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Harvard Prof., a Lawyer, Goes to War Over $4 Chinese Food Overcharge

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By William Peacock, Esq. on December 10, 2014 10:59 AM

I get it. I get Professor Ben Edelmen was frustrated. He ordered $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden, a local restaurant. He was charged $57.35. Apparently, an out-of-date website was to blame.

Like I said, I get it. I tried to buy a keg of Pabst Blue Ribbon a few months back from a mom-and-pop liquor store up on the corner. Their website said $50. When I got there, they wanted $70 and refused to honor the price on their website, which the lady said that she didn't know how to update.

You know what I did? I went to BevMo. By contrast, Prof. Edelman of the Harvard Business School (who has a Ph.D., a J.D., a master's, and a bachelor's degree from Harvard) cited state consumer protection laws, demanded a half-off discount, and reported the restaurant to the authorities.

'You Seem Like a Smart Man, but Is This Really Worth Your Time?'

Those are the words of Ran Duan, the man who manages Sichuan Garden, which his parents founded.

We couldn't agree more. Boston.com has the full email exchange between the professor and the restaurant, which started with a request for a price clarification by the professor and quickly escalated into absurdity.

Prof. Edelman demanded triple the overcharge, citing Massachusetts Consumer Protection laws, and told Duan that he had contacted the appropriate authorities. The restaurant owner offered the price difference. A back-and-forth ensued. Duan fixed his website. Prof. Edelman asked for half of the cost of his order refunded as compensation for bringing the matter to Duan's attention.

Seriously though: "is this really worth your time?"

Maybe He Has a Point?

The initial words for Prof. Edelmen that popped into our minds when we read the emails weren't exactly fit for print, but maybe we were a little harsh. After all, how much has this restaurant made off of its higher prices?

Think about it like this: 100 customers per day, each charged an additional $4 or $5, adds up to a lot at the end of the month. And how many times have you been frustrated by a bait-and-switch?

Still, this seems like the overcharge would have been better addressed by notifying the restaurant, politely asking for a price adjustment, and if they didn't update their website after a few days, then maybe notifying the proper authorities. We'd have to imagine that a quadruple-Harvard guy could spend his time toward a more productive endeavor than sending lengthy, bitter emails over a $4 overcharge.

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