Oprah Winfrey got the shock of the lifetime when she patronized a luxury goods store in Switzerland, and it wasn’t from the five-digit price tags either. Oprah had requested to see a $38,000 Tom Ford bag when a store clerk explained that the bag was out of her price range. Instead of proving the sales associate otherwise, Oprah simply left the store. When asked whether she experiences racism later in an interview, she cited this incident as “an incident that people of black or brown color experience daily”.
The Daily Mail quotes the incident:
‘The woman did not want to get down the bag which I wanted to look at. The effort was too much for her. She said to me, that the bag was simply too expensive. And I said: “I want to see it anyway.” Instead she tossed me cheaper bags.
‘I said: “Okay, thank you very much! But I really want to see the others.” She still kept showing me the cheaper ones.
She continued: ‘The saleslady said it was the Jennifer Aniston bag that was created by Tom Ford for Jennifer. The idea went through my head that I should call Jennifer or Tom – I know them both very well. Instead I said to the saleslady: “Okay, I understand. The bag is just for Jennifer, and only she is allowed to buy it, right?
‘The woman said “no, no” and tried to explain something. But I was no longer listening. I just said: “Thank you very much, you’re probably right that I can’t afford it.”
Turns out the name of the store was Trois Pommes Boutique located in Zurich. The store owner publicly apologized on behalf of the sales associate but proclaimed that it was simply a misunderstanding and stood behind the employee’s actions. This incident has once again divided the racism deniers from those personally exposed to it.
The Minority Fortune Wake-Up Call
The sad reality is that there are moments where a black billionaire still cannot have access to a $38,000 designer bag but Lindsay Lohan can literally have endless access to designer’s clothing despite having a notorious reputation for destroying and stealing items countless times. There is something inherently unfair about this. At this point, if Lindsay is refused a service, it is within good judgement for a business to do so. But, under what pretenses could Oprah be denied an item that costs a mere fraction of what she earns in an hour?
In retail, a customer is king. This is the standard in high-end luxury stores. Also, in luxury stores, sales associates usually possess a high command of the English language, so the store owner claiming a communication lapse doesn’t really add up, especially because it’s likely that Oprah additionally pointed at the bag with interest. A client requested an item, and their request went ignored. This is why Oprah and many others have labeled this as a racist incident. No reasonable excuse has been given as to why a $38,000 was at no point placed in Oprah Winfrey’s hands despite the fact that she actively requested it.
Quite frankly, this would have pissed off any customer. Have you seen the way some people act in Starbucks when their lattes aren’t made to standard? However, in this case, Oprah has a legitimate concern. She wasn’t evaluated by her fashion statement, as she did verify that she was dressed in designer clothing. Not that this mattered either, as Steve Jobs infamously wore black turtlenecks and blue jeans religiously. She was evaluated by her skin color.
People can spin this however they like, but despite the intentions of the sales associate at Trois Pommes Boutique, this happens to some degree every day around the world to people of color. People of color have been refused, delayed, or given subpar service, and they don’t simply base these claims off their solitary experience. They witness sales associates proceed to a white customer and do a 180. Yes, said victim could have been rude, but what if they did nothing wrong at all?
This is a dilemma that plagues many minority individuals with massive fortunes, as there will be many times where wealth isn’t enough to compensate for prejudice and racism. Ultimately, wealthy minorities will have to use their money to fund systems that benefit them. Buying baseless luxury goods won’t be erasing prejudice and racism any time soon. Building a small clothing factory and commissioning talented minorities around the world to make your own fashionable items could be cost effective and beneficial to many. Yes, the wealthy will do what they wish with their money, but realize that you enable the system with your spending power every time you patronize these places. The truth of the matter is that this won’t be the first or the last time that this happens, and nothing changes if nothing changes.
You Answer: Have you experienced a similar incident like Oprah before?
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