If you haven’t already seen it on social media, two days ago Harvard Business School associate professor Ben Edelman picked a fight with a local Chinese restaurant over a $4 overcharge, threatening legal action and trying to get the local police involved (they declined). Now even he admits that he went over the top.
“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,” Edelman wrote, AP reports. “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.”
Reactions to Edelman’s spat split on social media
The emails themselves are worth a skim (Hilary Sargent of Boston.com broke the story), with Edelman invoking legal statues throughout what seems like it could have been handled with a polite phone call. The story has been something of a litmus test on social media, with some people saying that the whole thing puts Harvard in a bad light (in addition to being an assistant professor Edelman got his bachelors degree, PhD, and law degree from Harvard; it seems fair to take him as a stand-in for Harvard culture) and others arguing that he was just trying to protect other people from false advertising.
Edelman’s language over the top
But even if he was standing on principle (and surely the $4 itself isn’t enough for someone from Harvard Business School to waste so much time back and forth), the language that he uses in the email exchange seems geared toward intimidating Baldwin Bar manager Ran Duan, such as “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.” He also kept a screenshot of the restaurant’s website so that he could refute any future claims if the outdated menu was taken down (at one point Duan says that he was protected by a disclaimer on the website), so Edelman must have been preparing for a fight from the outset.
Regardless, for someone as internet savvy as Edelman, it must be aggravating to know that this will be the first thing that pops up whenever someone Googles him for quite some time, another reason for him to simply apologize and try to put the whole thing to rest.