Commercial: Brand racism
As spotted in Jeremy Mercer's Books, Baguettes and Bedbugs, his account of his sojourn at Shakespeare & Co in Paris:
With rent payments looming, I, too needed money and fell into the luxury-goods business. The job involved Louis Vuitton handbags... [it] seemed reluctant to sell its bags to Asian people in Paris. My theory was that the company didn't want to dilute their image as a European luxury brand, so they made it difficult for certain customers to acquire their products. On any given afternoon, at any given Louis Vuitton boutique, there was an enormous lineup of people waiting to be allowed into the store, and the vast majority of these people were of Japanese or Chinese origin... Meanwhile, the richest Europeans were given private appointments to buy their apparel, and if you were white and chic enough in dress, you could bypass the line and purchase whatever you wanted.
The book was published in 2005, and I am making an assumption he is describing events that happened about five years earlier. Clearly no major global luxury brand behaves like this now, considering the importance of the East Asian market now. But still, I had not realised that the attempts to create exclusivity inherent within some brands could shade into something more sinister.