Monday, August 12, 2013

Oprah Sheds Crocodile Tears for $38,000 Handbag

"Why did she do that? Why did she do that?" Oprah Winfrey tells the blonde white woman reporting for Entertainment Tonight about the small injustice of a "racist" shop clerk not allowing her to buy a black handbag at a boutique in Zurich, Switzerland.

The interview started out with a discussion of whether Paula Dean would be appearing on Oprah to rehabilitate her image, with Oprah suggesting Paula wasn't ready for that. Then Oprah struggled to come up with an example of racism being directed at her, with a detour into the difficulties of telling sexism from racism, and eventually coming around to the Swiss boutique story:
I say to the woman, "Excuse me, may I see that bag right above your head?" And she says to me, "No, it's too expensive." She said, "No, no, no you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You won’t be able to afford that one.” She refused to get it ... she said, "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.
A lot of people are outraged, mostly at Oprah, but I just find the story funny. A rep for the Swiss Tourism office was quick to take customer is always right approach and apologize on Twitter:
"We are fuming — this person acted terribly wrong. We are sorry this happened to @oprah!"
The Swiss Tourism office followed up with more formal apology.
"Switzerland Tourism is deeply sorry to learn about the experience Ms. Winfrey recently had in Switzerland, and we apologize that her feelings were hurt. We would like to assure Ms. Winfrey—like any visitor to Switzerland—that she is welcome with open arms."
While Oprah carefully declined to name the handbag or the store in her story, the intrepid international press quickly ran that down to a Tom Ford Jennifer crocodile skin leather handbag at the Trois Pommes boutique in Zurich. Tom Ford is the designer, Jennifer Aniston is the muse, and $38,000 (35,000 Swiss Francs) is the price tag.

The way this usually works is that the store apologizes and then sends someone to appear on the Oprah Show and give her and sometimes her audience free stuff. And what woman could blame Oprah for wanting to score a free designer handbag?

Now it's probably begun to occur to you that the inexpensive handbags that the clerk was trying to steer Oprah too weren't the $15 to $40 knockoffs you would find at Wal-Mart. No, when you buy Tom Ford handbags at Neimann Marcus, you can expect to spend $1,890 for the Jennifer Mini Crossbody Bag up to $4,550 for the Petra Zip Frame Calf Hair & Brushed Calf Leather Tote Bag-in-Bag.

It turns out the store kept the $38,000 crocodile-skin leather handbag in a locked display case. I suppose it was for technically sale, but the idea no doubt was that you would fall in love with the style of purse, and then the saleswoman would steer you to the still very expensive models in other leathers and colors. And then you could walk around knowing you carried the "same" purse as the exorbitantly expensive $38,000 one.

The store owner says it was all a big misunderstanding. It turns out she was also invited to the big Tina Turner wedding that Oprah was in town to attend. Tina Turner lives in a Swiss chateau along Lake Zurich and has become a Swiss citizen. The store owner says the sales clerk just wanted to show Oprah that the handbag was available in other materials and was a native Italian speaker who doesn't understand English too well.

Eventually, the mocking became too much and Oprah was forced to resort to Twitter: That seemed to cover it, but Oprah couldn't leave well enough alone: Funny how Nancy O'Dell, the blonde white woman reporter at ET has become Oprah's new best friend. I guess Oprah hopes Nancy can help her rehabilitate her image. But buying handbags designed for another white woman, Jennifer Aniston, I just don't know who can rehabilitate that.

Meanwhile, USA Today has this to report in the Paula Deen case:
"A New York man pleaded guilty in federal court Friday to trying to extort $200,000 from Paula Deen by threatening to reveal damaging information about the embattled celebrity cook if she didn't pay him to stay quiet."
I have never seen Paul Deen's cooking show and have no idea what kind of person she is, but it does appear that the original complainant, a disgruntled former employee, was out for a kind of severance pay blackmail too.

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