A Harvard Professor's Food War Over $4

A Harvard Professor's Food War Over $4
A Harvard Professor's Food War Over $4
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The News Minute | December 10, 2014 | 5:50 pm IST

How much of an effort would you put in to get back at them, if an eatery overcharged you? And no, we mean over­charge in the literal sense, not when you feel your food wasn’t worth that much money.

A pointing out of the mistake, a demand for a re­calculation and a refund? Or perhaps a public venting out on Facebook and Twitter, if the over­charging was egregious?

But nothing was too small for this Harvard Business School associate professor. Benjamin Edelman ordered some Chinese food from a local restaurant in Massachusetts for $53.35.But he went red after finding out that he had been over charged. By an amount of $4! It turns out, the eatery hadn’t updated the prices on its site to reflect the menu prices.

Clearly seeing this as an issue bigger than those mere $4, Edelman then proceeded to engage in a bitten and prolonged email war with the eatery owner Ran Duan, as chronicled in a report by Boston.com

It started with the simple, ‘I was just overcharged by your restaurant’ bit, but then Edelman demanded a triple refund amount (as per a consumer protection statute). "Please refund the $12 to my credit card. Or you could mail a check for $12 to my home.” he wrote.

He then proceeded to completely lose his mind, even after repeated apologies from Duan who had politely offered to repay the $4 after accepting his mistake.

The professor boasts of a PH.D in Economics and a law degree, both from Harvard and has a consulting practice that lists Microsoft, the NFL, and The New York Times as clients. Duan, on the other hand is the son of immigrants from China and right now, clearly hurt by Edelman’s actions.

“I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business. It just broke my heart”, he said.

But Eldelman still stands by his actions. “I mostly look for malfeasance by larger companies. It certainly seems like a situation that could call for legal redress. But this is a small business in the town where I reside.”

Just like he stated, Eldelman has notified the “concerned authorities” about the mishap. But for this, he has been getting a whole lot of flak on social media, for his supposed bullying and snobbish behaviour.

At one point in the mail exchange, Duan asks Eldelman "Is this really worth your time?" It seems it was. But don’t expect something similar to happen in India anytime soon. A heady cocktail of laziness, ‘chalta hai’ attitude and perhaps an inherent niceness is enough to ward off such future incidents.

Ben Edelman (left) and Ran Duan (right)

(Picture courtesy: Boston.com)

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