California shoppers are claiming in a lawsuit that Hermes makes it too difficult to purchase Birkin bags

The luxurious, French-crafted Birkin handbag is a symbol of status for wealthy individuals worldwide and can command prices exceeding $100,000. However, two California shoppers are alleging in a lawsuit that the bag has become so exclusive that its manufacturer, Hermes International, is violating US antitrust laws.

According to the lawsuit filed on Tuesday seeking class-action status, Hermes restricts the sale of Birkin bags and requires potential buyers to purchase thousands of dollars worth of other products for a chance to acquire the coveted leather totes.

The bags are not available for purchase on the Hermes website or openly displayed in their stores. Instead, sales staff reportedly only show them to selected shoppers in private rooms. Tina Cavalleri and Mark Glinoga, the plaintiffs in the case filed in federal court in San Francisco, argue that this practice is unfair for a public store and constitutes a violation of antitrust law.

Cavalleri stated that she has spent substantial sums at Hermes but was pressured into buying additional products to gain access to a Birkin bag. She claimed she was unsuccessful in purchasing one in September 2022 and was informed by Hermes that the bags were reserved for “clients who have been consistent in supporting our business.” Glinoga mentioned that despite multiple attempts to buy a Birkin bag, he was told each time that he needed to purchase other items and accessories.

The lawsuit accuses Hermes of structuring its sales associates’ compensation in a manner that reinforces what the plaintiffs describe as the “unlawful practice of tying the purchase” of Birkin bags to other products. The sales associates allegedly do not earn commission on Birkin bags but do on other, less expensive Hermes products.

Handcrafted by French artisans, Birkin handbags vary in price from tens of thousands to over $100,000. The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified restitution and damages, as well as an order requiring Hermes to change its sales practices.

Hermes had not responded to a request for comment as of Wednesday.

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