Harvard Business School Professor Threatens Legal Action Against Chinese Restaurant for $4 Overcharge

Harvard Business School Professor Threatens Legal Action Against Chinese Restaurant for $4 Overcharge

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Ben Edelman has threatened legal action against Sichuan Garden in Brookline Village. 

A week ago, Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman ordered what he thought was $53.35 worth of Chinese food from Sichuan Garden’s Brookline Village location. According to a report from Boston.com, “Edelman soon came to the horrifying realization that he had been overcharged. By a total of $4.”

On Boston.com, you can read the full email exchange between Edelman and Ran Duan, the manager of The Baldwin Bar inside Sichuan Garden in Woburn, which was founded by his parents.

The lengthy exchange is quickly traced back to some outdated pricing on Sichuan Garden’s website, which Duan promises to update immediately. Edelman responds by suggesting that Duan refund him triple the amount he was overcharged:

“Under Massachusetts law it turns out to be a serious violation to advertise one price and charge a different price. I urge you to cease this practice immediately. If you don’t know how to update your website, you could remove the web site altogether until you are able to correct the error. In the interim, I suggest that Sichuan Garden refund me three times the amount of the overcharge. The tripling reflects the approach provided under the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, MGL 93a, wherein consumers broadly receive triple damages for certain intentional violations.”

He also writes that he has already "referred this matter to applicable authorities."

In return, Duan agrees to provide the suggested amount if directed to do so by authorities, and acknowledges that the lack of updated prices is the fault of the restaurant:

"I will honor the websites[sic] price which is a $4 difference, you seek out $12 which is fine. I have no problem paying that penalty and giving you proper compensation. once the authorities notify me on how to hand this situation best. I will provide all fines. I just want to make sure we go through the proper channels now since this is active case." 

Edelman follows up:

"The more you try to claim your restaurant was not at fault, the more determined I am to seek a greater sanction against you. I still think the right resolution on your part is to refund me more than the amount which I was overcharged. On reflection, I suggest making my order half-price -- that's appropriate thanks for my bringing this matter to your attention, since it seems you wouldn't have recognized the urgency of currecting the web site had I not pushed you to do so."

Again, Duan agrees to abide by whatever the authorities ultimately decide:

"I will wait for proper authorities to direct me on how to resolve this situation, Once [sic] they direct me on how to resolve this situation with you, we will be able to honor the price that they advise me on, I will make a note that you seek out 50% off you total meal bill. I have no issues with honorong 50% off your total bill if the authorities see fit. I hope you understand I want to go through the proper channels so we can resolve this properly.  I will keep you updated as soon as they contact me"

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