HBS students donate to local food bank in response to coverage of faculty member’s fight with Chinese restaurant over four dollar overcharge

Chinese food

HBS students have responded with a fundraising campaign for the hungry to media coverage of faculty member Ben Edelman’s dispute with a local Chinese restaurant over their overcharging him by four dollars for takeout.

RC Jon Staff launched a fundraising campaign called ‘Harvard Gives: $4 to Fight Hunger’, encouraging Harvard students to donate four dollars to the Greater Boston Food Bank, in response to an article on Boston.com, which publicised a dispute between Edelman and the Sichuan Garden restaurant in Woburn.

At the time of publishing, the campaign has raised nearly $4,000 from nearly 250 contributors^, which will be matched by the Greater Boston Food Bank. (Disclosure: the author of this article contributed $10 to the campaign in his personal capacity as a HBS student).

Edelman accused the self-described ‘mom and pop’ restaurant for overcharging him by four dollars on an takeout order, and threatened the restaurant with legal action. The owners’ son, Ron Duan, admitted the overcharge occurred because the menu on the restaurant’s website had been out of date ‘for some time’. Edelman has a long track record criticism of large corporations for misleading advertising.

In a post on his website this afternoon, Edelman said he had apologised to Duan, and that on reflection ‘it’s clear I was very much out of line.’*

‘I aspire, ‘ he said,  ‘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.’*

In the campaign, Staff wrote that the article reinforced ‘negative stereotypes of Harvard and HBS’.

‘In accordance with our community values, we are calling on all Harvard students to flip the script by donating $4 to provide for for those in need’, he wrote.

When approached by The Harbus, Staff said he hopes the campaign, ‘will raise as much as possible for people who are in need this holiday season.

‘I also hope,’ he said, ‘that in some small way this will remind people that Harvard is a big, diverse place full of almost universally wonderful people behaving well.’

Faculty Chair of the MBA Program, and Associate Dean, Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee said in response to Staff’s effort that, ‘There is not a day on our campus that I do not see student behavior that makes me proud to be part of this community. Sometimes, it is big and bold initiative; sometimes, it is a small gesture. I see that same spirit of kindness and generosity in our students’ response today.’**

The Harbus has approached the Students’ Association for a response on behalf of the wider HBS student body. At the time of publication, they had not responded. The article will be updated when they do. Business Insider has published an explanation of his actions that Edelman gave them.

* This article was updated to include reference to the statement Edelman posted on his website.

** This article was updated to include Professor Oberholzer-Gee’s comments.

^ This amount was updated at 9pm on the day of publication, updating the original amount given of $1,800 at the time publication.