The Swiss sales assistant getting flak for reportedly refusing to show billionaire queen of talk TV Oprah Winfrey a $38,000 handbag because she thought she couldn't afford it due to her race says Winfrey is lying.
"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 assistant, who reportedly spoke anonymously to Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick.
"I wasn't sure what I should present to her when she came in on the afternoon of Saturday July 20 so I showed her some bags from the Jennifer Aniston collection," said the assistant.
"I explained to her the bags came in different sizes and materials, like I always do. She looked at a frame behind me. Far above there was the 35,000 Swiss franc crocodile leather bag. 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," she further noted.
The assistant also denies that she ever told Winfrey: "You don't want to see this bag. It is too expensive. You cannot afford it."
"This is not true. This is absurd. I would never say something like that to a customer. Really never. Good manners and politeness are the Alpha and the Omega in this business," she explained. "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.
"If it had all taken place as she claimed, why has she not complained the next day at the wedding of Tina Turner with Trudie Goetz, my boss? She was there also at the Turner wedding as a guest. I don't understand it. I spoke to Oprah Winfrey in English. My English is okay but not excellent, unfortunately. I didn't know who she was when she came into the store. That wouldn't have made any difference if I had," she added.
The troubled assistant also explained that the store works hard to treat every customer equally.
"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. And my job is to sell it. I'm glad if I can sell an article. It is a reward for me, if I can sell a nice piece. This means that I'm good at my job."
The assistant who has been working at the store for five years says half of their clients are tourists and bags in the price range requested by Winfrey are only sold "a few times a year."
"I would apologize and say it was all a misunderstanding. I surely did not intentionally want to insult Ms. Winfrey. I hope this nightmare ends soon," the assistant said when asked what she would say to the media mogul now.
In a recent response to BBC, however, Winfrey stood by her claim of racism.
"Nobody's gonna call me the N-word to my face unless they're a thug on Twitter or Facebook," she told BBC. "It doesn't show up that way. It shows up for me differently: I'm in a store and the person doesn't obviously know that I carry the Black Card, and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am."