Oprah Gets Apology From Swiss Officials for Racist Encounter

A shop assistant allegedly refused to show an expensive handbag to one of the richest women in the world.

Posted: 08/09/2013 01:00 PM EDT

Not even fortune and fame can prevent racial discrimination, as Oprah Winfrey found out on a recent trip to Switzerland.

The wealthy media mogul and soon-to-be Medal of Freedom recipient revealed that a shopkeeper denied her service while in Zurich last month for the wedding of singer Tina Turner.

While browsing in Trois Pommes, a Swiss luxury chain, Winfrey asked to see a bag reportedly worth $38,000, but was advised against it because of the pricey cost and shown less expensive purses.

“She refused to get it,” Winfrey said about the shop assistant.

“She said, ‘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.’”

Shop owner Trudie Goetz has since chalked the incident up to a language barrier, telling Reuters the mishap was “an absolute classic misunderstanding.”

While Goetz rebuffed the claims of discrimination, the Swiss national tourism office admitted “this person was terribly wrong” and apologized to Winfrey on Twitter on Friday, according to AP.

Instead of spending her ample earnings — which were an estimated $77 million last year alone — Winfrey decided against purchasing anything to withhold the employee commission and left.

"There's two different ways to handle it,” she said. “I could've had the whole blow-up thing and thrown down the [American Express] black card, and all that stuff but why do that? But, it still exists, of course it does."

In a similar encounter, Winfrey was denied entry to an Hermes shop in Paris in 2005. She suggested that her race played a large role in the employee’s snub, and invited the company’s president and CEO onto her talk show to address the controversy.

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(Photo: Ben Gabbe/Getty Images)

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