  • What's your view of what happened in the store? 
  • Is it possible that both perspectives are, in some way, accurate? How so?