Of all the people who can afford to buy an entire high-end boutique over and over, it’s Oprah Winfrey.

But as she’s revealed, she had a ‘Pretty Woman’ moment in Switzerland when, she says, a shop assistant told her a handbag she was interested in was ‘too expensive.’

“One more time, I tried,” recounted Winfrey, 59. “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, ‘OK, thank you so much. You’re probably right, I can’t afford it.’ And I walked out of the store.”

It certainly was expensive – the crocodile-skin Tom Ford handbag cost a whopping $41,000, and Winfrey was looking for one to take to Tina Turner’s wedding last month. She recounted the incident while promoting The Butler, illustrating that she still experiences moments of – if not racism exactly, then people not expecting her to be where she is, when people “make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am.”

“I wanted to create a ‘Pretty Woman’ moment and go and come back and buy everything and say ‘big mistake,’ but then I thought she would get a commission, so I said let’s not do that,” she told Larry King.

The incident set off a firestorm of international responses. A Switzerland Tourism official apologised – “We are very sorry for what happened to her” – and the mortified Italian shop assistant explained that “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.”

Then Trois Pommes Shop owner Trudi Goetz weighed in, defending her employee. “I don’t know why she talked of racism,” she said of Winfrey. “I am sorry, but perhaps she is being a little over-sensitive here. Maybe she was somewhat offended because she was not immediately recognised in the store.”

“I think that incident in Switzerland was just an incident in Switzerland,” Winfrey countered. “I’m really sorry that it got blown up. I purposely did not mention the name of the store. I’m sorry that I said it was Switzerland.”

“I guess I did not dress up enough. I did not have anything that said, ‘I have money.’ I didn’t have a diamond stud. I didn’t have a pocketbook [purse]. I didn’t have a Louis Vuitton shoe. I just had on a Donna Karan skirt and top and some sandals … It’s not an indictment against the country or even that store, it’s just one person who didn’t offer me the opportunity to see the bag. No apologies necessary from the country of Switzerland!”

Has this ever happened to you? Do you think you’d actually recognise Oprah if you were attending to her in a store?

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  • yeah that’s right, i wonder how many others would be treated the same but don’t have the same reach that oprah does


  • Wow, way to go and put things all out of proportion.
    First Oprah for having a whinge and then the neck cracking whiplash response from Switzerland.
    I bet the girl was just trying to be nice.


  • I’d recognize her in a heart-beat. Racism and discrimination on the basis of someone’s colour or perceived ability to afford something often happens in shops, unfortunately. Some of these judgmental people would do well to remember the old saying “You should never judge a book by its cover”.


  • what a strange story – I think it was made much bigger than it was though because it was Oprah


  • I may recognize her, but wouldn’t offer preferential treatment, if she wanted to see something she would see it, end of story


  • Poor oman didn’t know who Oprah was but of course she does now!


  • Thanks for sharing this, it was a great read.


  • thanks for sharing was a good read


  • I do like how Oprah handles herself with the public,


  • thanks for sharing was a great read


  • love Oprah and her honesty with situations


  • Lol…. this is funny, thanks for sharing!


  • I really appriciate what she did. Good on her.


  • Thats funny Oprah walks into the one store whos employee has no idea who Oprah is far out where has she been for the last few decades!! Great article/ story.


  • i wouldnt have gone back there either! NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER!


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