Billionaire Howard Schultz doesn't know the cost of a box of Cheerios

Howard Schultz, then-CEO of Starbucks, in 2015.
David Ryder | Reuters

Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who has announced that he's considering running for president in 2020 as an independent candidate, failed an infamous litmus test on Wednesday.

After Schultz assured the hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" that he's in touch with the average American because he "has walked in their shoes" and has been "on both sides of the equation," Mika Brzezinski asked him how much an 18-ounce box of Cheerios costs. The billionaire didn't answer. "I don't eat Cheerios, I'm sorry," he said.

An 18-ounce box of Cheerios, America's most popular breakfast cereal, costs around $4, or nearly what you can expect to pay for a grande-sized drink at Starbucks. When told the Cheerios cost, Schultz looked surprised and said, "That's a lot."

Schultz is far from the first wealthy American to have trouble with such a question. Supermarket prices have tripped up politicians and plutocrats for decades.

In 1992, former then-President George H.W. Bush caught flak after admitting in a debate that he didn't know the price of a gallon of milk. That same year, he took a trip to a grocery store, which The New York Times covered in a story, titled, "Bush Encounters the Supermarket, Amazed."

"This is for checking out?" Bush asked, gesturing to one of the price scanners.

"I just took a tour through the exhibits here," he later told grocers. "Amazed by some of the technology."

Similarly, Mitt Romney praised the "amazing" touch screen menus at Wawa during his 2012 presidential campaign. (He also repeatedly referred to the popular convenience store as "Wawas.")

President Donald Trump, too, has made comments that have led some to wonder whether he's familiar with grocery stores. "If you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card, you need ID," he said at an event at Florida State Fairgrounds in 2018. "You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID and you need your picture."

And during the shutdown, he implied that furloughed workers could ask their grocers to "work along" with them, if they didn't have enough money to buy food.

On an episode of "The Ellen Show" last year, Bill Gates admitted to host Ellen DeGeneres that he hasn't been in a grocery store in a "long time." He guessed that a bag of frozen pizza rolls might be $22 and that artichoke dip would have to be at least $10. Both usually cost much less.

"He's so out of touch with regular people he should run for President," someone joked in the YouTube comment section.

Inspirational quotes from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
Inspirational quotes from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz

The responses to Schultz's potential presidential bid have been mixed. Steve Doocy, co-host of "Fox and Friends," said he'd be a "formidable" presidential candidate, and former Vice President Joe Biden called Schultz "smart as hell." But some Democrats fear Schultz could split the vote against Trump and assure the current president another four years.

Others argue that his extreme wealth makes him unsuitable for the presidency. One person voicing that concern is author Anand Giridharadas, who was on the set of "Morning Joe" today with Schultz.


In his book "Winner Takes All," Giridharadas argues that, despite their promises, the elite are usually ineffective at solving the world's issues, and that they're more likely to preserve the status quo while maintaining or promoting they're reputations.

As Giridharadas wrote on Twitter, he gave Schultz a copy of the book with the inscription, "With hope that these pages inspire you to find ways to serve without having to lead."

Schultz's team did not respond to request for comment.

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