It's a total she said-she said. From the clerk:“She looked at a frame behind me. Far above there was the 35,000 Swiss franc crocodile leather bag,” she recalled to the paper. “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. 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.”http://consumerist.com/2013/08/13/swiss-shop-clerk-denies-telling-oprah-she-couldnt-afford-38000-handbag/
Also, from the Daily Mail link in Psychopoesie's above post:
[Oprah]'I said: "Okay, thank you very much! But I really want to see the others." She still kept showing me the cheaper ones.
(I can totally see a miscommunication there, "the others" could mean several different things to a native English speaker, much less an English-as-a-second-language speaker)
Another quote from Oprah:'The woman said "no, no" and tried to explain something. But I was no longer listening. I just said: "Thank you very much, you're probably right that I can't afford it."
Say what? She didn't even listen to what the lady had to say, which could have been a plausible explanation?
For what it's worth, I can totally see that happening; someone expecting a clerk would "read her mind" by gesturing at some bags and one in particular, the clerk obliquely mentions that yes, the bag is like the one she's holding currently, would she like to see it and other bags? Oprah uses the phrase "other ones" or "other bags" and the sales clerk is off gathering "cheap" bags.
As a side note, because I'm on ground I'm not entirely comfortable with. The sales assistant is from Italy, I don't think they have the same problems with racism as America does, do they? Anti-Semitism, yes, but I don't know that I've read about any other racism. I will admit I'm not a specialist on any sort of recent Italian history, though.