Harvard Professor Writes Sincere Apology To Chinese Restaurant He Vilified

Harvard Business School associate professor Ben Edelman has apologised to Sichuan Garden Chinese restaurant and Ran Duan following a tense series of emails between the two parties that went viral this week.

HBS associate professor Ben Edelman criticised the restaurant and Duan, who manages the connecting Baldwin Bar, for supposedly overcharging him $US4 on a recent takeout dinner order. Edelman said he had alerted local Boston authorities about Sichuan Garden’s out-of-date website and Duan’s initial offer to only refund him $US3.

Here is Edelman’s newest statement, via his personal website:

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 apologise to him personally as well.

Edelman had previously defended his email exchange with Duan in a statement 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Notably, though not emphasised in the Boston.com piece, the restaurant at issue knew the website prices had been “out of date for quite some time.”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.

Sichuan Garden also released a statement on Wednesday afternoon, which you can read in full on Boston.com. In the statement, Duan writes that Sichuan Garden appreciates the support it has received from the local community and people who have reached out from all over the world:

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.

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