Oh and the food? “It was delicious.”
December 9, 2014 3:32 PM   Subscribe

I want my two four dollars!, or what happens when a professor (and lawyer) gets charged more than the prices quoted on a website.
posted by FreezBoy (215 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hell is people who lose their shit over "the principle" in situations involving miniscule amounts of money.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:36 PM on December 9, 2014 [76 favorites]


Eek, this is the kind of cringe-inducing indignant consumer story my parents like to tell.
posted by whiterteeth at 3:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


In principle I am against any business systematically overcharging its customers but lord knows this is exactly the way to lose in the court of public opinion.
posted by crazy with stars at 3:38 PM on December 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


I always seem to get stuck in line at Walgreens behind the person who wants to carry on a 20 minute argument with the minimum-wage checkout clerk about the fact that an item rang up for $1.99 when the price on the shelf is clearly labeled as $1.95.
posted by Mallenroh at 3:39 PM on December 9, 2014 [31 favorites]


That is fantastic. Absolutely cringe-inducing.
posted by jpe at 3:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just last week we had a library patron get into a fifteen minute argument over a fine of forty cents. It ended with her demanding a formal complaint form. She lives in a neighbourhood where most of the houses cost over a million dollars.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [35 favorites]


The Card Cheat, you would be amazed at how often that happens. Amazed and saddened.

And Ben Edelman is an arrogant, entitled, miserable little man. "I must take LEGAL ACTION because you MILDLY INCONVENIENCED me and weren't properly subservient when attempting to set things right!! The very NERVE!!"
posted by sarcasticah at 3:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [20 favorites]


I just very recently complained about a whopping $8 charge on a hotel bill (for two bottles of Fiji water that I did not drink) but, um, this guy's demonstrating why people (usually unjustly) despise lawyers. It's not that he's asking for a refund, it's that he goes on to ask for triple-damages, and then a 50% refund of the whole order!
posted by muddgirl at 3:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


What a colossal prick.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


> The Card Cheat, you would be amazed at how often that happens. Amazed and saddened.

No, I wouldn't. I'm a librarian.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [82 favorites]


I am incredibly impressed by how hard they tried to appease him without meeting his level of ridiculousness.
posted by tofu_crouton at 3:52 PM on December 9, 2014 [47 favorites]


Having dealt with many lawyers in a service-type situation, this does not surprise me in the slightest.

Also, in my extensive email customer-service experience, anyone who ends an email "please advise" is immediately put into the d-bag file.
posted by Think_Long at 3:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


Yeah I thought the restaurant handled this well too tofu_crouton. For some people a dollar or four will really make a difference. He's being a dick for no reason other than to display his power over the situation. I really can't understand people like this.
posted by Carillon at 3:56 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


What a colossal prick.

I suspect not, myself
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 3:59 PM on December 9, 2014 [78 favorites]


I've worked plenty of customer service type jobs and have a pretty good handle on how to deal with problematic customers in a professional and courteous manner and I still would've had a hard time not replying with something along the lines of "Hey Jerkface, you have the face of a jerk!" to this dude.
posted by TwoWordReview at 4:01 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I feel bad for the grad students.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:07 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


I love how Duan starts responding with, "ok I'll just wait for the proper authorities to contact me about the $4 then".
posted by stinkfoot at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [60 favorites]


He's absolutely being a dick. At the same time, the restaurant systematically defrauded a good potion of its takeout customers and had been doing so for an extended period of time. That's really crappy behavior that they were virtually certain not to be called out on.
posted by zachlipton at 4:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [26 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole. (the jokes, they write themselves sometimes)
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Christ, what an asshole.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 4:10 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Dammit.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 4:11 PM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


I fucking hate bullies.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:11 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Ugh. This makes me sad for humanity.
posted by asavage at 4:12 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am reminded of the very day that I decided that I was just about done in retail.

A cashier at an adjacent register had just finished ringing up a rather large order at Christmas time when the customer turned around and loudly announced that she had been overcharged for a Barbie doll. She was charged $6.99 for a Barbie doll that she believed should have $5.99. "See that sign?" she asks "it says 'Ocean Magic Barbie and Friends $5.99.'"

"Yes, ma'am," replied the cashier, "but that isn't what you bought. You bought a Bead Blast Barbie doll. That's on sale for $6.99. If you would like to exchange it for one of the Ocean Barbie dolls my manager can do that for you." I confirmed that I would.

But the lady hadn't picked up the wrong doll. She had walked past the display of $5.99 dolls, picked out one in the aisle above the "Bead Blast Barbie and Friends" sign and wanted it for the other sale price. Her reasoning? The doll was a Bead Blast Theresa doll and since Theresa was "a friend of Barbie" as it said on the package she should have gotten the lower price. Before long, half the people in line were trying to explain the difference between a Bead Blast Theresa and an Ocean Magic Theresa. (Sadly, this doesn't break the top twenty of odd conversations I've witnessed in customer service.)

Finally, I asked the customer I was assisting to pardon me for a moment. I walked over the customer, opened my wallet, and handed her a $1 bill.

"See?" she announced to everyone, "He agrees with me!"

"No," I answered, "he's paying you a dollar to shut up and go away." And then she did.
posted by dances with hamsters at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2014 [111 favorites]


robocop is bleeding should swing by his faculty door and leave $4 with the note: "You're an insufferable twit."
posted by leotrotsky at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


Based on my own experience, this looks about like what happens when an person who has or is seeking a certification in IT Security starts about the process of buying a baseball hat online.
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:14 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


At the same time, the restaurant systematically defrauded a good potion of its takeout customers and had been doing so for an extended period of time.

O Rly? Evidence?
posted by lalochezia at 4:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Edelman is using a sledgehammer to secure a thumbtack. Still, I find something incredibly admirable and horrifying (sublime?) about the legal context Edelman brings to bear in his email.

Unfortunately, the hammering is over not much of anything ($4!). I appreciate the directness of his sledging including the presumptive "Please advise".

It sort of reminds me of my encounter with the CA Franchise Tax Board who made an error auditing my tax return.

I expressed frustration at having to FAX copies of documents to the Franchise Tax Board at my expense when, ultimately, it was the Franchise Tax Board that committed the error in the first place when Rafael (with whom I was on the phone) became even more polite and said,
mistersquid, the California Franchise Tax Board is an extremely bureaucratic entity and I am doing everything I can to help you.
which polite and formal delivery could not have more clearly communicated to me that I should assume the position and give them whatever documentation they wanted.
posted by mistersquid at 4:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


At the same time, the restaurant systematically defrauded a good potion of its takeout customers and had been doing so for an extended period of time. That's really crappy behavior that they were virtually certain not to be called out on.

Pretty much that.

Like, man, the price is what the price is. Why are you charging me X when it says right there it should be Y ?

That said, I was recently overcharged by a car rental place (think star trek) because their counter person screwed up, and when I called the manager on duty gave me no end of "I'm not calling you a liar, but [reasons I must be lying]". I finally had to resort to contacting corporate to get a refund, which they did without any of that nonsense.

Douchebags abound.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ben Edelman's an asshole, but he can sometimes be a useful asshole. For instance, here's his twelve years of data on Google ad presentation. Documents a consistent escalation of Google allowing its ads to blend more and more in with search results. He's also done a lot of work documenting malware and search engine fraud, for instance around Yahoo in 2006.

Perhaps Yahoo and Google are more appropriate targets for his efforts than the Chinese takeout next door.
posted by Nelson at 4:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


As Nelson intimates, there's a difference between punching up and punching down.
posted by Greg_Ace at 4:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


From the comments:

As a lawyer, I can tell you Mr. Edelman misused General Laws Chapter 93A. Damages are not to be assessed until a "reasonable offer" to settle was not made. The restaurant owner did so.

That was my first reaction too. And I'm sure he knows this. I'm thinking misleading an unrepresented individual into believing that Ch. 93A requires paying a party triple what he's entitled might be a violation of the Rules of Professional Responsibility.


Someone please report this jackass for a possible violation of MRPC. Here's how to FILE A COMPLAINT.
posted by leotrotsky at 4:22 PM on December 9, 2014 [30 favorites]


At the same time, the restaurant systematically defrauded a good potion of its takeout customers and had been doing so for an extended period of time. That's really crappy behavior that they were virtually certain not to be called out on.

Really? "Systematically defrauded"? Their website SAID, "actual prices may vary depending on location." And the bartender was perfectly willing to refund the difference, just not *triple* the difference, because that's bullshit. Ideal, completely transparent and 100% awesome way of doing business on the restaurant's part? Nah, probably not. But systematic fraud? Please.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:23 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


Sigh. I'd like to think that when I hear that someone is an expert at fighting online fraud, they are protecting everyday consumers from malfeasance by large corporations that reap mass profits by fraudulently adding overcharges that they know the average customer either will not notice, or will not have the skills or time to dispute. A champion for the Little Guy.

Instead, we get an egotist who doesn't care if he risks putting a small local restaurant he enjoys out business, so long as he gets them to submit to his angry will. An over-educated, over-privileged rabid alpha dog.
posted by DrMew at 4:23 PM on December 9, 2014 [12 favorites]


Geez, it really went too far. I mean, noting that you got charged too much and saying so, sure. But pursuing it like that.... Why not say "hey look, the food was good, why don't you comp me an appetizer on my next order or something and we'll call it even"?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:24 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Some people can generate a disproportionate amount of self-righteousness.
posted by sfts2 at 4:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Like, man, the price is what the price is.

Did you RTFA? Dude actually had the wrong restaurant location, so in fact -- on top of being a total douchebag and using the threat of a criminal or administrative proceeding to gain advantage in a civil negotiation (which, at least in New York, is a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility) -- he was WRONG.
posted by The Bellman at 4:26 PM on December 9, 2014 [22 favorites]


Has anyone said "insufferable dick" yet? No? Okay.
posted by spacely_sprocket at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Goddamn, what an asshole. $4 is the hill he chose to die on?
posted by supermassive at 4:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I mean, if customers of this restaurant are really victims, then I don't want to get victim blamey, but in my experience, even though this is the New Millenium, online menues are still pretty spotty and restaurants are more than willing to verbally give prices over the phone.

Maybe an online menu from a different location does legally qualify as advertising, and therefore outdated pricing there is defrauding the customer, in which case it seems to me like the time to note that is when the cashier tells you the total prior to swiping a credit card, and not after you've signed the little slip that says, "I agree to pay the amount shown."
posted by muddgirl at 4:43 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


So if seeking redress over a $4 overcharge is dickish, what's the threshold? Fifty bucks? Five hundred? Or is it a percentage of annual income, so it's lower for poorer people and higher for richer people?

I recently got fucked for $650 on a Kickstarter. I can write it off as a business expense. In the grand scheme, it won't cost me a cent. But I'm going to war over it. I'm want the guy charged with fraud, and I don't care if he's a one-man operation who made poor business decisions.

Restaurant guy can't afford to have his website maintained? Then he can't afford to have a website. Fuck 'im. Pay the twelve bucks.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:45 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


I do wonder if there are any branch of the restaurant that do sell at the price originally advertised on the website.
posted by applesurf at 4:46 PM on December 9, 2014


So if seeking redress over a $4 overcharge is dickish, what's the threshold?

He's not a dick for seeking redress. He's a dick because while seeking redress, he was a fucking dick about it.
posted by muddgirl at 4:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [113 favorites]


this is n't about seeking redress. the guy did that and the business owner offered a reasonable compromise....and then the dickhead got all lawyerly on his ass. that's what this is about.
posted by OHenryPacey at 4:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


he was WRONG.

No, the restaurant admitted to having an outdated menu on the site.

They've got a duty to post the actual price. They weren't. Mr Lawyerman is a douche, AND Mr. Restaurant man is sloppy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 4:48 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


...and I'm pretty sure the redress for "the wrong price was posted" is "honor the wrong price and correct the error," which the restaurant offered to do.
posted by muddgirl at 4:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


robocop is bleeding should swing by his faculty door and leave $4 with the note: "You're an insufferable twit."

Sorry, I have not been at HBS since I tried to slam Michael Bloomberg's jibblies with a brass bar.

Goddamn, what an asshole. $4 is the hill he chose to die on?

Well, to dine on anyways.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:49 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Now that this has gone viral, I'd bet good money that this guy has spoken the words "What, so now I'M the bad guy?" within the last few hours.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:51 PM on December 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


Someone gave a person on kick starter $650? Yikes.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:52 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


At the same time, the restaurant systematically defrauded a good potion of its takeout customers and had been doing so for an extended period of time.

Restaurant guy can't afford to have his website maintained? Then he can't afford to have a website. Fuck 'im. Pay the twelve bucks.


It listed the correct prices on the receipt, and while I've never ordered takeout from the restaurant, I will bet anything that when they took the phone order, they read back the total price before taking payment ("so chicken with spicy garlic sauce, sauteed prawns with roasted chilli, stir fried chicken with spicy capsicum, and braised fish filets & cabbage, correct? That will be $57.35, cash or credit?")

I mean, for real, would you be saying that a restaurant was committing fraud if you looked it up on a website, went in, and found the menu prices were a dollar higher? Especially given the website notes "prices may vary"?
posted by kagredon at 4:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


Someone gave a person on kick starter $650? Yikes.

That's not even a quarter of what I've spent on a single Kickstarter. And I got what I paid for that time.
posted by ten pounds of inedita at 4:57 PM on December 9, 2014


The twelve bucks was over the top, but I understand the feeling. I grew up in Michigan, where the law is that if you get charged the wrong price through a scanner, the store has to pay basically a $1 to $5 penalty to you right there, or you can sue 'em for $250. (PDF wallet card)

There are many grocery stores that routinely misprice items, and count on the apathy or ignorance of consumers to not get called on it. It's not worth it to them to spend the labor to price things accurately, and they benefit from not getting called on it.

Having been both crushingly poor and someone who doesn't mind arguing in public (as well as a former grocery store cashier myself), I've gotten into it with a bunch of stores over this. Some places, with better trained employees, will just give you the cash and make a note to change the price. Other places will fight you on it forever (though I never actually took anyone to court). It can be a pain in the ass, but the system generally works.

Here in California, there's no redress aside from maybe getting refunded the proper amount of money if you're prepared to fight over it. They have zero incentive not to misprice things, and I'd say that about once a month at places like Von's or Ralph's, I end up being overcharged on something trivial. Instead of getting into it with them there, I keep a mental tally and just fucking shoplift something small to make up for it. Gouge me by a buck on my toothbrush? That's a pack of Skittles. I got to this point because I don't feel like there's any real recourse to the law protecting me, and the grocery stores have shown again and again that they just don't care. It's not worth trying to find other grocery stores — I've had the same thing happen at all of them around me, and only Trader Joe's seemed the smallest bit abashed about it (but I've gone to other Trader Joe's and had the wrong price ring up for the same item week after week). So I'm in a state of war with the stores; they pad their bottom line by low-level fraud; I punish them through low-level theft. I know that they are insured for the shrinkage and that there's no direct relationship between what I take and what they take from me, but it's enough to make me feel whole. I was talking about this once and someone complained that this would just make them raise prices on everyone (which isn't really true), and I shrugged — they're already raising prices illegitimately.
posted by klangklangston at 5:01 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


So if seeking redress over a $4 overcharge is dickish, what's the threshold?

Like 20 bucks, but like 200 if you're a business school teacher

I have spoken
posted by Greg Nog at 5:02 PM on December 9, 2014 [34 favorites]


Did you RTFA? Dude actually had the wrong restaurant location, so in fact -- on top of being a total douchebag and using the threat of a criminal or administrative proceeding to gain advantage in a civil negotiation (which, at least in New York, is a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility) -- he was WRONG.

I RFTA'd and it sounded like they only claimed the "different location" part after consulting with their lawyer, and that the menu actually listed both locations as having those prices. The owner's first response was to admit that the website menu was totally outdated and had been for some time.

Sure, the lawyer was a jerk about it, but it seemed like at the beginning he only escalated because it didn't seem like the restaurant owner was taking it very seriously, and the jerky-lawyer was worried that the guy would leave the misleading website up for some indeterminate amount of time and just pay him his $3 and forget about it. I agree with jerky-lawyer that if you can't update your website and it has misleading prices on it, you should take it down altogether until you can update it appropriately.

None of this is to defend the way he went about things, though - asking for triple damages was especially egregious.
posted by dialetheia at 5:02 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Dude actually had the wrong restaurant location

I don't think that's correct. That's one of the excuses that was offered after the restaurant owner's first response of "Oh, website prices are wrong. I'll email you an updated menu (but keep the dishonest prices up so I can continue to rip off everyone else)" failed to get the desired response.

The restauranteur claimed the online site was the website of our Woburn location, but it contained multiple addresses. he also claims that there was a location disclaimer, but lawyer disputes that ("it just doesn't say that") and the restaurant also admitted that the prices were "outdated" anyway.

Frankly, I doubt even this lawyer would have gone this far if it hadn't been for that first response. Saying that you know the advertised prices are wrong, but showing no indication that you know you need to change them or honor the advertised price, would have put me into "fuck you, buddy" mode too. Maybe I just deal with too many small bits of dishonesty by businesspeople on a daily basis.

Sure in this case, the sure, the highly-educated attorney is punching down. But the restauranteur has been doing the same thing to all their take-out customers for "quite some time." What's the average customer going to do, even if they notice? Place a take out order, wait for it to be prepared, drive to the location and pick it up, then walk away and start again 45 minutes later over a 10% scam? This guy pointed out the problem, ask them to fix it, and, when they showed no indication of understanding that it was something they couldn't keep doing to everyone else, happened to be in a position to rattle their cage hard enough to make them stop altogether. He probably could have done that more politely, but I see little obligation to be polite to small-time dirtbag scammers.
posted by CHoldredge at 5:04 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


"He's a dick because while seeking redress, he was a fucking dick about it."

Bingo. Most restaurants that have overcharged me, they're totally helpful and fix it right away. Delivery is a little different, but if a server fixes it immediately, I tend to tip them some extra out of that amount I would have been overcharged. But for some reason, grocery store employees seem much more willing to argue for hours over why it's actually my fault. (And that's not even counting another bit of scammy bullshit, where they have a good deal on something, that sells out, so they fill the space with something that's the same brand but a slightly different size, and often since that size bit is toward the end of the shelf tag, it's impossible to know until you're up at the register that oh no, that was actually for the 12-oz, not the 11-oz that we filled the shelf with after we ran out.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:06 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Wow. OK. Maybe I'm not feeling HBS man's outrage because, you know, have these people never heard of seamless? But really the whole "pay me triple or I'm calling the cops" things seems way out of line.
posted by The Bellman at 5:08 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I mean, for real, would you be saying that a restaurant was committing fraud if you looked it up on a website, went in, and found the menu prices were a dollar higher?

Especially in the case of Mom n' Pop restaurants, I always assume the website prices to have a 60% probability of being out of date. It's why I ask them for a total before I send my husband off to pick up the order. Because I'm a bastard who sends her husband out to pick up her to-go orders.

This may just be me playing the meta game of "small restaurants don't have the time/knowledge to regularly update their websites" and having worked in the web industry, I Know These Things. I ain't no fancy lawyer with no fancy law degree, quotin' ordinances and asking for three times what I was owed because of, uh, reasons?
posted by offalark at 5:09 PM on December 9, 2014 [19 favorites]


actually wait i'm revising the limit: if it is under .005 percent of your annual gross income, then it is too petty to get into a legal battle about. That seems about right.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:12 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Anyway, the important thing is the image of the business school professor looking at the receipt and his eyes going BOING out of his head like a Tex Avery cartoon and then when the camera zooms in to his pupils one of them reads "4 DOLLARS" and the other reads "INJUSTICE" and then there's a smash cut to the bartender with the sexy arms rubbing his hands together and cackling as he looks at the pile of four dollars which is glowing like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction
posted by Greg Nog at 5:16 PM on December 9, 2014 [99 favorites]


The Bizarro World version of this was the time a very drunk friend of mine got some takeout, misread the list of specials and angrily insisted on paying more than he was supposed to. If camera phones had existed back then the conversation would have been a smash on Gawker.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:17 PM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


"actually wait i'm revising the limit: if it is under .005 percent of your annual gross income, then it is too petty to get into a legal battle about. That seems about right."

I make more than $20,000 but I might get law-talkin' (though unlikely to follow through because of the costs) over $100.
posted by klangklangston at 5:20 PM on December 9, 2014


Below is a fee structure from a Vancouver lawyer's website. I have added the bold type. Someone please forward this to Ran Duan so that he may reply in kind:

Generally, our menu fees can also take into account the following factors:

-complexity of the matter, difficulty and novelty of the questions food involved, skills, specialized knowledge (including use of existing document templates frozen foods) and responsibility of the lawyer chef;
-amount of money and value of property patron involved;
-number and importance of documents food items prepared or reviewed;
-circumstances under which services are rendered;
-customary charges of other lawyers chefs of equal standing; and
-end results achieved.

Essentially, these factors translate into our having a right to charge extra fees on files meals which, for instance, are conducted particularly efficiently, or are complex, unusual or specialized and require specific and uncommon forms of legal culinary knowledge, or which require work to be done on short notice and therefore require us to delay work being done for other clients.

posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 5:20 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


He probably could have done that more politely

Probably? He's totally trying to shake the guy down for an extra 8 dollars by spouting intimidating lawyerese at the guy. If he wants to sue (or whatever he needs to do) for triple damages, then he should. If he doesn't want to do that, he should take the $4 and try and scare him into updating his website, instead of vaguely hinting that something horrible miiiiiiight happen if he doesn't refund $12 to a man who was overcharged $4.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:21 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I mean, for real, would you be saying that a restaurant was committing fraud if you looked it up on a website, went in, and found the menu prices were a dollar higher?

If they're doing that knowingly, over a long period of time, and offer a long string of different excuses rather that saying "Oh, crud, thanks for letting us know. We'll get that fixed right away" when they're called on it? Sure, defrauding people is exactly what they're doing.

It's a very small-time scam, and very unlikely that anyone will take action. Which is exactly why these small-time scams are so blasted prevalent (lookin' at you, Tops Markets, with your week long sale prices that are actually valid from midnight Sunday until sometime around mid-morning on Saturday)
posted by CHoldredge at 5:23 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


I make more than $20,000 but I might get law-talkin' (though unlikely to follow through because of the costs) over $100.

Wait wouldn't .005% of 20000 be a dollar? (I could be wrong; most of my math knowledge was pushed out of my head to make room for the finer points of Star Trek canon)
posted by Greg Nog at 5:23 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Oops, you're right. I was misreading that as being just .005 of the income.
posted by klangklangston at 5:26 PM on December 9, 2014


HELL YEAH ENOUGH ROOM IN THIS MAZZARD FOR BOTH NUMBERS AND THAT EPISODE WHERE RIKER'S DOUBLE BECOMES A MAQUIS
posted by Greg Nog at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


I'm with klang on this one. Start paying attention to your receipts and you will be amazed how often they don't match the advertised price. It's not just big stores either. Small mom and pop places will overcharge you for shit all the time, even if the prices are written in markers right there in the store. And it's NEVER in your favor. Ever. And if you don't notice it at checkout time it's this extra "do I go make a stink about this piddling amount of money, or do I just write it off" decision that has no real good answer. It's the sort of thing that I absolutely see it driving certain people to dickish behavior like this, especially given the first response he got.
posted by aspo at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


I figure this probably took about an hour of Mr Edelman's time, all told. Which means his tine is worth, to him, about $12 an hour. This seems fair to me, and I urge Mr Edelman to contact me regarding some brush-clearing and ditch-digging work that I have available.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


Probably? He's totally trying to shake the guy down for an extra 8 dollars by spouting intimidating lawyerese at the guy.

Like I said, I see little obligation to be polite to a scamming dirtbag, however small their scam, especially once their response makes it clear that they intend to continue ripping off everyone else. The sequence of emails sure makes it look like the obnoxious and intimidating lawyerese is the only reason the lying menu isn't still posted.
posted by CHoldredge at 5:31 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wanted to hate on the lawyer dude, but I've dealt with enough small businesses that use the "we're too small to fix it" as their excuse to skim a little extra from their customers. It sucks that your sort of expected these days to have a web page and keep it updated, but that is the cost of doing business; no different than the menus, packaging, etc. If anything, the business probably saves money because people can now order off the website.

But I've gotten rules lawyer-y over small businesses who spam and refuse to unsubscribe or have an unsubscribe link. They have the time and money to advertise via email but removing you from their list? Yes, the fucking law applies to you even if you're "just a small operation." Then again, I've been the employee on the inside of the small company arguing we can't remove the unsubscribe link just because too many people are unsubscribing.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 5:33 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


As a sidenote, I have some sympathy for restaurant owners who can't keep their websites updated. It's like a whole different skill, editing a website, and if your thing is cooking well and keeping a clean kitchen then maybe learning about hosting services and editing programs (or worse, ftp) is not really going to be your strong suit.

That's why restaurant websites are often so shitty; no one who works for the restaurant knows how to update it. Also why high end restaurants have PDF menus posted, at least those are usually easy to update if you're custom producing menus already. Also why services like Seamless and Eat24 are so valuable, it's finally a business model where they can provide an online presence for a delivery restaurant while also making a somewhat reasonable buck doing it.
posted by Nelson at 5:36 PM on December 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Are we really expecting a mom and pop Chinese restaurant to keep their website and menu perfectly up to date? Because this Onion article was one of the most dead-on things I've seen in a long time.

Dude was due a refund, nobody is really disputing that, but he was a total dick and he deserves the shame he's now getting for being such a dick.
posted by bondcliff at 5:40 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


For $12 he gets to spend the rest his life wondering whether someone spat in his takeout -- from any neighborhood restaurant. Or he can move. Genius.
posted by Killick at 5:42 PM on December 9, 2014 [11 favorites]


Like I said, I see little obligation to be polite to a scamming dirtbag, however small their scam

Me neither. Fuck that $8-scamming dirtbag lawyer.
posted by 23skidoo at 5:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


I hope he's getting lots of shame. And I have to wonder whether he would have pulled this with a restaurant run by white people.

This is, no lie, my year of realizing that Americans are disgusting, immoral people, especially the white ones. When there's something serious in play, we'll endorse torture and lynch law. When it's a question of four fucking dollars, we'll bully some small business dude who is standing in our way. If there were a god, he should sink this whole fucking nation of pigs and liars into the sea.
posted by Frowner at 5:53 PM on December 9, 2014 [27 favorites]


chicken with spicy garlic sauce, sauteed prawns with roasted chilli, stir fried chicken with spicy capsicum, and braised fish filets & cabbage

Damn, now I'm hungry.
posted by carter at 6:17 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


What on earth suggests the restaurant owners are "scamming dirtbags?" I can easily picture many of the mom and pop type restaurants on my block making this error. The restaurant owner promised to refund the "overcharge" and change the website, and then Edelman went full douchebag on him. For all we know, the restaurant could have changed prices the day before, or no customer could ever have brought the price difference to their attention before.

No amount of money (let along FOUR FREAKING DOLLARS) buys someone the right to treat another person with so little regard or respect. As a former retail worker, I suspect Edelman is the type to treat customer service workers like his personal serfs.
posted by sallybrown at 6:29 PM on December 9, 2014 [23 favorites]


offer a long string of different excuses rather that saying "Oh, crud, thanks for letting us know. We'll get that fixed right away" when they're called on it?

did we read the same thing? The very first response is to say they'll update the menu

And I have to wonder whether he would have pulled this with a restaurant run by white people.

Oh, he might have. I mean, I'm not discounting that there might be a racism component, but I think his response and some of the ones here also seem to be fueled by anger that someone in a service industry responded with something less than groveling and scraping (or, on preview, what sallybrown said)
posted by kagredon at 6:35 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I will give this particular restaurant owner the benefit of the doubt, but my sympathies ended when he used the prices-may-vary-by-location excuse / loophole.
posted by applesurf at 6:35 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


You know, I can easily believe that many small restaurants don't keep "their" websites up to date. I use the scare quotes because I bet a lot of them probably think "we should really have a website" and then hire some little "we'll do a website for you!" firm and forget about it. So I would need to see this place's current printed menu before I assume they're trying to scam people with false advertising. And even if they are, this business school guy is going about things very, very poorly. Call the Better Business Bureau if you must. Don't get yourself laid off (I hope) as an associate professor for letting the world know what a pathetic d-bag you are (even by business school standards).
posted by uosuaq at 6:36 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


The restaurant undoubtedly paid the son of a friend to put together their website, or pick it off a list of templates, and there's nobody at the restaurant who actually knows how or where to log in to edit it. In the old days, you just dabbed whiteout on the menu. It's crazy to think that's deliberate fraud, and it's a ridiculous thing to get agitated about.
posted by Fnarf at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [17 favorites]


I can't believe that people are actually referring to a slightly out of date website menu as a "scam." It makes me suspect that some of you don't know what maintaining a website is like for not-terribly-web-design-literate people.

What happens is that your friends and regular customers tell you that you need a website -- that it will be good for business, help you get more orders, make you seem more professional, whatever. So fine, you hire someone to make a website for you.

That person then designs a website that's basically impossible for you to update by yourself. Which means that every time you want something changed, you have to pay them their usual hourly rate in order to do the work. And depending on how that person set the website up initially, the amount of work involved may be pretty expensive to pay for.

So sure, it would have been better for them to keep their prices updated on their website. Obviously! But the fact that they've let it slide for a while doesn't mean they're scamming the public. It means that maybe they're running a small business and have other things that are more urgent; or else, they don't have a few hundred extra dollars lying around to pay their web designer to do the update for them.

I don't know, I just cannot fathom reading any malice into the restaurant's actions here.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [60 favorites]


I think it is highly suspicious that this is posted here on the day the torture report came out.
posted by srboisvert at 6:37 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


I can appreciate Edelman's emails as an example of pure assholish trolling, an art form in its own right, but aside from that, what an incredible asshole. Someone of his caliber should take on somebody his own size, which is something that always strikes me about the pathologically narcissistic and/or sociopathic intellectual types—they punch down as well as up, and I, with my lack of lawyerly-sophist argumentation skills, could easily become their next target for harassment or even personal ruin. Therefore: fuck that guy.

Attacking someone who is so obviously your lesser in terms of education or musclepower? You're the man.
posted by quiet earth at 6:38 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


(Or you know, what uosuaq and Fnarf just said.)
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:39 PM on December 9, 2014


Also, that $8 money grab really bites my ass. To me it seems like once he realizes he's dealing with a less than perfectly literate person who is reacting overly kindly, Edelman was like "Well maybe I can get MORE out of this guy."
posted by sallybrown at 6:45 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


If I was the bartender I would rub some bacon grease on four $1 bills and feed them to a large slobbery dog, and then walk that dog right outside lawyer assface's house, whose address is helpfully on file from his last delivery order. Any further complaints about the money would be responded to with PICK IT OUT OF THE SHIT WHILE I LAUGH.
posted by poffin boffin at 6:47 PM on December 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Although as far as punching back up goes, Duan's rather quick retreat into "we're just waiting for the authorities to contact us, and then you can have your $12" is pretty awesome.
posted by uosuaq at 6:57 PM on December 9, 2014 [15 favorites]


The thing that's really maddening, to me, is his implication that he's concerned for all the members of the public that this restaurant is purportedly defrauding. Sure -- as though this asshole was concerned with anyone or anything other than himself and his enormous ego. The guy obviously never had the slightest intention of pursuing this for longer than the couple of hours he spent amusing himself at someone else's expense.

I mean, if you're going to be an 18-carat prick, god bless you, I guess, but at least have the balls to own it; don't try to disguise your sneering contempt as some tireless defense of the common man.
posted by holborne at 6:59 PM on December 9, 2014 [9 favorites]


Oh and let's all worry about a local restaurant sneaking $2 onto everybody's bill while we pay the credit card company's $6 monthly charge for re-polarizing the dilithium crystals or whatever it's called this month.
posted by uosuaq at 7:03 PM on December 9, 2014 [10 favorites]


Some other press coverage on Edelman.
As a 19-year-old Harvard sophomore, he earned $400 an hour as an expert witness for the National Football League against unauthorized Web broadcasting. By his senior year, the American Civil Liberties Union enlisted him, at $300 an hour, to oppose the government’s use of information filters in libraries.

Now on the faculty of Harvard Business School, Edelman epitomizes a new breed of sleuths for hire, enforcing norms of online behavior.
I'm guessing this is just how he's been his entire life. He's done pretty well so far -- a bazillion Harvard degrees, an HBS professorship, some good consulting gigs -- but this time he picked a fight over peanuts with a sympathetic opponent who handled the situation well.
posted by leopard at 7:17 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


Not being name and shamed online is worth waaaay more than $4.
posted by Slackermagee at 7:31 PM on December 9, 2014 [3 favorites]


What a douche.
posted by freakazoid at 7:59 PM on December 9, 2014


What I wonder is how many times this guy got $12 before emailing Duan.
posted by maryr at 8:06 PM on December 9, 2014 [6 favorites]


The guy is a douchebag. At the same time, a series of understandable decisions (it's a pain to update the site + it makes us look cheaper + the difference isn't enough for people to complain about) can add up to a kind of minor fraud.

Guy comes out worse because if it is a fraud, then report it so the law can be enforced and the public won't suffer. As soon as you go for $12 in your own pocket rather than protecting other consumers you really lose your moral high ground.
posted by snofoam at 8:13 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


They offered to give him his $4 back. Yelp exists. He could have had his money AND informed the public without becoming today's Asshole of the Week.
posted by maryr at 8:16 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


What I wonder is how many times this guy got $12 before emailing Duan.

I don't know, but if it happened a lot, I would be inclined to think that this is a common scam and something should be done about it. (Something more constructive than this guy getting $12 each time while nothing changes.)
posted by snofoam at 8:16 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


Dude was due a refund, nobody is really disputing that, but he was a total dick and he deserves the shame he's now getting for being such a dick.

I am 100% sure this guy is not ashamed of himself at all. He may give some limpdicked apology but he won't mean it.
posted by desjardins at 8:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


When I think somebody's overcharged me, I either ask them about it before I pay, or I write it off. If it really chafes me, I stop going there. This guy is doing it wrong.

There are a bunch of people on other comment threads pledging to patronize the restaurant's location, even to go out of their way to do it. Like I said, the guy's doing it wrong.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:19 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


WHY NO YOU MAY NOT HAVE MY ZIP CODE, RADIO SHACK EMPLOYEE, AND I'M GOING TO SPEND THE NEXT TWENTY MINUTES TELLING YOU WHY
posted by Spatch at 8:32 PM on December 9, 2014 [13 favorites]


Klangklangston, in California the Department of Weights and Measures runs accurate pricing in retail stores. Items have to come up at the marked price or lower, or it's a hefty fine per item. If you are charged a price other than the marked price, take your receipt and a picture of the signage, and make a complaint. They will follow up on it and will also put that retailer on the list of places to randomly inspect a couple times a year. I don't know if that applies to restaurants.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:34 PM on December 9, 2014 [7 favorites]


What I wonder is how many times this guy got $12 before emailing Duan.

This guy has a pretty good career doing this shit on a much higher level. If he picks the right targets, everyone on Metafilter thinks he's a hero fighting the people's fight.
posted by leopard at 8:39 PM on December 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


If he picks the right targets, everyone on Metafilter thinks he's a hero fighting the people's fight.

If he picks the right targets, he's not being a dickheaded asshole and waging a raging battle of self-righteous pique with a family-run Chinese restaurant over a total of 4 fucking bucks.

It's truly not that complicated.
posted by blucevalo at 9:05 PM on December 9, 2014 [25 favorites]


Wow, B-school is for B-holes.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:15 PM on December 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


business holes
posted by Greg Nog at 9:18 PM on December 9, 2014 [14 favorites]


He'll regret doing this when he ends up on the Bad Diner's List.

Yes it's illegal, but everyone knows the chefs keep one anyway.

No more Chinese food for him. Ever.
posted by miyabo at 9:35 PM on December 9, 2014


I can't think of the last time I considered a price on a takeout menu, other than to gauge how much food I'm ordering.
posted by slogger at 9:37 PM on December 9, 2014


I have to disagree about the restaurantaur's website. He profits off the website, or he wouldn't have it. No one would reasonably expect the owner himself to be laborously hand-coding changes, in the same way the owner doesn't generate electricity out back or grow his own produce and livestock (the extreme localavore niche excluded). The owner, by his own admission, knew it was wrong for a while, and was profiting off of it. Most people aren't going to quibble over the difference once they've ordered If they even notice (I rarely look at final recepts for meals unless something seems way off.) how many people would have gone to the guys down the street by the prices here were better? While not all the customers, I'd guess it's a number greater than zero.

I'm sure I'm not going to change any minds which is fine. But some of the scammiest assholes I've met have been the small business owners. They cry they can't afford anything from the hour it would take a web designer to do a minor change to not being able to give their employees benefits, all the while upset that their second home isn't as big as they'd like it to be. Now, not all small business owners are like this, but the ones that tend to let issues like this slide only if they work out in their favor. If there was something causing them to lose money, they'd damn skippy get it fixed in a hurry. Which is the purpose of the law their that requires the business to pay out the threefold difference. It's supposed to be punitive. It's a shame that it took a lawyer to recognize and hold the owner's feet to the fire over it, but it is entirely fair. It saddens me that people on metafilter see "person educated about their legal rights asserting them to seek a remedy within those rights." to " big, bad lawyer bullying innocent business owner."
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:39 PM on December 9, 2014 [4 favorites]


Do most people most of the time think they're being ripped off? My career in retail leads me to believe they do.

If you pay a bunch of people minimum wage and then don't give them enough time to get everything done with constant interruptions during a randomized work schedule every week...we're going to get some details wrong, for fuck's sake. A restaurant owner who isn't a master site designer is probably also fallible. We are not out to get you.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:50 PM on December 9, 2014 [16 favorites]


They offered to give him his $4 back. Yelp exists. He could have had his money AND informed the public without becoming today's Asshole of the Week.

This. Just write a review on Yelp explaining the situation and telling people to be careful of getting ripped off. If you are really steamed, write a letter to the BBB. Then get on with your high-powered lawyer life and be grateful for your piles of money and privilege. Sheesh.
posted by emjaybee at 10:17 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


This was aptly timed, as I'm working with a friend to develop a site for their restaurant. I'll remember to advise them to not list prices online, at all, ever. There's just no reason to open yourself up to this kind of behavior.

It's kind of sad that there are people that would see this as fraud, when really it's just someone's failure to update a menu on a website. Sloppy? Sure, but an attempt to unfairly profit? You got to be kidding me! What world do you even live in?
posted by elwoodwiles at 10:30 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


As soon as you go for $12 in your own pocket rather than protecting other consumers you really lose your moral high ground.

This is the where Harvard guy crosses the bright red line into dick territory. Despite all the handwringing about ethics and fraud and protecting the public, he was perfectly willing to let it go for an extra $8, which then magically increased to 50% off his meal. If he really thought this "fraud" was actually hurting the public, the proper course of action would be to report it to authorities without ever tipping the restaurant off. As it is, it looks like a case of a lawyer jerk playing his favorite game of internet gotcha.
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:25 PM on December 9, 2014 [8 favorites]


My father would have flipped his lid over this. He wouldn't have taken it to this level, but he for sure would have called for his $4 and and we'd be hearing about for the next year.

I thinks really boils down to a specific personality type. He really thinks everyone is trying to rip him off at all times, and the anger at a perceived scam short circuits any rational analysis of context, amount, or circumstance. A nickel is the same as $500 if he thinks someone is trying to take it from him. Combine that with the pleasure at having his worldview validated, and it's a perfect storm of righteous indignation.

Grocery stores are just a minefield of potential larceny. He'll go out of his way to pay more at Whole Foods, because every other store in the area is on his shit list. Nobody else in the family is like that, and we all think it's crazy hilarious.

Recently my parents did some renovations on their house to the tune of around $20k. The final bill had an extra $40 for some last minute thing that wasn't on the original estimate, and he literally couldn't bring himself to pay it. As in, he wrote the check, and handed it to my mother, who handed it to the contractor after dad left the room.

In his defense, he knows he's being ridiculous, but just can't help himself.
posted by billyfleetwood at 12:01 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


I am a compulsive calculator. When I go to the grocery store, though I don't make any special effort to do so, my mind insists on adding up the prices of the items I choose and as a result I usually wind up at the checkout knowing what my order should cost to within a few cents (which are usually explained by my adding $4.00 for an item that actually cost $3.98 or something like that.)

Unless you pay attention you would be amazed by how often the total presented at the register is wrong, and how consistently the discrepancy is in the store's favor. And this is something of a dilemma for me because while I mostly don't really care deeply about $0.80, I do kind of resent if I'm being overcharged nearly every time I shop. And unfortunately the same part of my brain that insists on keeping a running total on the arithmetic gets unreasonably upset when the number at the register is wrong.

While I don't think the local Safeway sets out to systematically defraud me, I do think that perverse economic incentives make them not very vigilant about their pricing system. Like klangklangston I used to live in Michigan, which has a pricing scanner law that is understood by many Michigan consumers, easy to invoke, and requires a store that's mispricing items to pay to the customer more than just the amount in dispute. And do you know what? When I lived in Michigan I very rarely encountered pricing errors, whereas where I am now I run into them nearly every time I shop.

So.. I have a certain amount of sympathy for the customer in this dispute, and I don't think it's automatically egregiously unreasonable to invoke a law which calls for more remedy than just the amount of the pricing error. BUT.. I also agree that I don't think much of Edelman's approach or escalation here. He may have a valid basis for complaint but I think he escalates too quickly. At the same time I'm not very impressed by Duan's response, either.. When you've made a mistake and get called on it the best course of action is usually to admit it, offer the right remedy, and move on. Excuses and weaseling are rarely productive in the long run.

I can't decide whether to side with neither of them or both of them, but this didn't need to get complicated or go public and that it did doesn't reflect particularly well on either party.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:06 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Unless you pay attention you would be amazed by how often the total presented at the register is wrong,

Having idiotic laws about displaying prices before tax doesn't help here.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:20 AM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


The restaurant still doesn't have a menu up?! The class story/"humble immigrant vs. harvard professor" is pure bullshit. They overcharged Edelman, as likely they have been overcharging everyone who looked at the menu, then, instead of immediately doing a refund, responded with a bullshit time wasting email that didn't even have the amount of the discrepancy right. I'd actually have a little more sympathy for the restaurant if they'd just told him to fuck off. But everyone who thinks they're on the right side of some class solidarity thing should reimagine the scene within the restaurant itself, where no doubt there are servers and cooks busting ass...while celeb bartender Ran Duan sits around typing up patronizing PR speak bullshit.
posted by batfish at 4:57 AM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


-$20, same as in town.

-WHAT? The menu says $16! I'm notifying the authorities!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:01 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


What's with the emphasis on "family-run"? He's having a dispute with a freaking 27-year-old "celebrity bartender" whose family runs a restaurant with a couple of locations. UHaul and Walmart are also family-run businesses.
posted by leopard at 6:11 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Also, I think the comments about Edelman's "self-righteousness" are a bit misplaced. What kind of person do you think fights against any website that systematically overcharges its customers? Definitely not someone like me, who will shrug over 4 bucks and can't be bothered to fight any crusades.

You may as well complain that elected officials are narcissistic assholes who like seeing their names in the paper. Well, yeah.
posted by leopard at 6:22 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Look, it's not about the menu or the billing error. It's about ethics in Chinese food advertising.
posted by Naberius at 6:27 AM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]


On another note - a restaurant can raise its prices, right? It's not like they're going to say "oh, well, we put this menu up in 2011 [or whenever] so I guess we'll just charge 2011 prices unto the end of time". No one is going to go back to $3.95 dan dan noodles or whatever it was. And again, it's $4 for one item - that's a pretty poorly thought out systematic rip off since it's not like every customer is going order the one dodgy item, and for the occasional "lure people in with $2 wontons", you're going to have to deal with a lot of irritated customers, some of whom are going to be dicks about it.

It seems like the only end result of this is "the menu will eventually be changed to reflect current pricing and we'll all know in advance that the ma la tofu is actually $8.95."

The thing is, it's classless and gross to bring petty and basically harm-free matters to the law. It's classless and gross to fuss over tiny sums when you don't need the money; it's classless and gross to bring, like, a gun to the arm-wrestling match. And this is a petty matter. It's not like this is a business which promises $25 haircuts and then, once they have you in the chair, tells you that the price is $100 and won't let you leave. It's not like this is car impoundment. It's not like this is wage theft. It's not like this is a situation where it is patently obvious that fraud is going on; it's a situation where it's enormously likely that it's just poor planning on the part of the restaurant. Absent significant harm or at least really clear intent to defraud, again, the lawyer is acting in a classless and gross manner.

Not everything that is undesirable or badly done is illegal; not everything that is undesirable or badly done is best handled by bringing in the law.

The whole "well, this restaurant probably rips off its employees" argument is not relevant. Acting like an overprivilged whiner is not okay just because there is some possibility that the restaurant owner isn't a nice guy. I mean, if that were the case, I could make all kinds of trouble with no guilt pretty much every time I visit a restaurant, right? Hey, I'll send this back three times and yell at the waiter and toss my trash on the ground....I'll cuss out the manager and leave rude messages for the owner just because I feel like it....because after all, the owner may be ripping off staff, and that absolves me of any need not to be an enormous dick.

More, the lawyer isn't acting in any way that is going to bring benefit to the possibly-oppressed employees, right? So the oppression of the employees drops out of the equation, as [assuming malfeasance on the part of the owner] neither person in this dispute would give a good goddamn.

Classless and gross. If we're going to live in an oligarchy, I'd like the oligarchs to practice at least a little bit of noblesse oblige.
posted by Frowner at 6:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [17 favorites]


I don't think anyone was arguing that Edelman was striking a blow for oppressed restaurant laborers. On the other hand, it's a bit odd to call Edelman an "oligarch" while considering someone who *owns* a succesful restaurant a victim of an unjust class system.

I get mail notices all the time about my share of the proceeds from class actions against Microsoft or Apple or whatever. It's generally about 10 bucks and I often fail to claim my money because the paperwork is too much hassle. Comcast systematically pushes up my monthly bill and because there's very little competition I'm basically stuck with them until they really start gouging me. But yeah, when will our oligarchs start showing some class and stop hassling businesses that are only pushing the envelope a couple dollars here and there.
posted by leopard at 6:56 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


This was aptly timed, as I'm working with a friend to develop a site for their restaurant. I'll remember to advise them to not list prices online, at all, ever. There's just no reason to open yourself up to this kind of behavior.

When I can't find prices online, I'm considerably less likely to visit that restaurant. I can tolerate minor changes, but I will avoid a restaurant entirely rather than show up in person to look at a take-out menu, note that lo mein is $12 when I had something more like $6 in mind, then walk out and reveal such how cheap I am.

Not listing prices seems to be a trend with hair salons, and that's an absolute dealbreaker for me. A regular women's haircut could be $30 or $100, and I shouldn't have to call to find out which it is; I'll just go somewhere else.
posted by casualinference at 6:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [10 favorites]


Restaurant guy can't afford to have his website maintained? Then he can't afford to have a website. Fuck 'im. Pay the twelve bucks.

There is no convincing argument as to why the restaurant owner should pay him $12.

Also, this man knows he can never order from this restaurant again, right?
posted by GrapeApiary at 7:10 AM on December 10, 2014


And again, it's $4 for one item - that's a pretty poorly thought out systematic rip off since it's not like every customer is going order the one dodgy item, and for the occasional "lure people in with $2 wontons", you're going to have to deal with a lot of irritated customers, some of whom are going to be dicks about it.

I think it was actually $1 on four different items. That does actually seem a little extra dodgy.
posted by kmz at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


This may just be me playing the meta game of "small restaurants don't have the time/knowledge to regularly update their websites" and having worked in the web industry, I Know These Things.

Or their webmaster registered the domain in his own name and then fucked off to parts unknown without giving anyone any of the passwords first, leaving the business owners legally incapable of updating their website.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:31 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


There’s a certain type of personality that just can’t let things go. The article reminded me of this article from The Believer Magazine:
(Car salesmen, I later learned, call men like my father “grinders.”)

On a different occasion, and now I was older, and it was the ’80s, and my hair was combed into a tail in back, my father got into a drawn-out back-and-forth with one of Foley’s henchmen. In the end, it came down to the cost of Rust-Oleum, which my father thought should be included.

“It’s the principle.”

That’s what he kept saying.

“But it’s just twenty dollars,” said the salesman. “Are you going to let this car go for twenty dollars?”

“Well, right,” said my father. “But it’s my twenty dollars.”

“It’s impossible,” said the salesman. “It would be easier for me to give you twenty dollars from my own pocket—that’s how hard this is.”

“Oh,” said my father. “I guess I didn’t realize that.”

And the negotiation went on. Then, an hour later, as my father was about to sign the papers, he hesitated, pen in hand, looked up, and said to the salesman, “OK, let’s have that twenty dollars.”

“What twenty dollars?”

“For the Rust-Oleum. The money you said you would rather pay from your own pocket.”

The salesman hesitated, stared, said, “Really?”

“Yes, really,” said my father. “Let’s have it.”

The salesman reached back, pulled out his wallet, reached in, pulled out a twenty—doing all of this very slow, as if in stop-action, waiting for my father to say “Kidding,” but my father never did say “Kidding.” Instead he took the bill, folded it neatly, put it in his jacket pocket, and signed the forms.
From Closing Time: The history of America is the history of the automobile industry— which is far older and stranger than you might imagine by Rich Cohen
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 7:40 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


Maybe this is contagious. There was a lady at Corner Bakery last night who was upset that her fettucine alfredo didn't have enough chicken in it. She had the offending bowl of pasta with her, and she kept demonstratively poking a fork at the chicken slices within while asking the cashier to count them for her. Given the neighborhood and her clothes, it wouldn't be out of line to guess that she clears 80k a year.

But then, it wasn't it about the money for her. It became clear, over the next half-hour of harangues, that what she really wanted was for the management to bring the responsible cook forward, so that she might berate her in front of the entire restaurant. She eventually left dissatisfied, though I believe she carried away the fettucine, a refund, and an pocketful of vouchers. By way of apology from the tribe of Customers, I went back to the cashier after she left and politely bought a quarter bundt cake.
posted by Iridic at 7:51 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Nobody's even mentioned the next scam where the web site maintainer gets a call from the restaurant guy, changes some numbers in an HTML file, and sends out a $200 invoice.

Nice to see a non-white collar type get his share of skim, since the world is just dominated by it anyway.
posted by sylvanshine at 7:58 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Christ, what a Masshole.
posted by jammer at 8:04 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out why the restaurant owner kept responding. Early on, he replies with "I'll wait for the authorities to respond and provide guidance" and "I'll contact my attorney." After that, I would have:
  1. Not responded
  2. Given one final response along the lines of "I offered you $4, you kept pushing. So, I"m waiting for the authorities to contact me, and my lawyer will deal with them. I will not respond to further communications from you."
  3. Have the aforementioned attorney send such a note, on letterhead.
The problem is that getting the restaurant's attorney involved would cost more than $4-12, unless the attorney felt sending a letter was worth it just to show not all members of his profession were assholes. Ignoring someone like this might be the best bet: if he already contacted the authorities, damage has been done.

applesurf: I will give this particular restaurant owner the benefit of the doubt, but my sympathies ended when he used the prices-may-vary-by-location excuse / loophole.

I'd be there with you if that was the first reply (rather than after several exchanges). However, once the lawyer started citing laws and "contacting the authorities," I feel this is fair game.
posted by MrGuilt at 8:28 AM on December 10, 2014


I think it was actually $1 on four different items. That does actually seem a little extra dodgy.

Yes, this is correct. It was an extra $1 on every item he ordered. Honestly, as somebody for whom that extra $4 might have been the difference between ordering or not ordering from that restaurant, I appreciate that this guy tried to get the restaurant to fix the misleading menu, though again I don't condone his general dickishness about it.

I mean, it takes guys like this to throw their weight around to get things changed a lot of the time. This restaurant probably wouldn't take my complaint particularly seriously - admitting it had been out of date for "quite some time" indicates that many customers have been paying that extra $1 per item for awhile now. I think this is a case where the relative class of the participants is throwing some Mefites off about the core dispute. In general, I think businesses have a responsibility to be upfront about their prices, and most of the people for whom that small amount of money would make a difference don't have the time or socioeconomic power to get anyone to change their behavior so if it falls to guys like this, he's still making it better for the poor customers who eat there occasionally. In this case, I do think he started off acting as an ally for poorer customers who may not have the power or bandwidth to notice and complain about the overcharge (though by the end his behavior was way out of line).

To answer some of the other questions posed in this thread, yes, obviously restaurants have the right to raise prices but they still have to mark those prices properly; no, he was not entitled to his $12 and escalating to that point was a big mistake; yes, I worked in retail for years and understand that underpaid people are not perfect; no, this is not harm-free to poor customers for whom that extra $4 is a big deal (and who are unlikely to be taken as seriously when they raise their complaints, which is pretty clear because he knew the website had been out of date for quite some time); yes, Edelman was a total dick about it by the end; yes, I know that many websites don't update their websites but that's a reason not to list prices at all if you can't update it when you raise prices, not a reason to list incorrect and misleading prices for years on end.
posted by dialetheia at 8:47 AM on December 10, 2014 [14 favorites]




The whole "well, this restaurant probably rips off its employees" argument is not relevant.


Huh? This is either a colossal strawman or a colossal misunderstanding of my point, which was that if we're thinking about the scenario through a template of big powerful class predator vs. humble overworked immigrant, we 're bringing that story as much as finding it there, and should reconsider.


Acting like an overprivilged whiner is not okay just because there is some possibility that the restaurant owner isn't a nice guy. I mean, if that were the case, I could make all kinds of trouble with no guilt pretty much every time I visit a restaurant, right?


Oh ok it's a colossal strawman. Yeah, it's just not the case that demanding correction when you're overcharged means everything is permitted. That's ridiculous and you know it.

In conclusion, I don't like Edelman's tone either. It's not a tone I would take. And it's a tone I've been on the other side of plenty of times in all sorts of menial customer facing jobs. But that doesn't make the little class fable real, and Edelman was in fact overcharged and not directly taken care of, which in my view puts him in the right in this otherwise completely meaningless contest between two high status successful jerks. The end.
posted by batfish at 8:58 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Harvard Business School student seeks to make amends

...meh. I think what bothers me about that campaign is that it has nothing to do with directly addressing the problem, making things right, or anything else like that. It's "this is making Harvard Business School look bad, so here's an explicit attempt to buy some better P.R. Please give, so that this line on our resumes will not be tarnished!"

"Oh, yeah, and I chose a charity that has something to do with food. That's good, right?"
posted by Shmuel510 at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2014


Well, that's exactly the problem, isn't it? The restaurant was in the wrong but the guy with four Harvard degrees was a dick about it, thereby generating mass outrage and embarrassing his institution and the people affiliated with it. The HBS student seeks to rectify this by doing something charitable, thereby suggesting that HBS students are not totally self-absorbed dickwads. #NotAllHarvard

What should he be doing instead -- refunding Edelman four bucks? Helping Sichuan Garden keep its website up-to-date?
posted by leopard at 9:10 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


admitting it had been out of date for "quite some time" indicates that many customers have been paying that extra $1 per item for awhile now

I don't understand the idea that customers are paying an "extra" $1 per item because an online menu says one thing while an in-store, printed menu says another. The lawyer's claim is that an incorrect menu constitutes false advertising, but he doesn't actually substantiate that a menu posted on a restaurant website is advertising, nor does he address the fact that the cost of individual items and of the whole bill can be confirmed both over the phone and when the order arrives. If he didn't agree to the cost of the items, he could have refused delivery.

In conclusion, I don't like Edelman's tone either.

I have no problem with Edelman's tone. I have a problem with the fact that, instead of dealing with this issue like a normal human being by accepting his $4 refund and posting a negative review on Yelp, he apparently decided this was a good time to negotiate larger and larger restitutions based on unsubstantiated legalese. He's a bully and a scammer, and although targeting people who have committed minor offenses is a common tactic of scam artists, that doesn't justify the scam.
posted by muddgirl at 9:10 AM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


I don't understand the idea that customers are paying an "extra" $1 per item because an online menu says one thing while an in-store, printed menu says another.

Really? So if you order something online, it's OK if the retailer charges you more than the price you saw online because there's a different and higher in-house price that you are unable to see from your computer? What was the point of showing you an online price then?

If he didn't agree to the cost of the items, he could have refused delivery... dealing with this issue like a normal human being by accepting his $4 refund and posting a negative review on Yelp

So instead of holding businesses accountable to posted prices, people should be individually responsible for verifying prices at the POS, and if they don't like retailer deviations they should just refuse delivery and write negative Yelp reviews? So the next time you go to the supermarket, the store could slap on an extra 25 cents to each item when you check out, and if you don't like it you can just not pay, go do your grocery shopping somewhere else, and then write a negative review on Yelp? Sounds ideal.
posted by leopard at 9:19 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I'm disagreeing that, for a physical store front without online ordering, an online menu constitutes a "posted price" that is generally expected to be honored.

If I have a website where I have pictures of bowls from my physical store, and I say that bowls are $10, but you have to come into the store to actually order bowls, I don't think it's a completely unthinkable situation that prices in store are $15 but I haven't updated the website yet. What if I don't even make and sell bowls anymore? By this lawyer's logic, aren't I obligated to make and sell bowls or offer some other restitution to customers who call since I haven't taken my website down yet, and I didn't put "subject to availability" below the price?

If menus in the restaurant or distributed, say, as door hangers have the wrong price, that's a different situation in my mind. Legally, I have no idea if they are different.
posted by muddgirl at 9:28 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


(But even if I have a lax view on restaurant menu ethics, morality, and legality, and this restaurant had indeed been habitually defrauding customers as claimed by Mr. Edelman, that still does not justify his attempted extortion.)
posted by muddgirl at 9:35 AM on December 10, 2014


This explains why so many restaurants have PDF menus on their websites. It's probably easier/cheaper for them to just scan in a new paper menu when prices change and have their web guy swap out the file, compared to having to change prices item by item... I always complain about how bad restaurant websites are, but I never thought about the maintenance aspect for a business structure that often doesn't include a person to be in charge of that kind of stuff. I guess I have to stop complaining now.
posted by misskaz at 9:35 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


So if a business posted online "Please come to our store, we sell iPads for $50 each" and then people showed up and were told "Gee, sorry, we haven't updated our website recently, but please feel free to look around," then no false advertising has taken place, and the customer hasn't been screwed over at all, because hey, the internet is just a fantasy land where everyone is a dog?
posted by leopard at 9:37 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Except he didn't order online -- he ordered on the phone, and if they were like every other place I've ordered from they give you the total at the end of the call, where you can say yes or no or "Hey, it should be X". If it was an online ordering system and it charged him differently than what the menu numbers online said, or if they tried to charge an extra amount when he came to pick up his online order, then yes, that would have been a ripoff.

Now, should they ideally change the online menu every time they change something in the restaurant? Sure. But the numbers involved don't suggest a scam, i.e. something shown as 7.95 when they charge 12.95; it suggests they hired someone to put up a website years ago and sent them a menu, which has since had prices raised slightly across the board, as is not unusual.

dialetheia: I appreciate that this guy tried to get the restaurant to fix the misleading menu, though again I don't condone his general dickishness about it.

Except that he doesn't actually care much about them fixing the online menu; if his obsessive focus had been on insisting "you need to keep this up to date", I'd have more sympathy. Instead, he doesn't even react when they say they have removed the menu on the website. What actually happened was escalating series of attempts to get more and more money for himself, *falsely citing laws*. That's being a shithead.
posted by tavella at 9:41 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


While I don't think the local Safeway sets out to systematically defraud me, I do think that perverse economic incentives make them not very vigilant about their pricing system

Bad news, the local Safeway sets out to systematically defraud you. Your noticing how in Michigan this doesn't happen *nearly* as often is evidence of this.

...
Look, a restaurant's business model is not a tow-trucks business model, or a locksmiths business model - their business is predicated on repeat customers. I'd be willing to bet that their in-store menu had the right prices. Their great food is their business model (apparently it was great food). Given millions of people now know about how great their food is, this incident will only help their business.
...

As far as lawyers making a big deal out of things...

I used to work at a large multinational that made hardware products. I worked in the software section. I told some relatively famous (in his field) acquaintance of mine who used my company's product that if he had any feedback regarding the software that I was involved with, to email me at work. I love hearing directly from customers, and smart ones can give smart feedback.

One day I got an email from him about some hardware problem (if you drop it at a certain angle, the thing reboots). Oh, um, thanks dude, I'll forward that to my hardware team.

I hear back from him, he has more details about the hardware problem. Okay, thanks dude, I'll forward that to the hardware team. He emails me again about the problem. Um, yeah dude, I'm letting the team know about that thing I don't work on, I'll forward on your new email.

Finally I get an email from the dude. He informs me he is a lawyer (a quick google shows me this is true - although he's not a famous lawyer, he's famous for some specialized other skill he has). He lets me know that unless he has a resolution to this hardware problem he's going to file a class action lawsuit against my large multinational company. What. The. Living. Fuck. Seriously. I mean, I gave him my email address as a courtesy, to try to help give him back-door access to improve the *software*.

Luckily, I know what the right thing to do is. He suddenly mentioned lawsuit. As an employee, I'd be a fool not to forward his letter to our legal department. Our legal department contacts me, asks me how I know him ("um, an acquaintance from a professional conference"), asks me to send all correspondence I've had with him. No problem. Tells me to never contact or respond to him ever again, and forward any future email to the legal department.

Perfect.

Some lawyers are great (thanks ACLU, EFF, Lawyers Guild, others). But fuck most of the lot of them.
posted by el io at 9:42 AM on December 10, 2014


So if a business posted online "Please come to our store, we sell iPads for $50 each" and then people showed up and were told "Gee, sorry, we haven't updated our website recently, but please feel free to look around," then no false advertising has taken place, and the customer hasn't been screwed over at all, because hey, the internet is just a fantasy land where everyone is a dog?

I don't know, leopard, I'm not a lawyer. All I know is that, to me, a menu posted to a restaurant website which does not offer online ordering is not "trusted" the same way as the situations you are trying to present as analogous.

After all, it is illegal for Best Buy to offer $50 iPods, no restrictions, and then to not have any iPods when people arrive, but restaurants do this all the time. I've never seen "subject to availability" on a restaurant menu, but they run out of specials all the time. Should I be calling the relevant authorities every time my local restaurant runs out of their special of the day?
posted by muddgirl at 9:44 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have a problem with the fact that, instead of dealing with this issue like a normal human being by accepting his $4 refund and posting a negative review on Yelp, he apparently decided this was a good time to negotiate larger and larger restitutions based on unsubstantiated legalese.

I don't even necessarily disagree that this would have been a better way to go about it in certain ways, but I hate the idea that Yelp of all places, which removes unfavorable reviews and manipulates ratings, is now supposed to be a replacement for a legal remedy.

If the restaurant takes phoned-in take-out orders from that website's menu, I think it really does constitute false advertising in a sense and that even if it doesn't verge into "illegal" territory, it's certainly dishonest to leave it up if he knows the prices have been out of date for awhile now.

I never thought about the maintenance aspect for a business structure that often doesn't include a person to be in charge of that kind of stuff. I guess I have to stop complaining now.

It's a business expense associated with maintaining a website and it's absolutely something they have the responsibility to handle if they want to have a web presence. They have a very nice website, in fact, not some thrown-together POS like most of my local restaurants have.

Instead, he doesn't even react when they say they have removed the menu on the website.

But the owner didn't even try to remove the menu until after Edelman had threatened a lawsuit!
posted by dialetheia at 9:47 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do you ever wonder about the internet sometimes? Like, I just spent several actual minutes of my actual life reading a bunch of strangers' arguments about some OTHER stranger's argument with some restaurant about $4.
posted by that's how you get ants at 9:51 AM on December 10, 2014 [27 favorites]


I don't even necessarily disagree that this would have been a better way to go about it in certain ways, but I hate the idea that Yelp of all places, which removes unfavorable reviews and manipulates ratings, is now supposed to be a replacement for a legal remedy.

Understandable. You can amend my comment to say, "instead of pursuing remedies through the appropriate channels." Mr. Edelman claims he made an official complaint to Brookline authorities - is that true? Did he pursue this in small claims court? File a class action?
posted by muddgirl at 9:52 AM on December 10, 2014


All I know is that, to me, a menu posted to a restaurant website which does not offer online ordering is not "trusted" the same way as the situations you are trying to present as analogous.

And why not? The restaurant did not offer online ordering, but it offers ordering over the telephone. How is a customer supposed to know what dishes the restaurant offers and what prices? The online menu is a critical piece of information that facilitates business and it's disingenuous to act as if it's just some meaningless pretense. If the restaurant is simply incapable of keeping it up-to-date, it should not present an online menu at all.
posted by leopard at 9:56 AM on December 10, 2014


Brookline people agonize over getting their order just so, it can take the fun out of the eating.

I liked Sichuan Garden better when it was Bo Shing. They served a General Gau's Chicken in the 80's that was neither syrupy sweet nor fried, just delightful. But we all know what a joke GGC has become nearly everywhere, somebody should sue somebody.
posted by koebelin at 9:59 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


I'm a little surprised by all the people jumping to the restaurant's defense in this, I guess because Edelman sounded like a pompous jerk in his side of the conversation? But here a restaurant publishes menus they don't bother to update - without even the "hey we already printed these" argument - then ignores an initial contact about an overcharge, responds with a "oh sure we'll look into that" without offering to make-good when they finally do acknowledge, half-asses that make-good when called on it, in a way indicating they weren't even paying attention to the customer's complaint/problem ($3 not $4), etc.

Saying that Edelman is "scamming" is just silly. This guy could give a toss about $4 or $12. He's goading them repeatedly in a way that is entirely reasonable given their lackadaisical response and willingness to keep overcharging customers. In most contexts this sort of story - person invests his time for free to try to get organization to stop systematically cheating people who aren't paying attention - is internet feel-good catnip.

I wonder if he learned a lesson from being outplayed on the PR front? I also wonder if the people who go to this restaurant now that they have heard about it from this story will double-check their bills.
posted by phearlez at 10:16 AM on December 10, 2014 [9 favorites]


The professor is certainly being a dick, but I'm guessing there was a 0% chance of the website being updated after they refunded him his $4.

The 7-11 around the corner from me perpetually has sodas on sale 2/$3 or somesuch, and inevitably they ring up for $2 each. When you point out that they're supposed to be on sale, there's always an immediate (and incorrect) explanation for why they aren't "Oh, that's a diet soda", "Only Sprite products are on sale" etc etc. I don't especially care about the dollar, but it does bother me that they can't be bothered to either keep their system up to date, or walk over and check the big flyer hanging from the shelf advertising the price. Sure it's possible that they just made a mistake, but it's awfully convenient that this recurring mistake benefits them by $1 per customer.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 10:17 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I have worked at a 7-11. They aren't trying to rip you off. It's just a shitty place to work. Trying to keep up with the constantly changing promos while serving thousands of impatient customers grinds down your soul after a short time.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:30 AM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


I just had a restaurant get my takeout order wrong (I added bacon to a sandwich, they neglected to provide said bacon) so I've just emailed them asking for my $2 of bacon to be credited. This is a perfectly reasonably thing to do. Thanks a lot, Mr. Edelman, for making me feel TOTALLY SELF-CONSCIOUS about it.
posted by maryr at 10:31 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's a business expense associated with maintaining a website and it's absolutely something they have the responsibility to handle if they want to have a web presence. They have a very nice website, in fact, not some thrown-together POS like most of my local restaurants have.

I'm not talking about the restaurant in question, I'm talking about restaurants that have PDF menus on their websites. I always thought, 'WHY, WHYYYYY DO THEY DO THAT?" but now I get why - it probably makes it easier and helps reduce the cost of maintaining their prices online. It's the PDF menus I'm saying I'm going to stop complaining about, because possibly the other option is HTML menus that have to be updated; and then because many restaurants don't do a good job or don't have the skills to do that, they become out of date.
posted by misskaz at 10:43 AM on December 10, 2014


Saying that Edelman is "scamming" is just silly. This guy could give a toss about $4 or $12.

Saying that Edelman is doing anything other than scamming here is a complete and bald-faced lie. Scamming people out of $4 or $12 is something this kind of person cares a lot about. I imagine that if he had succeeded in shaking down this restaurant for $8, it would have made him happy beyond belief.

A non-scamming lawyer would have either asked for his $4, threated legal action, or both. Asking for $8 extra dollars, then bumping it up to 50% off the entire bill just because you're a lawyer? That's a total scam.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:46 AM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


This is only entertaining/interesting because the restaurateur is entertaining/interesting. I'll have to check out his place when next I'm in Boston.

But it does raise the question of what other butterflies on what other wheels Mr Edelman has broken, or attempted to break.

As to the mindset, I don't even like to speculate. I'd have thought a man in his position didn't have that kind of spare time. Mind you, he should be careful. Come the day he will mess with someone who refutes contentions in a more tangible fashion.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:59 AM on December 10, 2014


I'd have thought a man in his position didn't have that kind of spare time. Mind you, he should be careful. Come the day he will mess with someone who refutes contentions in a more tangible fashion.

What'll they do, overcharge him again?
posted by phearlez at 11:01 AM on December 10, 2014


FYI, I got a full refund on my non-baconed sandwich by being nice in my email. And it was a great sandwich, even without the bacon.

I guess in the end, Edelman's dickishness made me even more pleased with my refund.
posted by maryr at 11:03 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


"By this lawyer's logic, aren't I obligated to make and sell bowls or offer some other restitution to customers who call since I haven't taken my website down yet, and I didn't put "subject to availability" below the price?"

Depends on your state and local laws, but in general, there's a reason why this is both illegal and well known enough to be called a "bait and switch." I tend to cut small businesses some slack about keeping their websites, etc. updated, but a website is advertising prices and products, and so the business has an obligation to keep that accurate.
posted by klangklangston at 11:08 AM on December 10, 2014 [6 favorites]


They aren't trying to rip you off. It's just a shitty place to work.

Oh certainly, they're not trying at all, in any sense.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 11:14 AM on December 10, 2014


Yeah I'm likewise baffled that people are defending the restaurant. IANAL but intuitively if you advertise something you don't get to just say "oh never mind" when someone goes to take you up on it. That way lies (as klang points out) bait and switch but also all sorts of discrimination.

Sure the lawyer is a dick and whether or not he's right about the $12 comes down to some nuance of local law about which I have no desire to speculate. The restaurant is just wrong. If you can't display accurate prices don't display prices. The end.
posted by Skorgu at 11:19 AM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


My only certainty about this is that if I needed a lawyer I would want it to be someone like Edelman. Also the restaurant didn't offer to refund the difference at first but just shrugged and said its menu was out of date. That was what brought on the wall of brown.
posted by Pembquist at 11:22 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


They aren't trying to rip you off. It's just a shitty place to work.

Depends on who "they" are in this context. The person behind the counter or the person who puts out the stock is definitely not trying to rip me off. 7-11 as a corporation, on the other hand, may well do stuff like this to make a few extra dollars on people who don't notice. Kmart certainly did when I worked there as a cashier all through high school (I know because I always had to make adjustments in the customer's favor when they or I noticed it).

As a customer, I've noticed this sort of thing frequently enough at grocery & department stores that I think it makes a lot of sense to be watchful about it, especially if those few extra dollars make a difference to your personal bottom line. I've had similar experiences to what klangklangston related upthread, where I notice misprices fairly frequently and it's nearly always in the retailer's favor. Maybe it's a class thing here too - I'm often poor enough that I have to add things up in my head as I shop so I'm hyperaware when something rings up at a price that deviates from what it said on the shelf.
posted by dialetheia at 11:25 AM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


FYI, I got a full refund on my non-baconed sandwich by being nice in my email. And it was a great sandwich, even without the bacon.

I guess in the end, Edelman's dickishness made me even more pleased with my refund.


Edelman's initial message (well, second message - they ignored the first) was perfectly cordial. It didn't launch into snoot until they wrote back in response to his question about being overcharged with an offer of an updated menu and no mention of making good.

I have worked at a 7-11. They aren't trying to rip you off. It's just a shitty place to work. Trying to keep up with the constantly changing promos while serving thousands of impatient customers grinds down your soul after a short time.

I bet the management insures they make time to make corrections in their favor, like if tax rates increase or costs go up. Why shouldn't we want them to show the same level of effort in giving us what they promised us?

I hate to feel like I am defending Edelman since (a) he doesn't need it from me and (2) I never would have taken the snoottacular tone and tack he does in his messages. But man I (sort of) envy those of you who don't get angry when other people are glib about your money. That story from JFB above from Closing Time has been me on many occasions when salespeople or friends have just shrugged off something that's going to cost me, not them, with the "oh it's only X." I've said "then why don't you pay it"? more times than I can remember.

I'm not excusing the people who flip their shit at the person who doesn't deserve it, but asking people to be accountable and make things right isn't some egregious punishment. Edelman's not even inconveniencing anyone waiting behind him in line. I'm not sure why we care about all the ways that people have money taken from them by some organizations but not others.
posted by phearlez at 11:32 AM on December 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


Depends on who "they" are in this context. The person behind the counter or the person who puts out the stock is definitely not trying to rip me off. 7-11 as a corporation, on the other hand, may well do stuff like this to make a few extra dollars on people who don't notice.

I don't think so. The mistakes went both ways in my experience, both in the store's favor and in the customer's. I'm not saying 7-11 is a model of ethical behavior, but it didn't seem to me like they based their business model on it at all.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:36 AM on December 10, 2014


This place is in my neighborhood - Several of my friends are devoted take-out customers, and when this story started circulating they all mentioned fairly frequent "mistakes" with their orders in terms of items left out and getting over-bllled by small amounts (apparently they keep returning because the food is very good, though I've never eaten there). Edelman seems like a giant dick, but I'm not really buying the "humble, well-intentioned mom & pop operation getting hassled by the man" narrative either.
posted by jalexei at 11:52 AM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


It is a fundamental law of the universe that almost all restaurant websites suck. Either the menu is a PDF, they have auto-playing music, 95% of their bandwidth is devoted to sending you a picture of a woman laughing at a salad, or all of the above. I'd much rather eat at a place that spent their time on the food and less on presentation, though I would also say it doesn't have to be this way.

From a customer's perspective, they just want to know if the place is open, where it is, and how much it will cost. And the restaurant owner is like, "I paid some idiot too much money five years ago for our site and it didn't do what they promised, now if you'll excuse me I have to chop two bags of onions for dinner prep and then try to figure out where the beer truck delivery went off to."

Every once in a while I think there's enough work to create an agency devoted to making restaurant websites not suck, but then I remember the old adage: How do you make a small fortune in the restaurant business? Start with a large fortune.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 12:09 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I am 100% sure this guy is not ashamed of himself at all. He may give some limpdicked apology but he won't mean it.

It doesn't matter whether he means it, it only matters that it hurts.
posted by biffa at 12:26 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


7-11s are mostly independent franchises, so it's likely the fault of the franchisee. The owner of the one near my house in particular is kind of a jerk. Owns some rundown houses in the neighborhood that he illegally rents to people, there's always garbage all over the lot, people piss on the dumpster. They also get held up regularly and the store gets graffiti'd, but he won't invest in a camera system.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 12:33 PM on December 10, 2014


Ran Duan responds to the outpouring of support.
"I appreciate all the support and increase in business we have received but you need to realize we are just one of thousands of small establishments that need your support. I ask you to not just support us but your neighborhood establishments also, your local take-out restaurant, a bodega/market down the street."
*changes plans for dinner to takeout*
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 1:41 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


This guy could be spending his time and legal expertise defending death row prisoners or helping the indigent. Instead, he chooses to spend it beating up on some more Chinese restaurant for $4. What a pathetic human.

The level of megalomania is strong in this one. "I'll make sure they knew who they fucked with! No one can pull anything on me! I'm a LAWYER!!"
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 2:40 PM on December 10, 2014


Edelman apologizes.
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.
posted by Shmuel510 at 2:42 PM on December 10, 2014 [5 favorites]


Actually this lawyer is an associate professor of law at HLS.

So why is he not a practicing lawyer. Oh. Right. He is practicing.

On a mom and pop Chinese eatery. Cool.
posted by notreally at 3:19 PM on December 10, 2014


According to this, he teaches at Harvard Business School, not Harvard Law.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:08 PM on December 10, 2014


Good apology! At least he's got that going for him.
posted by sallybrown at 4:15 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is it wrong for a restaurant to post incorrect online menu prices for "quite a long time"?

Well, see, that depends on who owns the restaurant. Is it a "humble immigrant family" or is it something infinitely more evil, some kind of alien and impersonal corporate entity whose members have no families and no roots anywhere, inisde or outside the US?

No wonder the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer did so well. People eat that shit up.
posted by leopard at 4:37 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


I couldn't help reading this story as something of a companion piece to the story about MIT professor Jonathan Gruber getting raked over the coals by the House committee for his remarks about voters being idiots.

Both of these stories reminded me of how clueless and just socially inept many distinguished academics are... good at their little thing but deeply awkward, frustrated people who have no fucking clue how the world works, how they come across, and what's reasonable and what's not.
posted by jayder at 4:46 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Oh, by the way, in case anyone still cares, this is apparently not the first time he's done this.

What a fucking douche.
posted by kbanas at 4:59 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


The prosecution rests, m'lud.
posted by carter at 5:10 PM on December 10, 2014


Oh, and this too.

Totally cool dude.
posted by kbanas at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2014


Yeah, shockingly enough Edelman appears to have also been in the right the previous time as well. (The issue is whether a prix fixe menu item counts as an "offer" in relation to the condition that a Groupon deal cannot be combined with other offers. Whether the prix fixe item had previously been explicitly excluded from other deals, and whether other customers were confused by the distinction is discussed.)

But I get it -- whether a business is engaged in misleading advertising is not nearly as important as how insufferable someone is, and how many Harvard degrees he has. We are all just humble business owners just trying to get through our day without being hassled by the man and the nanny state. Elizabeth Warren 2016!
posted by leopard at 5:19 PM on December 10, 2014 [3 favorites]


After days of avoiding this story, I finally read the emails and man, I've gotten the same hardcore legal attack dog type emails from bored lawyers trying to get me to remove something from MeFi, and it's terrible to be on the receiving end of it.

That said, I have heard from people in the Creative Commons/Lessig world that say this Edelman guy has actually done great work for internet freedom, and worked on important projects before. It's a shame he treats local restaurants to that same kind of dogged determined fighting that works in a courtroom but seems entirely out of place in email exchanges. I'm glad to hear he has apologized.
posted by mathowie at 5:50 PM on December 10, 2014 [8 favorites]


Oh, and this too.

I'm firmly in the he's-an-asshole camp, but I doubt those last e-mails are real.

(You can put any e-mail address on a web-based contact form, that address is readily available on his website, there's certainly motive for people to troll here, and the diction and typos don't match his previous messages. I'm not saying it's impossible, but alarm bells are ringing.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 6:27 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Boston.com has, in fact, pulled the "And he sent racist" emails from their site--they couldn't be validated.
posted by TwoStride at 6:33 PM on December 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


Well, I'm sure he won't make a big deal out of Boston.com's mistake.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:17 PM on December 10, 2014 [7 favorites]


To all who think he's trying to fleece the owner by asking for $12 instead of the actual $4. I assume you don't live in states with this type of consumer protection law. But fleece he is not, it's part of the legal code. I will admit his 50% request was getting ridiculous. But the law says, you fuck up the pricing, you owe the customer 3 times the mistake. No fleecing involved, just repercussions that will make the restaurant think twice about it next time.

"Do most people most of the time think they're being ripped off? My career in retail leads me to believe they do. . . We are not out to get you."

You may not, but your boss probably is. I've worked for (briefly) a number of business owners who are all to happy to give themselves the unfair advantage. So yes, my perception is colored. And again, I'm not saying they all do it or they all set out to do it. But the errors in their favor take longer to correct than those in the customer's favor. And then they grow Chad the retail clerk to deal with the unhappy customer.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 9:55 PM on December 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


To all who think he's trying to fleece the owner by asking for $12 instead of the actual $4. I assume you don't live in states with this type of consumer protection law. But fleece he is not, it's part of the legal code.

Treble damages is a penalty that a statute permits a court to apply. No non-asshole would ever demand it during a customer service exchange. Edelman didn't invoke treble damages to fleece a restaurant out of a whopping $8. He trotted it out because he's a bully and insufferable prick.
posted by applemeat at 7:03 AM on December 11, 2014 [8 favorites]


But I get it -- whether a business is engaged in misleading advertising is not nearly as important as how insufferable someone is, and how many Harvard degrees he has.

If he wants to be insufferable in a court room, I'd stand and cheer for the dude and all his Harvard law degrees. All he's doing is writing tricky letters to restaurant owners to try and get them to give him more than he legally deserves through non-court means. If he wants to get restaurant owners to stop misleading advertising, he should actually do things that would make that a likely outcome.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:45 PM on December 11, 2014 [3 favorites]


You're right about the damages. I was confusing it with other states where it is handled "at the register"; at the time of the dispute. I do still stand by the rest of what I said.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 3:50 PM on December 11, 2014


To be fair, he did insist that the menus be taken down until they're updated.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 6:49 AM on December 12, 2014


All he's doing is writing tricky letters to restaurant owners to try and get them to give him more than he legally deserves through non-court means.

Really? Read the emails a little more carefully.
-Hey I noticed that my bill is higher than it should have been based on your website.

-Oh yeah, that website is totally out of date. We can send you an updated print menu.

-Actually it's a serious violation to advertise one price and charge another. Stop doing that. If you can't update your website, take it down. In the meantime, I suggest you pay me $12, which is three times the $4 overcharge.

-We are a mom and pop operation. We work hard. We'll send you $3.

-First, it was $4. But more importantly, providing a refund to a single customer is bullshit. You've known your website has been indicating misleading prices for "quite some time" and allowed this problem to continue and you don't seem to recognize that this is a legal matter. Also, the penalty needs to be larger than the amount of the overcharge. I've already notified the authorities BTW, you might get fined. I'll take whatever refund you want to provide.
Do you see all the sentences that are not in bold? Do you really think that it's all just a fancy trick to justify getting $12? Give me a break. For someone who is so outraged by the $12 you seem remarkably unconcerned about a business knowingly posting a dishonest menu "for quite some time." There is literally only one reason that menu got updated and it's because some guy with a law degree took them to task.
posted by leopard at 8:55 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Cripes leopard, don't you see that when one dude tries to get more than he deserves through legal language that is infinitely worse than when a business does it to thousands of people through misprints/sloth/fraud?
posted by phearlez at 9:25 AM on December 12, 2014


I think you're both awfully upset about the price of Chinese food.
posted by maryr at 9:26 AM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's not about Chinese food. To me, it's about two things:

-A business knowingly posts a dishonest menu "for quite some time" and does nothing to fix the issue until it's hassled by a lawyer

-The internet rising up in solidarity with the business, because the poor "hardworking Asian immigrant mom-and-pop business" that knowingly overcharges customers must obviously be a victim

But yeah, Edelman is an "oligarch" who lives for nothing more than robbing hardworking immigrants of $12 here and there.

And for that matter, I really hope that there will be a Presidential candidate in 2016 who will speak up for the poor businessmen oppressed by the consumer protection regulations imposed on them by haughty Harvard professors. I've heard good things on Metafilter about this Elizabeth Warren lady, can someone tell me more?
posted by leopard at 9:42 AM on December 12, 2014


Edelman Defends Decision to Fight Restaurant
I think the Boston.com piece totally misses the benefit that all diligent consumers provide in looking for overcharges and other errors. We all rely on trust in our daily lives — that when sales tax is added, it actually applies and equals the specified amount; that the meter in a taxi shows the correct amount provided by law and correctly measures the actual distance; that when you order takeout, the price you see online matches the amount you pay in the restaurant. We all take most of this for granted. It would be a lot of trouble to all have to check these things day in and day out. That's exactly why we should be concerned when folks fall short — because hardly anyone ever checks, so these problems can go unnoticed and can affect, in aggregate, large amounts.

If you look at my other work, e.g. http://www.benedelman.org/airfare-advertising/, you'll see I've been pretty diligent in holding large companies accountable for their false statements of price and other attempts to overcharge passengers. Should all small businesses get a free pass? Some people seem to think so, I wonder if that really makes sense.

Notably, though not emphasized in the Boston.com piece, the restaurant at issue knew the website prices had been "out of date for quite some time." At what point should they do something about it? I'm pleased to have at least gotten the problem fixed for the benefit of others.
Yup, pretty much. The popular reaction to this is basically proof that people are gullible morons.
posted by leopard at 10:31 AM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Or that we are aware that people ordering takeout on the phone may be doing so from a hanger left on their door from two years ago or a menu from the takeout they got last year or a picture someone snapped and posted on Yelp or the data allmenus scraped months ago or yes, the site the restaurant sent a menu to type up last year, and that in all of these cases things may no longer be available or prices may have changed. And thus don't consider them justification to be an lying asshole (and he was lying about the law) because you don't want to pay the price you were quoted on the phone.

Probably the correct path for the restaurant to take would be to make a PDF every time they change the menu, put a date stamp on every page that says "menu as of XX/XX/XX, prices may have changed, call for current prices", and have the web company update it that way. I.e., making it an exact duplicate of that takeout menu they stick in the bag, with the accompanying future uncertainty. Of course, Edelman insists that they can't disclaim anything, so per him no restaurant can put a menu online, so I guess we are stuck with the picture some Yelp user snapped.
posted by tavella at 11:31 AM on December 12, 2014


Another possible correct path for the restaurant would be that when someone points out to them that their shit is wrong they could simply acknowledge it and offer to make good immediately. I can't prove a negative so I don't know how Edelman would have reacted if the owner had just immediately said "you're right, I'm sorry - we'll get that fixed and I'll be happy to refund your $4 or credit you on a new meal." But I think the fact that we don't have that story lends some reason to Edelman's response to weasly excuse #4, however douchetacularly he worded it.
posted by phearlez at 11:42 AM on December 12, 2014


Or that we are aware that people ordering takeout on the phone may be doing so from a hanger left on their door from two years ago or a menu from the takeout they got last year or a picture someone snapped and posted on Yelp or the data allmenus scraped months ago or yes, the site the restaurant sent a menu to type up last year, and that in all of these cases things may no longer be available or prices may have changed.

I don't understand this rhetorical device of listing a bunch of irrelevant red herrings that the restaurant would clearly not be responsible for, and then concluding with the actual facts of the matter, which is that the restaurant website was misleading and that the restaurant is clearly responsible for that.

And thus don't consider them justification to be an lying asshole (and he was lying about the law) because you don't want to pay the price you were quoted on the phone.

This seems highly uncharitable. The actual law that matters is whether it's OK for a restaurant to post a menu with incorrect prices. I've seen no arguments to this effect, whether they be legal or common-sensical (sorry, "Edelman is a Harvard professor" is not actually such an argument).

Regarding treble damages, this is what Edelman wrote:
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. (emphasis mine)
Note that Edelman does not say or imply that he is legally entitled to the $12. Rather, he uses the approach behind the law to arrive at the $12 value -- he triples the amount of the overcharge. This makes sense, because if you rip someone off for $4, being forced later to pay them the $4 is not actually a penalty. (Please think about it.) At this point Duan has already admitted that the website's "prices have been out of date for quite some time" and has not offered Edelman anything other than an updated print menu (oh, and "I will make sure to update [the website]," LOL).

Duan responds to the request for $12 by saying that "we are a mom and pop restaurant and pride our selves on hard work and authentic Chinese cuisine. I will honor the website price and honor you the $3." So yeah, there's a lying asshole here, and it's the guy who's now proudly explaining how he's "ready to forgive and move on."

Probably the correct path for the restaurant to take would be to make a PDF every time they change the menu, put a date stamp on every page that says "menu as of XX/XX/XX, prices may have changed, call for current prices", and have the web company update it that way. I.e., making it an exact duplicate of that takeout menu they stick in the bag, with the accompanying future uncertainty. Of course, Edelman insists that they can't disclaim anything, so per him no restaurant can put a menu online, so I guess we are stuck with the picture some Yelp user snapped.

Give me a fucking break. They just have to update the online menu when they update their in-house menu. This wasn't an honest mistake, Duan admitted that the site had been wrong for "quite some time." He only fixed it when a Harvard professor reported him to the authorities.
posted by leopard at 12:32 PM on December 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Do you see all the sentences that are not in bold? Do you really think that it's all just a fancy trick to justify getting $12? Give me a break. For someone who is so outraged by the $12 you seem remarkably unconcerned about a business knowingly posting a dishonest menu "for quite some time." There is literally only one reason that menu got updated and it's because some guy with a law degree took them to task.

Sorry, I won't give you a break. Your reaction to this story is just as hyperbolic and uncalled-for as the lawyer's reaction to being overcharged $4. I like correct and up-to-date menus as much as anyone, but there is absolutely no evidence that trying to shake down a restaurant owner for $8 (and later upping the amount to $26.67) is the only way to get a place to change their menu.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:12 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


This is fascinating.

Overcharging every single customer who orders from the online menu by $1 an item -- not outrageous at all.

Asking for 12 bucks when you've been deliberately overcharged by 4 bucks - clearly a horrible scam. Not because it's actually unethical, but because it's not absolutely neccessary. For example, you could report the restaurant to the authorities. Which Edelman also did, and which probably won't lead to any meaningful action (who is going to investigate, who is going to have saved proof that they ordered from the online menu). What an ethical outcome.
posted by leopard at 4:19 PM on December 12, 2014


The popular reaction to this is basically proof that people are gullible morons.

Exactly right. Hell, Duan's savviness and access in feeding the emails to boston.com should itself raise a red flag about who these people are and what they're doing, but it seems people just cannot get around the stereotypes the thing is encrypted in.
posted by batfish at 6:02 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


The lawyer demanding extra money is what makes him an asshole. The state gets to inflict punitive damages. Private individuals do not.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:10 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Restaurant overcharging every single online order by 4 bucks for God knows how long: no big deal, it's just 4 bucks, who cares

Lawyer asking for 8 bucks in "punitive damages": WHOA WHOA WHOA, who does this Harvard asshole think he is, it was just four dollars, OMG he's going to WAR over nothing, let's bring out the pitchforks, I wonder how many other times he's pulled this cowardly scam

The press coverage has basically been from Duan's perspective from the very beginning, and yeah, people are gullible morons. Duan announced today that he's ready to "forgive and move on" from this "ordeal" and he will be refunding Edelman four bucks out of the "goodness of his heart." He also reiterated that he is from a family of humble hardworking immigrants and that he believes in Confucian ideals, because, once again, as has rarely been so obvious to me, people are gullible morons.
posted by leopard at 7:42 PM on December 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh, they're both assholes, don't get me wrong.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:42 PM on December 12, 2014


Well, one asshole seems to be a small-time cheat and has roused popular support, while the other asshole hasn't done anything wrong, has provided some genuinely valuable devices to society in his career, and is being crucified in the press and social media, so I don't think it's quite so balanced.

To be fair the first guy is apparently also very good at making drinks and Sichuan food.
posted by leopard at 7:48 PM on December 12, 2014


it seems people just cannot get around the stereotypes the thing is encrypted in.

It's a lawyer seeking punitive damages from the little guy. Of course people can't get past the stereotype. It is the exact stereotype people have of lawyers.
posted by maryr at 10:03 PM on December 12, 2014 [2 favorites]


Punitive damages of EIGHT dollars -- exactly twice the supposedly completely trivial amount the "little guy" overcharged him.

The little guy just needs to overcharge two other people to come up with the money. Or he could view it as a cheap lesson that he shouldn't cheat people. Or he could go to the press and have them do a hatchet job on someone who takes on false advertising by big corporations for a living.
posted by leopard at 6:07 AM on December 13, 2014


leopard, this is a small hill. Why are you dying on it?
posted by maryr at 7:39 AM on December 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


He once lost four dollars, and he has never forgotten.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:45 PM on December 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


John Cusack scarred him for life.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:17 PM on December 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Clever wits.
posted by leopard at 5:05 AM on December 14, 2014


leopard, this is a small hill. Why are you dying on it?

yeeeeesss, finally the part of the thread where maryr reads to us out of an animal storybook
posted by threeants at 10:17 AM on December 14, 2014 [7 favorites]


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