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Ben Edelman – Harvard Professor, pedant, twit

Ben Edelman is a Harvard Business School professor (and Harvard undergraduate and Harvard Law School grad), a pedant, and a twit.  My evidence?

Come again?

In a nutshell, Ben Edelman:

  • ordered chinese food
  • saw that he was charged $4 more than expected, so contacted the restaurant
  • found out that the restaurant hadn’t updated their prices on their website
  • proceeded to go nuclear on the owner.

This story has already gone viral… it’s what happens when a Harvard professor bullies a small business owner over $4 of food.  At his consulting rates, he probably wasted hundreds or thousands of dollars on this back-and-forth with a small business owner, and also managed to wreck any sort of negotiating power he had.  (Despite somehow being a professor in the HBS “negotiations” unit!)

Ben strikes me as the very definition of a pedant in that instead of focusing on righting the restaurant’s mistake, he dove into the depths of the legal issues around this $4 injustice, the legal consequences, and the actions available to him.  I know one or two other people like this, and while they always seem to have some grounding in facts, they are completely disassociated from reality.

I will admit to a previous minor bias against Ben, in that I was a Google employee for about five years, and Ben was famous for posting long screeds against various aspects of Google’s technology and implementation, while playing down the fact that he’s been a consultant to Microsoft for years.  I think some of his research is actually interesting, relevant, and important for consumers.  But frankly, there clearly aren’t enough examples of real widespread fraud online anymore, so Ben has to play minor disagreements as nuclear issues.

So if you want a funny story, I highly recommend checking out the e-mail chain on the Boston.com article.  The patience of the business owner is amazing, and I congratulate the owner in dis-arming and defeating a Harvard Business School professor.