Tags: Benjamin Edelman | Chinese food | 4 | overcharge

Prof Threatens Litigation and More After $4 Overcharge

By    |   Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 02:26 PM

"If you’ve ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant scr---- him out of $4, you’re about to find out," Boston.Com says in introducing readers to Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman.

Last week, Edelman ordered what he believed was $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden’s Brookline, Massachusetts, restaurant.

But when he looked at the restaurant’s website, Edelman discovered a discrepancy: according to the prices listed there, he should have been charged just $49.35 for the food. So he immediately went "to war," according to Boston.com, contacting the restaurant and demanding that it take corrective action.

On Friday afternoon, Ran Duan, manager of a bar inside the restaurant, wrote back to explain that the website was out of date and that the prices had not been updated for some time. He offered to send Edelman an updated menu.

That’s when Edelman (whose Harvard Business School web page includes a link highlighting that he has investigated 12 years of color shades on a Google advertising page to examine whether the company is in compliance with Federal Trade Commission guidelines) emailed a stark warning to Duan, whose family opened the restaurant in the 1990s.

"Under Massachusetts law, it turns out to be a serious violation to advertise one price and charge a different price," Edelman wrote, urging the restaurant "to cease this practice immediately."

And if Duan did not know how to update the site, "you could remove the website altogether until you are able to correct the error," Edelman suggested.

"In the interim, I suggest that Sichuan Garden refund me three times the amount of the overcharge" as provided by Massachusetts law, which requires triple damages for certain "intentional violations," Edelman added.

Over the next few days, Edelman and Duan exchanged numerous messages in which Duan apologized and offered to pay Edelman the $12 and attempted to mollify the professor in other ways. Duan informed Edelman that he had been in touch with a website designer and that the restaurant site was updating the site.

But Edelman seemed to escalate his demands. On Saturday he emphasized that Duan could not expect to get off the hook by paying just $12 for the infraction, informing him that "your restaurant overcharged all customers who viewed the website and placed a telephone order."

Edelman added that he had "already referred this matter to applicable authorities" in order to force Sichuan Garden to identify all consumers who were overcharged and provide them with refunds.

"I personally respond to every complaint and try to handle every situation personally," Duan said of the exchange with Edelman. "I have worked so hard to make my family proud and to elevate our business. It just broke my heart."

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"If you've ever wondered what happens when a Harvard Business School professor thinks a family-run Chinese restaurant scr---- him out of $4, you're about to find out," Boston.Com says in introducing readers to Harvard Business School professor Benjamin Edelman.
Benjamin Edelman, Chinese food, 4, overcharge
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2014-26-10
Wednesday, 10 Dec 2014 02:26 PM
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