By Ethan Sachs
New York Daily News
The Zurich boutique clerk accused of racially profiling Oprah Winfrey is firing back — claiming the Queen of Talk’s account “is not true” and “absurd.”
“I would never say something like that to a customer. Really never,” the unidentified Italian woman told Switzerland’s SonntagsBlick newspaper Sunday, according to a translation from London’s Daily Mail.
“I don’t know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful and I am just a shop girl,” added the shop attendant, who has worked at the posh Trois Pommes shop for five years.
“I don’t know why someone as great as her must cannibalize me on TV.”
The international incident was sparked by Winfrey’s trip to Switzerland last month for her friend Tina Turner’s wedding, but not revealed by the billionaire media mogul until an interview with “Entertainment Tonight” last week.
Winfrey said she asked a clerk to see a $38,000 Tom Ford bag behind a glass case, but “she says, ‘No, it’s too expensive.
“She said, ‘No, no, no you want to see this one because that one will cost too much,” Winfrey recounted while promoting her new film, “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” “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.’ Now why does she do that?”
Winfrey, with a personal fortune estimated by Forbes at $2.8 billion, left without buying the handbag.
Though Winfrey didn’t reveal the name of the establishment, the interview caused a national uproar in Switzerland when a local paper revealed the shop. The European nation’s official tourism office condemning the attendant’s conduct as “”terribly wrong.”
“We are very sorry for what happened to (Oprah) of course, because we think all of our guests and clients should be treated respectfully, in a professional way,” a spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism office told The Associated Press.
But the shop attendant has a much different version of events than the one relayed by Winfrey.
“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 told SonntagsBlick.
“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.
“’She looked around the store again but didn’t say anything else. Then she went with her companion to the lower floor. My colleague saw them to the door. They were not even in the store for five minutes.”
Store owner Trudie Goetz publicly defended her employee, telling Reuters, “”This is an absolute classic misunderstanding” possibly caused by the clerk’s imperfect command of English.
When asked by the Swiss newspaper what should would say to Winfrey if she had the chance to talk to her again, the clerk responded:
“I would apologize and say it was all a misunderstanding,” she said. “ I surely did not intentionally want to insult Ms. Winfrey.
“I hope this nightmare ends soon.”