Blech blech blech. Harvard has a lot of adjuncts, particularly in their professional schools, and plenty of people sign up for this because they get to put “Harvard professor” in their titles. It is the nomenclature of self-promotion, and when it works well, it works well for everybody involved. The university gets to say it hires people with their fingers on the pulse of the consulting world; the consultant gets to add an prestigious uni cred to their own self-promotion. Edelman seems to be one of these loosely affiliated faculty.
The internets erupted last week over Edelman’s going after a Chinese restaurant that was, in fact, charging higher prices than their website, and they overcharged Edelman by $4. He confronted them on it, and apparently they didn’t grovel or reimburse fast enough because he went on with further threats. The internet erupted in judgment. But according to his fellow Harvard blah-blah vendor in the New Republic, Nathan Robinson, this puts Edelman in the right, doing business ethics housecleaning, instead of a bully:
Fraudulent business practices are widespread in America and often have little remedy. People are frequently scammed but are unaware or too busy to do anything about it. Even those who seek a remedy often fail to find one, and businesses have an incentive to keep ripping other customers off because it’s easy to pay off the few, like Edelman, who complain.
Sichuan Garden owner Ran Duan’s initial reply to Edelman stated that the restaurant’s website was out of date and the menu prices had gone up—and made no offer to reimburse Edelman for the difference. That only changed once Edelman become more serious. As he points out, the restaurant had known for months it was showing people the wrong prices, but hadn’t updated the website. Perhaps this was an honest mistake, but changing the site takes all of five minutes. The restaurant had no incentive to do so, however, given that few consumers would notice the price difference. By not taking the simple steps necessary to follow the law, Sichuan Garden was essentially stealing people’s money every day, for months.
Perhaps if you yell about this loudly enough, you’ll convince some people, but 1) No, it does NOT take 5 minutes to update a website with prices. It takes longer than that. Not everybody has an army of people at hand to deal with the web crap (says the owner of a nonprofit who, unlike Harvard proffies and overpaid business consultants, has to do all that web shite herself, and yeah, sometimes months go by before I get to it,) and
2) bayotch, please. If Edelman and his chorus of business buddies cared about fraud, they wouldn’t be going after locally owned small businesses. Yeah, the Sichuan Garden is technically in the wrong here, but here’s the deal: if you use your platform and status as a Harvard -effing Proffie to go after the Sihuan Gardens instead of the Bank of Americas, the Bernie Madoffs, the payday loan industry, the people who go after collections that are 8 years-old, and their buddies on Wall Street, you are HELL TO THE YEAH part of the Establishment and you kind of suck. Even if, from a strict Kantian perspective, you are right and they are wrong. I’ll give you the $4 to shut up.
And you know what? Plenty of us are sick of Harvard-associated people using their platform to dance on the head of a pin about issues that don’t matter. The Freakonomicsification of EVERYTHING…if it’s cutesey and unexpected and marginal, well, it’ll make news and it won’t make any members of our fellow power elite unhappy or challenge any systems…but it’s awesome because we did it! And we’re Harvard! We just correlated the number of poodles with crime rates! Admire us because we are SUCH ICONOCLASTS. NOBUDS THINKS LIKE US RIGHTCHERE.
Now, there are *great* scholars at Harvard doing incredible work–incredible work–of real significance. I don’t know why they put up with this nonsense, but I suppose it’s like all of us who just want to do good work and help in the world: there’s no time to deal with every self-promotional blah-blah vendor who can find a media outlet.
So yeah, Edelman may technically be in the right, but don’t expect any slow claps.