Harvard Business School’s Associate Professor Issues Apology Over Heated Emails Sent to Request a $4 Refund


Harvard Business School associate professor, Benjamin Edelman, issued an apology this week for his know well-known exchange over a $4 refund with a Chinese restaurant.

In the email to the restaurant, Edelman wrote “It strikes me that merely providing a refund to a single customer would be an exceptionally light sanction for the violation that occurred. You don’t seem to recognize that this is a legal matter and calls for a more thoughtful and far-reaching resolution.”

The son of the restaurant owners and bartender, Ran Duan, did acknowledge that the online prices listed on his website were old and in need of an update. He offered an apology to Edelman and a refund of the $4 that he was overcharged. This offer wasn’t enough for the associate professor as he continued to email Duan and use his experience as a consultant in “preventing and detecting online fraud” to his benefit.

After many emails back and forth between the two, Duan had had his fill and responded in an ever so polite way, writing “Like I said, I apologize for the confusion, you seem like a smart man, but is this really worth your time?” He then offered Edelman a refund for half of his bill in an attempt to end the battle over the $4 mistake.

The email exchange was made public by Duan on the Boston.com website and soon social media sunk its teeth into the story of a small business being pushed around by a reportedly financially comfortable Ivy League professor.

The criticism received by Edelman was swift and harsh, thus pushing him to issue his apology on his personal website on Wednesday. He wrote, “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.”

The students of Harvard have attempted to turn the situation around in a positive way and in the hopes of staving off negative views of the university and its students. Those attending the Harvard Business School created an online fundraiser and have asked that each donor gift $4 to the Greater Boston Food Bank. The response to the fundraiser has so far been successful as it has earned $5,802 as of Friday.

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