retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Just because Benjamin Edelman is a professor at Harvard Business School doesn't mean he isn't a dope.

Or, at least, is fully capable of behaving in a dopey manner.

He pretty much proved that last week, when he went to war online with Sichuan Garden, a Chinese restaurant in Brookline Village, Massachusetts.

According to a series of stories in the Boston Globe, Edelman recently purchased $53.35 worth of take-out food from the restaurant, but realized afterwards that the bill was $4 more than he expected it to be. At that point, Edelman - who is known for "militant policing" of the internet and exposing consumer fraud - embarked on an email correspondence with owner Ran Duan over the bill.

You can read the original Globe story and most of the emails here.

What it seems to come down to is that Duan had not updated the prices on his website, which Edelman found to be fraudulent, threatening to go to the authorities. While Duan pointed out that the online menu had the caveat, "prices subject to change," he also offered to refund the money to the professor.

But Edelman is relentless, angry, and quite frankly, seems like he needs to switch to decaf, while Duan comes off as reasonable and a little mystified about while Edelman has turned him into a target.

Of course, Duan ends up looking like the winner in this battle, because the emails have gone public … and yesterday, Edelman issued an apology:

"Having reflected on my interaction . . . 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,”

And it tells you something about Edelman - who, when he's working as a lawyer, charges $800 an hour - that students at Harvard Business School actually are telling local papers that they don't want him to become a symbol of the place.

And, the Globe writes, "In an effort to help shield the school, some students have launched a campaign to get people to donate to the Greater Boston Food Bank. The suggested donation is $4."

It is an Eye-Opener - about keeping perspective, about the importance of appearances, and about having a sense of humor.
KC's View: