A Harvard Professor Was Overcharged $4 for Chinese Food and His Reaction Is More Insane Than You Can Imagine
Stop the presses, because a grave injustice unlike any the world has ever known has been inflicted on a poor, unsuspecting victim: a Harvard professor was overcharged $4 for his Chinese food, and immediately threw a fit. No, "fit" doesn't do it justice: This man full-on declared war. Ben Edelman, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard, bought Chinese food from the popular Baldwin Bar restaurant, and when he received the $53.35 check, he discovered he had been charged $4 more than what he'd anticipated based on the prices from the online menu. You would think that since human beings are mostly reasonable, this could be resolved in a single email exchange and a refund. You would be wrong.
Seriously, when you stop and consider all the horrible things going on in the world, Edelman's bullying seems ridiculously out of proportion. But also, to be fair, considering all of the horrible things going on in the world, thank God for people this silly for giving us something to laugh at. Here's what happened: When Ron Duan, the restaurant's owner, didn't respond to his satisfaction, Edelman demanded a refund not only for $4, but for $12, and then for half of the entire order. But that's not even the biggest thing! Even when Duan updated his online menu to reflect the actual prices, Edelman continued to bully him, even contacting the authorities to report the discrepancy between the prices on the website and the actual prices.
The first email comes in from Edelman on December 5, quoting the receipt in full and asking Duan to clarify the one dollar difference on each item.
I apologize about the confusing. Our websites prices has been out of date for quite some time. I will make sure to update it, if you would like I can email you a update menu
Now, I understand that Edelman didn't get the refund he was probably looking for, and maybe that was initially frustrating to him. But in his reply, not only does he ask for his refund, but for triple the refund, but warns Duan that he has to "cease this practice" of letting the old menu represent their prices, because it's a serious violation of Massachusetts law, despite Duan already saying he intended to change it.
Duan replies saying that he will honor the $3 refund (mistaking it from the $4 one that Edelman initially requested, and that's when all hell breaks loose. Edelman points out that other customers have been overcharged a dollar, and unleashes the human version of a Pokémon's skullbash:
I have already referred this matter to applicable authorities in order to attempt to compel your restaurant to identify all consumers affected and to provide refunds to all of them, or in any event to assure than an appropriate sanction is applied as provided by law. I'm most familiar with the applicable Boston authorities, and less so with the Brookline counterparts, but at least in Boston this is taken seriously, and I understand that fines are common for price advertising violations.
I will accept whatever refund you elect to provide, be it $4 or $12, but I accept that refund without prejudice to my rights as provided by the law.
The tone of this email makes it sound like he is dispensing vigilante justice on the poor citizens of Boston. Duan, who keeps a much clearer head than other people would given the circumstances, apologizes again, even yielding to the demand for $12, and promising to keep Edelman updated on the now active case so they can resolve the situation. A second email goes out to Edelman from Duan assuring him that the website's menu has been updated to reflect the actual prices. It should be over at this point. But it is not.
Edelman asks him if he has representation because:
If so, as an attorney, I am bound by Massachusetts attorney ethics rules to communicate with that attorney and not with you.
Has anybody ever started a clause with "as an attorney" without sounding totally smug?
Part of Duan's reply (again, much calmer than most):
I have told you exactly how I am going to resolve this situation and have already acted by fixing our website and honoring the website prices, unfortunately that wasn't good enough and you notified the authorities so this is out of my hands now. I can only wait for them to see how we can get this resolved.
Like I said, I apologize for the confusion, you seem like a smart man, But is this really worth your time?
WE WERE ALL THINKING THE SAME THING, DUAN. And yet Edelman responds with a long, spewing email basically saying different versions of everything he has already said, and now demanding a refund for half of his order. So now we've gone from $4 to $12 to over $25. Oh, and he already called the cops on them.
On reflection, I suggest making my order half-price — that's appropriate thanks for my bringing this matter to you attention, since it seems you wouldn't have recognized the urgency of correcting the web site had I not pushed you to do so. When appropriate authorities ask you about this, I'm sure they'll be pleased to see that you have provided generous more-than-refunds to all customers who flagged the problem.
"Bringing this matter to your attention" is entirely different from "going over your head and calling authorities before you even get a chance to correct the problem." Seriously, what worst-case scenario did Edelman think he was preventing? Edelman IS the worst-case scenario. And I'm assuming he's also very lonely and bored, or else he wouldn't have the time to be keeping up this ridiculous exchange for so long. If you want to read the full transcript, it's available at Boston.com, but I'm warning you right now your blood pressure will go through the roof.
Side note: If anyone reading this actually has this guy as a professor at Harvard, I am so, so sorry about your finals week.