The SA Butler Academy (SABA) appears to be digging a bigger and bigger hole for itself, its latest faux pas being responding to an article written by the head of the Belgian School for Butlers and Hospitality Vincent Vermeulen.
The plight of former Singaporean SABA student Lin Yang, who was expelled from the Academy but cannot get her course fees and legal fees refunded, has made waves in South Africa after her story was told on Carte Blanche almost two months ago. The bottom line of the program was the dishonest claims made by SABA in its marketing of the Academy, its courses, and the misleading experience and qualifications of its Head Newton Cross, much of it found to be untruthful. I joined Yang in the program, having first written about the dishonest Marketing of SABA in 2013, the article still ranked on the first page of Google when searching ‘SA Butler Academy’.
In his article Vermeulen calls for unity in Butlering Education. Note that the SA Butler Academy and Newton Cross are not mentioned in the article by name, yet the ‘African continent’ is referred to. The case study Vermeulen wrote about a Butler student could very well be that of Lin Yang and some of the other aggrieved students of the SA Butler Academy in Cape Town, who were the subject of the Carte Blanche exposé. An increasing number of international butler schools have come to hear about Lin Yang’s case, and have pledged their support for her. This is what Vermeulen wrote on his School for Butlers & Hospitality website:
‘THE OLDEST PROFESSION FINALLY INNOVATES.
Very recently, it came to our attention that certain butler students are not getting what they signed up for. You must know that someone who chooses to become a butler through a butler training school takes a big step, saving money, eagerly anticipating that very first day they arrive at the chosen butler academy. In short: a life moment. You can compare it to a trip around the world or your first car. A lot of students see it as an opportunity to a new life, a better life. Before I continue I need to explain what a butler training is.
There is a choice. You can go for anything going from a 1 day virtual online training to a full blown 8 week live training on an estate, very similar to the environment the student hopes to work in one day. Fees go from 100$ to 15000$. As you see, this decision is not to be taken lightly. So what does this student expect to receive? Clearly the knowledge you need to become a butler, maybe even build a network with your fellow students (some become friends for life) but what they really are is insecure. Can I do this? Do I have enough experience? What if I fail?
So the last thing they are looking for is a training where they are belittled, not respected, scammed and manipulated. With regret, these are exactly the things that happened recently in a school on the African continent.
TIME TO GIVE THE STUDENTS WHAT THEY DESERVE
It made me think. How can we stop this kind of abuse? Do I want these students to join my school? The truth is no. I want them to join the school they feel the most comfortable with and they need to find the teacher that inspires them the most, a mentor that will take them from point A to B. Thàt is what they deserve. I was trained by Robert Watson of the Guild of Professional English Butlers. I remember his humor to this very day and the phrase ‘maximum service, minimum intrusion’ has become one of the values I teach my own students know (sic). That is what great teacher (sic) do, they inspire.
The school in question does all the opposite. They do not inspire. They claim to be the best in the world, the only one training during Covid and being “amazing” and “the only one in the world”. So even before you arrive in that school, you lose the very quality a real butler should have above anything else: humility.
ONE BRAVE SOUL
You may think the butler industry is small and, compared to other industries, it is. However, in any community we need a Rosa Parks or a Ghandi. So, one brave student took it upon herself to fight the injustice, the scam, the plain theft. She stood up to this butlerschool and started a class action lawsuit…. and some other schools stood by and looked on.
If you look throughout history, not one war was fought by one person. This very war was already going on. I wasn’t really aware of it until one of my former students pointed it out to me. That moment I decided to act, to show butler power (my students will know what that means), to take ownership.
Last year I send out an email I thought I would never send out. An email to all butler schools to celebrate international butler day, created by Josephine Ive in honour of her father. To my delight many of the schools joined my effort and posted the picture on social media. It was a lightbulb moment for me: we are competitors but we are one. There are enough students out there to be inspired by different people. The concept of wanting more should not be present in the humble world of the butler profession. Helping each other should.
In that regard I send out another email. This time we took it one step further. Yes, “we”. As I write this, 8 schools around the world are uniting and more are hopefully joining. Thinking about how the future of butler trainings should look like, how we can give ALL students what they deserve.
The time is here and we will prevail. To the person who knows deep down inside that what he is doing is wrong: you can run but you can not hide!
“We” are coming,’
What makes the impact of this article so bizarre is that it was seen by cross Cross on LinkedIn, where it was published by Vermeulen in addition to posting it on his School’s website. In a comment to the link posted in LinkedIn, Cross replies and addresses Vermeulen directly, as if to defend himself and his SA Butler Academy….. clearly the shoe fits……!
Last week I wrote about the apparent panic which is characterising the current frenetic marketing of the SA Butler Academy, and this is further proof that Cross and his SABA cronies are in high level defence mode.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide