Watch This Harvard Prof Totally Own a Small Chinese Restaurant That Overcharged Him $4 for Takeout

Fight the power.


It is a fact widely acknowledged in the legal profession that it is basically pointless going to law school unless you later use your hard-won knowledge to terrorize a small family-owned business over a minor customer-service transgression. So we at Slate can only cheer on Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman, a man in possession of both a Ph.D. and J.D. from the university at which he now teaches, for his firm but thoroughly fair response to the proprietors of a local chinese restaurant, Sichuan Garden, after he discovered it had overcharged him $4 for takeout. I mean, who among us wouldn’t invoke the concept of treble damages and contact the consumer-protection autorities after learning that we’d ordered from a slightly out-of-date menu?  

As first reported by, Edelman exchanged emails with Ran Duan, whose parents founded Sichuan Garden, and who runs the Baldwin Bar inside one of its locations. GQ may have dubbed Duan “America’s most imaginative bartender.” But he apparently lacks the imagination to avoid getting owned in this exchange. I mean, just look for yourself.

According to, Edelman “alerted town officials in Brookline about the matter, but told he doesn’t expect them to take action. He plans to ‘take a few days’ before deciding whether to pursue any further legal action against the restaurant.” Should he choose to, Edelman will no doubt join former Judge Roy Pearson of “pants lawsuit” fame in the ranks of great consumer advocates. Fight the power, professor. Fight the power.

Update, Dec. 10, 2014, 5:19 p.m: 

Edelman has posted an unequivocal apology on his personal blog. It reads:

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.

Credit to Edelman, who was still defending his emails yesterday, for rethinking things. The Internet has done its job for the day.