This article originally appeared on VICE US in February 2018
In October of last year, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos passed Mr. Microsoft Bill Gates on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index after tripling his own already-extraordinary net worth during the past two years. Gates, whose estimated worth remains over $91 billion, recently told Ellen DeGeneres that he hasn’t splurged on anything... other than a $40 million private jet, a $125 million mansion, and an indoor trampoline. But he also apparently hasn’t been grocery shopping since somewhere around the Windows 1.0 release.
During his first appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Gates was asked to guess the prices of some reasonably common food and grocery items and, ooh boy, he did not do well. DeGeneres asked Gates for his best estimates on the cost of Rice-A-Roni, Tide Pods and Totino’s Pizza Rolls, and it seems like maybe none of those items are staples in the Gates household.
Gates guessed that a box of Rice-A-Roni was five bucks (it’s actually a dollar), that Tide Pods were either $4 or $10 (they’re $19.97, because they’re delicious), and that a bag of those pizza rolls were around $22 (they’re $8.98, but they’re equally as delicious as Tide Pods). We do have to give props to Gates for correctly guessing the $4 price tag on a package of dental floss, since that’s one thing we’ve honestly never purchased in our lives, despite lying to the dentist about it twice each year.
Although it made for some entertaining TV that served as a lighthearted distraction from everything else that is completely terrible right now in news and politics, does Gates’ charming cluelessness really matter? Not really: The dude also told DeGeneres that he and his wife, Melinda, are committed to giving away more than $41 billion during their lifetimes, which is roughly the equivalent of 2.5 billion packages of Tide Pods.
Plus there are other celebrities who are even more out of touch with the Average American than Gates is—and yes, we’re looking right at you Gwyneth Paltrow. The First Lady of Goop has recommended everything from $244 toothpaste squeezers to $125 at-home coffee enema kits to prohibitively expensive Moon Juice smoothies.
In 2015, she did attempt to see how people on the other side of the economic spectrum live, trying to put herself in the shoes of someone who had never slipped a $66 jade egg into their own vaginas. She posted a beautifully curated photo, showing $29 worth of groceries that, she said, are the equivalent of what a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipient has to live on for a week.
Although some commenters took issue with her grocery choices (SNAP families probably don’t live solely on eggs, spring onions, and seven limes), Politifact said that a single person actually receives closer to $48 per week, while a family of four would get $40 per person per week. “It’s clear Paltrow is trying to do a good thing,” the site wrote. “But her specific claim falls short.” And it was a good thing she tried to do, but her ideas about what a struggling American family would spend its cash on are borderline ridiculous. (After four days of coping with recipes like Brown Rice, Kale and Roasted Sweet Potato Sauté with Poached Eggs, she abandoned the challenge).
But no one would be a more terrible The Price Is Right contestant (or Ellen Degeneres Show guest) than Gary Cohn, President Donald Trump’s economic advisor. In September, Cohn—who has an estimated worth of $266 million—suggested that if a “typical family” saved $1,000 on their taxes, they could buy themselves a new car. “If we allow a family to keep another $1,000 of their income, what does that mean?” he asked. “They can renovate their kitchen, they can buy a new car, they can take a family vacation, they can increase their lifestyle.” According to The Independent, the average new car costs around $35,000, while the average used car is $19,000.
So maybe Bill Gates wasn’t that far off, after all.