iPad price remark gets Fed's Dudley an earful

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Memo to central bankers:

William C. Dudley, President and Chief Executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, addresses the Economic Club of New York in New York City April 7, 2010. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Best not to cite the price of the new iPad as an example of why inflation isn’t a problem when you head into a working-class neighborhood.

In Queens, New York, on Friday, New York Fed President William Dudley did just that. He got an earful.

After being bombarded with questions about food inflation, Dudley attempted to reassure his audience by putting rising commodity prices into a broader economic context -- but that only made matters worse.

“When was the last time, sir, that you went grocery shopping?” one audience member asked.

Dudley tried to explain how the Fed sees things: Yes, food and energy prices may be rising, but at the same time, other prices are declining.

He then stretched for a real world example. The only problem was he chose the Apple’s latest tablet computer that hit stores on Friday, which may be more popular at the New York Fed’s headquarters near Wall Street than it is on the gritty streets of Queens.

“Today you can buy an iPad 2 that costs the same as an iPad 1 that is twice as powerful,” he said.”You have to look at the prices of all things.”

This prompted guffaws and widespread murmuring from the audience, with one audience member calling the comment “tone deaf.”

“I can’t eat an iPad,” another said.

Queens is a borough of New York perhaps best known internationally for being home to New York City’s two airports, the Mets baseball team and its portrayal in the television program “The King of Queens” -- whose main character delivers packages for a living.

Misjudging your audience is hardly unusual for those in positions of power. In 2007, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama asked an Iowa crowd if they had seen what Whole Foods -- an upscale supermarket more popular in big cities than in the Corn Belt -- charges for arugula.

Reporting by Kristina Cooke; Editing by Jan Paschal