An associate professor at Harvard Business School recently got into an email argument with the manager of a Chinese restaurant in Brookline, Massachusetts.
Boston.com identified the assistant professor as Ben Edelman and the restaurant manager as Ran Duan, whose parents founded the Sichuan Garden eatery.
Last Friday, Edelman reportedly ordered $53.35 worth of Chinese food from the Sichuan Garden. However, later Edelman believed that he had been overcharged by $4.
Edelman notified the restaurant via email, which was published by Boston.com.
Duan apologized and said the restaurant's website prices had not been updated, but added that he would update it and send Edelman an updated menu.
Edelman wrote back that Massachusetts law did not allow businesses to advertise a price different from what it charges. He also suggested the restaurant repay him three times the $4 that he allegedly overpaid, $12, per a Massachusetts consumer statute.
Duan offered to pay Edelman $3, but Edelman fired back that he had notified the "applicable authorities."
Duan answered that he would hold any refunds until the authorities told him what to do, but was willing to pay $12 to Edelman.
They went back and forth over the website prices for two days until Duan offered to refund 50% of Edelman's bill, once he gets approval from the authorities whom Edelman notified.
Edelman told BusinessInsider.com today via email in part:
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.