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Hermes lawsuit claims luxury retailer reserves its famed Birkin bags only for its biggest spenders

A woman enters the Hermes International store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Hermes is being targeted in a new lawsuit accusing the luxury retailer of selling its coveted Birkin handbags only to customers who have spent exorbitant amounts of money at the store on other goods.

The proposed federal class-action lawsuit, which was filed this week in San Francisco, alleges that Hermes is violating antitrust law by making customers buy other goods in the store before being granted the privilege of buying a Birkin bag from Hermes.

Birkin handbags, which are handcrafted from leather by artisans in France, can cost tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars on the second-hand market, and are seen on the arms of celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian and Cardi B. The handbags can only be purchased in a Hermes store, not on its website.

However, the lawsuit claims that the average customer can’t just walk into a Hermes store, find a Birkin on display and buy it. Rather, customers that are “deemed worthy” will be shown a Birkin in a private room.

Hermes sales associates are tasked with choosing customers that are qualified to buy Birkins, according to the lawsuit.

Hermes Birkin bags at the Maroquinerie de la Tardoire, a Hermes workshop specialized in products made with calfskin, in Montbron, southwestern France on June 11, 2015.

Mehdi Fedouach | AFP | Getty Images

“These sales associates are directed by Defendants to only offer Birkin handbags to consumers who have established a sufficient “purchase history” or “purchase profile” with Defendants or Defendants’ ancillary products such as shoes, scarves, belts, jewelry and home goods,” the lawsuit states.

While sales associates don’t receive a commission for selling Birkins, the lawsuit claims, they’re instructed to use the Birkin handbags as a way to coerce customers into buying other products, for which they receive a 3% commission.

Hermes did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Thursday.

The lawsuit is seeking class action status for all U.S. residents that, over the past four years, bought or were asked to buy ancillary products in order to purchase a Birkin.

The plaintiffs are seeking an unspecified amount in monetary damages and a court order barring the selling tactics it claims Hermes employs.

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