Could a Little Online Training Have Gotten Oprah Her Handbag?

Kat Amato

Oprah had accused one of her staff of 'racism' for refusing to show her a $38,000 handbag at the Zurich store

Okay, not very many of us can afford to drop $38,000 on a handbag, but for those of us who can, the last thing we want to hear is that it’s too expensive. That’s what media mogul (and the celebrity everyone the world over should have no trouble recognizing) Oprah Winfrey experienced at a Zurich boutique a few days ago.

Racial Profiling or Simple Cluelessness?

According to Oprah, she stopped in at the very upscale boutique, Trois Pommes, to browse. She insists she was aware that her appearance would be scrutinized in such an establishment, so she took care to look “extra special,” because she knows how snobby the help can be in these places. Still, she feels she was shunned because of her skin color and size, when she asked the sales associate to see a particular handbag that the woman refused to show her, because she deemed it “too expensive.”

If you can recall, something similar happened to Oprah a few years ago, when she was denied entry into the uber-expensive Hermes boutique in Paris. She insisted she was not allowed in because she’s African American, and it was a huge story. You would think that after that very high-profile debacle, upscale boutiques in major cities the world over would have placed a photo of Oprah in their employee lounges, just so sales associates would be able to recognize her on the off-chance she stopped in for a look. That wasn’t the case at Trois Pommes.

It seems, this time around, Oprah’s reaction is a little less expansive on the subject of racism, and much more self-deprecating. She insists that had she known the bag was $38,000, she wouldn’t have bought it anyway, due to its exorbitant price tag. Moreover, she said she has come to expect this type of treatment in upscale shops, given the fact that she is African American, and not model-sized. On the heels of the recent, highly racially-charged scenarios involving Paula Deen and George Zimmerman, she was correct in simply chalking up the ignorant saleswoman’s behavior to her simply not knowing who she was. Maybe Swiss television does not feature the OWN network on its cable systems?

Regardless of what actually transpired, the bottom line is that the saleswoman did not treat her customer with the respect she deserved. It does not matter how high- or low-end the store is, every customer must be treated with respect. After all, with all the competition out there in the retail landscape, a whiff of impropriety can make or break an establishment quicker than you can utter the word “hashtag.” In today’s faced paced, socially connected world, a business can go from prosperity to obscurity in the time it takes to type out 140 characters.

In order to avoid such distressing scenarios from occurring, Coggno suggests that business owners, and Human Resources executives, look into online training for employee compliance. Our vast library of courses includes everything from diversity training, avoiding sexual harassment, preventing bullying in the workplace, and much more. Online training might have helped Oprah avoid yet another uncomfortable experience in a place where, if she wanted to buy a handbag with a five-figure price tag, she should have been able to do so. And yes, Oprah, the vast majority of us know you can afford to.