Harvard Business Professor Defends His Rant Against Restaurant That Overcharged Him By $4


A Harvard Business School professor is in the news after a series of emails between him and the manager of a local Chinese restaurant - a self-described "mom and pop" business - were published online by Boston.com.


HBS associate professor Ben Edelman criticized Chinese restaurant Sichuan Garden and restaurateur Ran Duan, who manages the connecting Baldwin Bar, for supposedly overcharging him $4 on his takeout dinner order. Edelman said he had alerted local Boston authorities about Sichuan Garden's out-of-date website and Duan's initial offer to only refund him $3.

Here's how he defended his emails in a statement to Business Insider:

I think the Boston.com piece totally misses the benefit that all diligent consumers provide in looking for overcharges and other errors. We all rely on trust in our daily lives - that when sales tax is added, it actually applies and equals the specified amount; that the meter in a taxi shows the correct amount provided by law and correctly measures the actual distance; that when you order takeout, the price you see online matches the amount you pay in the restaurant. We all take most of this for granted. It would be a lot of trouble to all have to check these things day in and day out. That's exactly why we should be concerned when folks fall short - because hardly anyone ever checks, so these problems can go unnoticed and can affect, in aggregate, large amounts.

If you look at my other work, e.g. http://www.benedelman.org/airfare-advertising/, you'll see I've been pretty diligent in holding large companies accountable for their false statements of price and other attempts to overcharge passengers. Should all small businesses get a free pass? Some people seem to think so, I wonder if that really makes sense.

Notably, though not emphasized in the Boston.com piece, the restaurant at issue knew the website prices had been "out of date for quite some time." At what point should they do something about it? I'm pleased to have at least gotten the problem fixed for the benefit of others.