Harvard Business Professor Apologizes For Bullying Mom and Pop Asian Restaurant

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[Updated 12-10-14 11:01 p.m. PST: Apparently, this is NOT the first time Professor Edelman has bullied a restaurant]

Ben Edelman, the Harvard Business School professor who ignited controversy when he threatened legal action against Boston-based Sichuan Garden restaurant because of a $4 overcharge, has issued an apology today via his personal website.

Edelman writes:

Many people have seen my emails with Ran Duan of Sichuan Garden restaurant in Brookline.

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.

I have reached out to Ran and will apologize to him personally as well.

Yesterday, Edelman had defended his contentious email exchange with Ran Duan, whose family owns the Sichuan Garden restaurants, to Business Insider:

I think the Boston.com piece totally misses the benefit that all diligent consumers provide in looking for overcharges and other errors. We all rely on trust in our daily lives — that when sales tax is added, it actually applies and equals the specified amount; that the meter in a taxi shows the correct amount provided by law and correctly measures the actual distance; that when you order takeout, the price you see online matches the amount you pay in the restaurant. We all take most of this for granted. It would be a lot of trouble to all have to check these things day in and day out. That’s exactly why we should be concerned when folks fall short — because hardly anyone ever checks, so these problems can go unnoticed and can affect, in aggregate, large amounts.

If you look at my other work, e.g. http://www.benedelman.org/airfare-advertising/, you’ll see I’ve been pretty diligent in holding large companies accountable for their false statements of price and other attempts to overcharge passengers. Should all small businesses get a free pass? Some people seem to think so, I wonder if that really makes sense.

Notably, though not emphasized in the Boston.com piece, the restaurant at issue knew the website prices had been “out of date for quite some time.” At what point should they do something about it? I’m pleased to have at least gotten the problem fixed for the benefit of others.

Earlier today, Duan released his own statement to Boston.com regarding the controversy. Ran Duan wrote, in part:

We have been overwhelmed with the response and support that has flooded our way. It means the world to know that there are still good people in this world. We have been contacted by people from California all the way to Australia offering kind words and support. I have been attempting to keep up with writing back personally and thanking each and every one of you. We have been offered donations, free services, including website services and legal advice, which I kindly denied.

I just want to make clear that we are not a business in financial distress. We have been blessed with the support of our amazing community and hospitality family that has understood the value of a hard working family. Your support and kind words are more then enough.

I have received overwhelming support from Harvard graduates and the student body. I believe that one man’s actions should not be the burden of another. I just want to apologize to Harvard for all the negative association they have been linked with this ordeal. I also believe that something good can come out of all this situation.

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