A Harvard Business School associate professor ordered some food from a family-run Brookline, Mass., Chinese joint a few days ago; after reviewing his receipt, he noticed he'd been charged $4 more than the price he expected, based on the restaurant's online menu. And then, in a series of aggrieved emails to the restaurant owners, he lost his fucking mind.
First, the professor, Ben Edelman, asked for a $12 refund ("the tripling reflects the approach provided under the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, MGL 93a, wherein consumers broadly receive triple damages for certain intentional violations," he wrote, which, oh for sure man). Then, when the poor sap handling his grievance apologized for the discrepancy between the out-of-date online menu and the up-to-date physical one, and reasonably countered with an offer of, y'know, a refund in the actual amount of the overcharge, Edelman broke out the big guns:
It strikes me that merely providing a refund to a single customer would be an exceptionally light sanction for the violation that has occurred. To wit, your restaurant overcharged all customers who viewed the web site and placed a telephone order—the standard and typical way to order takeout. You did so knowingly, knowing that your web site was out of date and that customers would see it and rely on it. You allowed the problem to continue, in your own words, "for quite some time." 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.
I have already referred this matter to applicable authorities in order to attempt to compel your restaurant to identify all consumers affected and to provide refunds to all of them, or in any event to assure that an appropriate sanction is applied as provided by law. I'm most familiar with the applicable Boston authorities, and less so with the Brookline counterparts, but at least in Boston this is taken seriously, and
I understand that fines are common for price advertising violations.
I will accept whatever refund you elect to provide, be it $4 or $12, but I accept that refund without prejudice to my rights as provided by law.
And so on. It gets more nuts from there! At one point he recaps their entire email correspondence. Charming fellow.
I'd like to note that this dingus attempted to fine the restaurant $8, on his own, before referring the matter to authorities. Is that how law works? Somebody clue me in, here. Can I just go around fining people for shit? That'd be pretty fucked up! That's a bad shirt. I fine you 10 bucks for making my eyes sad. I have a weird feeling that trying to scam a restaurant out of a bonus refund by waving your hands and typing the words "applicable law" a bunch is probably at least as illegal as failing to update the menu on your website. But then again, I am not a Harvard professor!
In any case, fuck this guy. Screencaps of the correspondence, from Boston.com, are below.
It's about ethics in online menu updating!