Hurtin’ for a Birkin? Hermès Might Be.

A employee holds a 129,000 USD crocodile
Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images

There’s a long-standing “if you know, you know” policy that allegedly accompanies purchasing a Birkin bag. Rumor has it that if you want to buy a Birkin, you can’t just go into a store and flat-out purchase one. Instead, hopeful buyers are allegedly required (or encouraged) to purchase other Hermès products before a sales associate invites them to purchase a Birkin. (We’ve seen this scenario play out on TikTok many times, although we know we can’t always trust the internet.) Nevertheless, for decades, clients played the game seemingly required of them. Samantha Jones even lost Lucy Liu as a client on Sex and the City in her escapade to secure a Birkin. But now, two shoppers in California have put their foot down. They’re taking Hermès to court.

On March 19, the two prospective clients filed a class-action antitrust lawsuit accusing the French luxury giant of unlawful “tying,” a.k.a. requiring customers to allegedly purchase “ancillary products such as shoes, scarves, belts, jewelry, and home goods” before being able to potentially purchase a Birkin, according to the suit. The filing goes on to allege that this practice is meant to help Hermès sales associates select consumers “who are qualified to purchase Birkin handbags” and who have “established a sufficient ‘purchase history’ or ‘purchase profile.’” Only then, the plaintiffs claim, will the client be taken into a private room and shown a Birkin. The suit notes that Birkin handbags can’t be purchased from Hermès’s website and are never publicly displayed in the brand’s brick-and-mortar retail stores either.

The complaint cites Hermès’s commission structure as alleged proof that sales associates are used in the brand’s “illegal tying arrangement.” Their commission rates allegedly differ based on the type of product sold; the lawsuit claims that associates are paid “3 percent on ancillary products,” and only a “1.5 percent commission on non-Birkin handbags, and they receive no commission whatsoever on the sale of Birkin handbags,” the brand’s most valuable and expensive product. The suit claims that Hermès uses this structure as an incentive and to instruct associates to “coerce consumers to purchase ancillary products” sold by the brand.

The brand has denied claims like this in the past, telling Business of Fashion last year that “Hermès strictly prohibits any sales of certain products as a condition to the purchase of others.” Hermès did not immediately respond to the Cut’s request for comment.

What lengths would you go to bag a Birkin? Buy a few scarves and plates and handbags (honestly, its ashtrays are very chic) splashed with the Hermès logo? Cozy up to a celeb à la Samantha to schmooze Hermès into letting you purchase a purse? Put on your best power suit and march your Hermès loafers to court? I mean, what else is someone in the throes of trend-lust supposed to do, especially when the object of their affection is notoriously hard to secure?

Scorned Would-Be Birkin Shoppers Sue Hermès