Food & Drink

Read one man's utter meltdown after being overcharged $4 for Chinese food

Chinese food
Sean Cooley

If a restaurant accidentally overcharges you $20,000 on a chicken Parm, that's cause for complaint. But $4 on some Chinese takeout? That's usually something you let slide, unless you're Ben Edelman, a Harvard Business School professor who recently lost his mind over a minor error by Sichuan Garden.

The problem was that Edelman had based his order off the restaurant's website, which apparently hadn't been updated to reflect price hikes... of $1 on each of the four entrees he chose. He sent an email to ask about the discrepancy, and when Ran Duan (whose parents run the place) replied apologizing for the slip-up, Edelman demanded a triple refund. Then he quickly leapt off the cliff into lunacy. has the entire, unbelievable email exchange, but these were a few of our favorite quotes:

  • "In the interim, I suggest that Sichuan Garden refund me three times the amount of the overcharge. The tripling reflects the approach provided under the Massachusetts consumer protection statute, MGL 93a, wherein consumers broadly receive triple damages for certain intentional violations."
  • "It strikes me that merely providing a refund to a single customer would be an exceptionally light sanction for the violation that has occurred."
  • "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 disagree that the menu I reviewed in any way indicated it was for Woburn only. I kept a screenshot."
  • "You're right that I have better things to do."

When the dust settled, 11 emails had been exchanged, Duan had gotten the website menu taken down for updates, and Sichuan Garden was awaiting instructions from whatever "authorities" Edelman had alerted. (Him in a plastic cop badge?) As this incredibly low-stakes war continues on, we'll be keeping an eye out for any new tantrums. But kids in Edelman's lectures: we sincerely hope you've prepared snarky questions on MGL 93a. Don't let us down.

Kristin Hunt is a Food/Drink staff writer for Thrillist, and definitely had a few professors she'd refuse food service to. Follow her at @kristin_hunt.