Tell me what you think of Ben Edelman, the Harvard professor who tangled with a restaurant owner over a $4 dispute.

Ben Edelman is probably very smart. He is probably an outstanding attorney when it comes his knowledge of consumer rights and pricing. Advocating for consumers is important work. We all have stories of getting ripped off, or being confused by “fine print,” or feeling like we have no rights when dealing with large retailers.

However, kindness matters in our communities and our workplaces.

Edelman could have stopped into the restaurant and asked to speak to the manager. A simple, “Hey did you know that your prices were wrong on your website?” would have been a good opening question.


He could have explained that he is a local attorney and that one of his areas of expertise is ensuring that prices are posted accurately. “I enjoy your food and want to make sure that you are pricing items properly on your site.”

We all need to think about how we communicate a message, as much as we focus on the message itself.

The e-mails to Ran Duan and the Osushi Restaurant were not in the spirit of kindness. The messages many of us read had a mean-spirited and elitist tone. Humans and stores make mistakes. Instead of threatening legal action, how about offering guidance?

Because kindness is everywhere (including Harvard), a group of Harvard students launched a site to raise funds for the Greater Boston Food Bank with the hope of eradicating the negative stereotypes reinforced by this dispute. Kindness in action!

We need the Ben Edelmans in the world, but a kinder and gentler version. It may not show up on a spreadsheet, but being kind counts.

Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton.