Switzerland apologizes to Oprah for store assistant's racism

The celebrity earned an estimated $77 million last year but was denied a $40,000 bag because it was "too expensive"

By Prachi Gupta
Published August 9, 2013 5:15PM (EDT)

Switzerland's tourism office has issued an apology to Oprah after the celebrity revealed she had a racist encounter with a shopkeeper in Zurich.

Oprah recounted the experience on "Entertainment Tonight," telling host Nancy O'Dell that, in town for Tina Turner's wedding in July, she was shopping and came upon an attractive handbag priced at around $40,000. When she expressed interest in the bag, the store assistant demurred, saying "No. It's too expensive."

The star, currently ranked as the most powerful celebrity in the world by Forbes, persisted: "One more time, I tried. I said, 'But I really do just want to see that one,' and the shopkeeper said, 'Oh, I don't want to hurt your feelings,' and I said, 'Okay, thank you so much. You're probably right, I can't afford it.' And I walked out of the store."

"I could've had the whole blow-up thing and thrown down the black card, but why do that? But that clearly is, you know ... it (racism) still exists. Of course it does," said Oprah, who earned $77 million last year alone, according to Forbes.

Daniela Baer, a spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism office, told The Associated Press on Friday that "We are very sorry for what happened to her, of course, because we think all of our guests and clients should be treated respectfully, in a professional way."

The store's owner, Trudie Goetz, has also apologized, but called it a "misunderstanding." "I have to admit that the employee is Italian. Of course, she speaks English, but not as well as her mother tongue," she said.

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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Celebrity Oprah Racism Switzerland Tina Turner Video