Last week, Chinese recycling tycoon Chen Guangbiao took out an ad in the NY Times promising lunch and $300 for "1,000 poor and destitute Americans" at the Loeb Boathouse restaurant in Central Park this afternoon. Except there was one little problem: the whole $300 part was a complete misunderstanding, which led to a bit of a shitshow in the Park.
— Samantha Liebman (@SamiLiebman) June 25, 2014
First, only 250 homeless people from the New York City Rescue Mission were actually invited/picked to attend the lunch; that number was then decreased to 200 due to the media attention/swarming. Nevertheless, 100 or more other homeless people reportedly showed up asking to eat and hoping to be given the free cash (which Chen had trouble giving away yesterday). According to the Post, there was a lot of booing and jeering from those who were left waiting outside.
Chen did give a $90,000 check to the homeless shelter, but here's how WPIX described what happened after: "Chen had, in fact, intended to give a $300 donation per guest to the New York City Rescue Mission, but his translator misconstrued the message. After realizing his translator’s error, Chen quickly apologized and said it was all a big misunderstanding." Does that mean that translator wrote the copy on that original advertisement as well?
Making things even more confusing: Chen initially did start handing out $100 bills...but stopped after three people. According to NBC, shelter workers convinced him to donate the money to the organization rather than give it directly to the people (allegedly because of drug problems). It's hard to tell whether Chen always planned on giving the check donation, or if he pivoted at the last moment. Either that, or he just threw his translator under the bus because his charm offensive turned out to not be so charming.
In addition to the meal—which included sesame-seed-encrusted tuna, beef filet and berries with creme fraiche—the homeless people who got inside were serenaded by Chen, who sang his signature song, "We Are The World."