Harvard, in all its glory. (Lisa Poole/AP)
You’ve already heard about the Harvard Business School professor’s angry e-mails to a Chinese restaurant manager because of a $4 overcharge, right?
Sure you have!
The e-mail exchange got loads of attention after getting published by Boston.com on Tuesday.
In his e-mails to Ran Duan of the Sichuan Garden and the Baldwin Bar, Ben Edelman, an associate professor at the elite business school, demanded a $12 refund, citing the “Massachusetts consumer protection statute, MGL93a, wherein consumers broadly receive triple damages for certain intentional violations.” It is, Edelman wrote, “a serious violation to advertise one price and charge a different price.” He noted that he had referred the matter “to applicable authorities.”
After having seen the matter referred to the court of public opinion, where he has not fared particularly well, Edelman now says he’s sorry for the hubbub.
In an apology posted Wednesday afternoon on his Web site, Edelman wrote: “Having reflected on my interaction with Ran, including what I said and how I said it, it’s clear that I was very much out of line. I aspire to act with great respect and humility in dealing with others, no matter what the situation. Clearly I failed to do so. I am sorry, and I intend to do better in the future.”
Edelman, who is an attorney in addition to a professor, said that he’s reached out to Duan and plans to personally apologize to him.
Duan manages the bar inside Sichuan Garden’s Woburn location, a restaurant his parents opened in Brookline in the 1990s, according to Boston.com. In his e-mails to Edelman, Duan apologized for the outdated prices on the restaurant’s Web site.
Things got out of hand after that, with requests for refunds and arguments over the disclaimer on the restaurant Web site.
It seemed … a bit much.
“I personally respond to every complaint and try to handle every situation personally,” Duan told Boston.com. “I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business.”
The e-mail exchange with Edelman “just broke my heart,” he said.
After the Boston.com story was published, embarrassed Harvard Business School students set up a fundraising page for the Greater Boston Food Bank, noting that “negative stereotypes of Harvard and HBS were reinforced” by Edelman’s e-mails.
The professor’s apology came a day after he wrote to the Boston Globe that he had reached out to town officials, who responded that “they wouldn’t be able to help.”
“I wonder how many consumers were overcharged before I flagged the issue and pressed the restaurant to remove the false statements on its Web site,” Edelman wrote to the Globe.
I wonder how many Harvard professors will cite state statutes when reviewing Chinese takeout orders. After this episode, probably none.
Elahe Izadi is a general assignment national reporter for The Washington Post.
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