Saturday, June 25, 2005

Yet Another Reason People Hate The French

There's an insightful and humorous article in the Washington Post about the whole Oprah Was Denied Access to Hermes story that's been causing a big ruckus on both sides of the pond.

For those of you who are not up-to-date, the saga began last week, when Madame Winfrey tried to get into the Hermes boutique in Paris after the store had closed in order to buy a gift for her dinner companion that evening, Ms. Tina Turner. Page Six reported that Oprah had not had her hair "done" (one version of this story floating around made it sound like she was trying to get into their hair salon; does Hermes do hair? Can you get an Hermes spa pedicure, too? What goes on in the world of rich people?) and that someone from the store mentioned "troubles with North Africans lately" and refused her entry. The store denies this vehemently, and in their public apology kind of tried to lay the blame with Oprah for trying to gain access when there was some kind of "private p.r. party" going on inside.

Then Oprah's bff Gayle King said that she witnessed the whole thing, and that people were definitely still shopping inside, and that this was Oprah's "'Crash' moment"--referring, I assume, to the more recent movie of that name, which deals with the complexity of race relations in America, and not the David Cronenberg-directed older film which dealt with people getting kinky sexual thrills from car accidents--and that Oprah has given away at least a dozen coveted $6,000 Hermes Birkin bags as gifts to friends (Note to self: Become a friend of Oprah!), but will never buy one ever again, and hinted that she will devote a whole episode of her show next season to "one of the most humiliating moments" of Oprah's life. (Although, sadly, I swear I remember that this has happened to Oprah before! A while back, at some fancy shop in Manhattan, they refused to open the door when she rang the doorbell because they just saw a "black woman" at their door and were racist snobs who wouldn't let her in, not realizing it was Oprah. Is this an epidemic, not letting black ladies into expensive shops, or am I losing my mind, or both? Did this not happen? I guess I can always check the internets...But I digress.)

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The Washington Post article points out that:
One could argue that perhaps this was simply an example of employees not empowered to be proactive, even for a celebrity who could purchase every watch and handbag in the place and come back the next day for more. (The clerk, by the way, has not been forced to take up with an organ grinder on Boulevard Saint Germain; she remains gainfully employed.) It could be an example of a store treating a wealthy celebrity just like anyone else. It could be a case of rudeness. It could be racism. It could be a complicated blend of all that and more.

The writer, Robin Givhan, also argues that getting into a store--even an elite luxury store such as Hermes--after hours is a privelege and not a basic human right, even for a human as rich and powerful as La Oprah. Whether or not her being black played a part is impossible to say; either way, hell hath no fury like an Oprah scorned, and Hermes has made what may be the biggest p.r. blunder in the history of their very old and tres French company.

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Quelle stupide!

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