It has recently been revealed that while Oprah Winfrey was in Switzerland for Tina Turner’s wedding she became a victim of bad customer service while trying to purchase a handbag from a designer store. The staff at the store have denied what happened and also apologised to one of the most successful and recognisable women in the world. The way she was treat has been dubbed as racism because of the current issues with asylum seekers in Switzerland and because she is a black woman but this kind of behaviour is something many people face of whatever colour, class, gender etc.
She was told she couldn’t see the £25,000 bag she wanted to look at and potentially purchase because they thought she couldn’t afford it, obviously not realising who she is and how much money she has. They tried to get her to look at cheaper alternatives and when she asked to look at the one she wanted one final time she was told that they didn’t want to upset her i.e. they didn’t want her to fall in love or touch a bag she couldn’t afford to leave the shop with, so she left the shop without it.
Firstly, £25,000 for a bag is an extortionate amount even for someone like me who is obsessed with bags but it is a very nice bag and if she can afford it why not buy it? Secondly and most importantly why were the staff so rude to her? Why did they immediately judge that she couldn’t afford it and whether she could or not that is irrelevant surely?
One of the real reasons why I find a lot of designer stores so intimidating is the staff, I’m not saying all staff in all designer shops are horrible/bitchy/judgemental but I do feel like me walking in there in my high street attire gains me some looks for all the wrong reasons. But why should the way I’m dressed matter?
I myself have experienced this sort of pre-judgement from staff in designer/high end stores. The first time was last year when I was in New York, my parents had given me some money before my once in a lifetime trip for me to spend on whatever I wanted. On my trip to Macy’s I found a handbag I loved and I knew that was what I wanted to spend the money on. It was $90 which is around £60-70 in England so not exactly designer expensive but the most expensive bag I’d ever purchased. As soon as I took it to the till to pay the woman looked me up and down as if to assume someone in the Primark dress I was currently sporting could not afford this price tag, she scanned it and asked me for the money with a tone of ‘I know you are not going to have the money to afford this’ until I pulled out a $100 dollar bill, she soon changed her tone and manner after that becoming smiley and going out of her way to find a nice Macy’s bag for me to put my new purchase in.
The second time was also last year just before Christmas I went to Manchester with my mum and we headed to Harvey Nichols for a look around. I found the Marc by Marc Jacobs bag that I was after and I fell in love with it instantly. I asked a member of staff if it came in any other colours bar black and if I could see the bag, again I got the look up and down probably due to my parka and Doc Martens combination due to the harsh winter and off she went coming back with the news that it only came in black and they only had the bag on display left. I said that was fine and could I purchase that one please and she said ‘Are you sure? Are you sure you don’t want to think about it first and come back another day?’, I persisted with a yes I’m sure and put my card in the machine to pay the £470 for it, she clearly expected my card to be declined but the moment the payment went through with no hassle her manner changed to having a conversation with me about how beautiful the bag was and all about Marc Jacobs designs. After all the judgements she now wanted to impress me and make sure I was ok and if there was anything else she could do for me. I left the shop though happy with my purchase still annoyed with the treatment I’d received. My mum also commented on this as we left before I brought it up so it was clearly not just my imagination.
But why exactly should I be made to feel intimidated or belittled by staff just because they work for an expensive designer brand? What gives them the right to judge someone on their appearance when they know nothing about them? The thing is not everyone that is rich dresses like they are and not everyone that is poor dresses like they are. Everyone should be treat equally when they walk into any store whatever their gender, race, nationality, age or however they are dressed. Obviously, most people can’t afford £25,000 for a bag but that doesn’t mean they can’t look at it if they want to, last time I checked you didn’t have to have a certain amount of money in the bank to look at something.
I would like to point out that I have had some good experiences just browsing in designer stores Vivienne Westwood in Leeds and Mulberry in Edinburgh in particular have very good service and this isn’t just a thing against designer stores, because I have received some terrible experience in high street stores but it is never based on judgements of the way I look like it is in designer stores. We should all receive good customer service in whatever store we are in, expensive or cheap. Obviously there are some pain in the arse customers I’ve worked in retail over Christmas in the past so I know some people bring the service they receive on themselves and the amount of patience you need to deal with some customers is huge but with customers being the ones keeping shop staff in jobs whatever your personal opinion on the looks of that person it should not affect your service and treatment of them.