HBS Student Launches Fundraiser in Response to the Sichuan Garden Rant

Can something good come out of Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman's now infamous Chinese food rant?

Can Harvard Business School students donate their way to a better public image after a professor tarnished it with a now-infamous rant against a Chinese restaurant’s employee?

Here’s to hoping, because one student has launched a fundraiser for the Greater Boston Food Bank to counter the impression given off by HBS Professor Ben Edelman after he got into a lengthy e-mail exchange with a Sichuan Garden’s Ren Duan over misadvertised prices on the restaurants Brookline location website. The e-mail exchange went viral after Boston.com posted it Tuesday thanks to a discrepancy between the offense—a Chinese food website that listed out-of-date prices and overcharged Edelman $4—and the legalese tossed at Duan. An excerpt:

“You don’t seem to recognize that this is a legal matter and calls for a more thoughtful and far-reaching resolution. Nor do you recognize the principle, well established in applicable laws, that when a business intentionally overcharges a customer, the business should suffer a penalty larger than the amount of the overcharge—a principle exactly intended to punish and deter violations.”

To readers, the e-mails felt like overkill—to say the least—a fancy misuse of Edelman’s three Harvard degrees (count ’em) to right a very minor wrong. And so, both Edelman, Harvard, and lawyering in general came in for some online criticism:

That’s where MBA student Jon Staff’s newly launched fundraiser comes in. The online fundraiser page reads:

Negative stereotypes of Harvard and HBS were reinforced by an article in Boston.com about a $4 dispute between an HBS professor and a small business owner. In accordance with our community values, we are calling on all Harvard students to flip the script by donating $4 to provide food for those in need. Donations will go to the Greater Boston Food Bank, which will match all donations received before December 31.

Edelman, for his part, didn’t back down in the face of public infamy. He told Business Insider: “Notably, though not emphasized in the Boston.com piece, the restaurant at issue knew the website prices had been ‘out of date for quite some time.’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.”

Perhaps Edelman had the law on his side, but his tone in the e-mail exchange made Ren Duan seem like a real sympathetic character. Thus others suggested patronizing his restaurant.

Those who do can thank Edelman when their cashew chicken doesn’t bankrupt them with an extra $0.30 charge.