An alleged recent exchange in which a Swiss shop worker refused to serve media mogul Oprah Winfrey, which was later deemed racist by the TV host, may not have occurred in the way it was originally described, according to recent reports.
Winfrey, 59, revealed to Entertainment Tonight that she was allegedly turned down when asked to see a $38,000 bag while shopping at a luxury boutique in Zurich last month, claiming a worker told her the item was “too expensive.” The “OWN” founder went on say that the incident was proof of racism. After the shop, later confirmed to be Trudie Gotz, apologized for the incident, the worker involved is stepping forward to claim the TV host exaggerated the allegedly racist exchange.
The woman, only identified as “Italian bag lady” in a report from the Daily Mail, is classifying the entire incident as an absurd misunderstanding. “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,” said the worker, who claims she only informed Winfrey that the bag in question was “more expensive” than similar ones she had already shown her. “This is absurd. I would never say something like that to a customer. Really never,” she said.
The saleswoman claims the accusations leveled against her are hurtful, citing confusion as to why she is being “cannibalized” by Winfrey in the press. “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,” she said.
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As originally reported, the shop clerk confirmed she was unaware of Winfrey's identity upon entering the store but claimed it wouldn’t have made a difference in the quality of service provided. “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,” she said. “If someone asks me whether he or she can see an article, I always present these because that person is a potential buyer. … I surely did not intentionally want to insult Ms. Winfrey. I hope this nightmare ends soon.’
Following Winfrey’s interview the mogul apologized and stated that she only brought attention to the incident after she believed the alleged treatment was based on her appearance. “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,” Winfrey told BBC. “It’s not an indictment against the country, or even that store. It’s just was one person who didn’t want to offer me the opportunity to see the bag.”