Butler standards Newsletter SABA South African Butler Academy

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2021, Update on SABA Court Case

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Update on SABA Court Case

  1. On 4 Aug 2020, student Ms. Lin Yang instituted a Combined Summons at the Cape Town High Court against South African Butler Academy Close Corporation, Butler Holdings (Pty) Ltd, Butler Training (Pty) Ltd, Guild Recruitment Close Corporation, Mr. Newton Hilton Cross, Mr. Willem Adriaan Coetzer.
  2. Instead of entering a plea, the defendants launched an interlocutory application requesting Ms. Lin Yang to put half a million rand security deposit, arguing that she is not a South African citizen, she does not live in Cape Town, etc.
  3. Ms. Lin Yang successfully provided evidence that she does not need to pay a security deposit.
  4. In March 2021, defendants withdrew the interlocutory application and a court order gave them 20 working days to plea.
  5. Defendants failed to plea by the deadline.
  6. On 7th April 2021, Ms. Lin Yang’s attorney served a Notice of Bar demanding defendants deliver their plea within 5 days.
  7. On 12 April 2021, defendants finally delivered their plea, where they admitted making certain representations to Ms. Lin Yang.
  8. Now enters the discovery process where Ms. Lin Yang and all six defendants will exchange evidence, after which, a pre-trial date will be applied.

Another name for the company

Note: The South African Butler Academy, SABA, has now added another name to its list of identities: Beverley Hills Virtual Butler Training Academy.


True to SABA’s usual response to complainants, their lawyers sent a letter to all those joining the case against them threatening to subpoena them unless they changed their story. Hardly ethical, maybe not even legal, but typical bluster: Lawyers normally subpoena their own witnesses, not those of the opposing side! But being subpoena’d assuredly sounds like something to be avoided for an individual fighting a lonely battle—however, the litigants are too many now to be fooled by, and cave in to such tactics.

One more sad story

While the Institute continues to receive letters about their experiences, one of which was published in the “letters to the editor” section this month, one of the ex-SABA graduates sent a copy of a very long letter of complaint to SABA’s lawyers—too long to include here, but her ending should be of interest to any student contemplating entering the profession through this company.

“Your clients, their employees and relatives may continue to post 5 stars in its Google review to glorify themselves. But the truth has already come out. Thanks to students’ words and media exposure.   

“Three years ago when I did the course, I would not have had the courage to express my views. Like my classmates, I was trying to please SABA, Newton Cross, Adriaan Coetzer, and Guild Recruitment in the hope of getting a job after graduation. Now that I have lost to them every Navy pension I had and see other fellow students’ suffering, I am not afraid anymore. Your clients recorded a casual conversation between me and another fellow student when I did the course, and used the recording to intimidate me. I am not afraid anymore. 

“Please advise your clients to stop harming students and robbing them of hard-earned savings without teaching them anything. What goes around comes around.” Melissa-Jane Quinn

While the Institute awaits the final verdict from the judiciary on the court case in order to confirm innocence or guilt of the defendants (assuming it is not derailed by SABA), we are always willing to hear and publish any honest effort by SABA to provide verifiable facts that contradict those presented by their ex-students, as opposed to efforts to malign them and anyone else questioning their narrative. We are still waiting. And in the meantime, we are committed to providing a voice to those students whom SABA failed to satisfy and then failed to handle once they made their difficulties and issues known.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

Butler standards Newsletter SABA South African Butler Academy

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2021, Special Notice, SABA

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An unseemly public spectacle is unfolding between the South African Butler Academy (SABA) and many of its graduates and ex-students which, as more information keeps appearing, is sufficiently egregious that the butler training community is sitting up in alarm, as letters to this editor continue to make plain.

It is worth pointing out that SABA is confusing the issue by lashing out at third parties who dare question their actions, statements, or status: This editor for instance, was the target recently of vitriolic opinions that said more about SABA than he himself had, as well as a four-page legal threat full of inconsistencies; and the two agencies that were immediately attacked after deciding not to do business with SABA.

The simplicity of the matter is that SABA has done a very poor job of training and placing its graduates, judging by the continued and numerous complaints. By not taking ownership of the unripened fruits of its labors, SABA is not only embarrassing itself but all butler schools.

As a result of the information coming to light (facts, not only opinions as claimed by SABA*), those responsible for passing on the knowledge of butlers to those wanting to join the profession find their reputation being tarnished. Their good work is being undermined as SABA graduates enter the profession who are either incapable of performing as expected or are promised jobs and not placed. Being ethical entities, the principals of these schools have a natural horror of unethical business practices being engaged in that lower confidence in the butler training profession and the profession as a whole; if allowed to go unchecked, too many in the profession will not demonstrate competence and butlers, who have represented the highest level of service to the most discerning of guests for over a thousand years, will be replaced for failing to deliver on expectations.

That is why we would like to thank SABA and it’s staff for acting as the catalyst to do what nobody has achieved to date: Bring together those tasked with continuing the great traditions of the butler community to set standards for butler schools the world over. The idea is only to set the standards and help schools meet them for the good of all. These standards are being worked on right now and will confirm whether or not proper business practices are being employed, as well as the accurate relay of butler skillsets. Where public relations and marketing materials are not matched by the quality of training and ethical business practices, membership in the association will be denied until a program that will be provided to bring any school up to the required standards, has been completed.

Needless to say, in the constant quest to copy and mock serious efforts so as to make nothing of them, SABA is now unilaterally also setting up such an association which it is calling “the Butler Association”; they state they intend to send plaques to their clients—presumably marketing their own membership in their Association.

Of the principal of SABA, we meanwhile ask (without too great an expectation that he will listen, learn, and change) that you give your ear to the complaints of your multiple unhappy ex-students and even clients, and rectify their complaints, rather than intimidate, threaten, and insult them and anyone who dares question your results and methods. Your continued evasion of the salient points of their complaints by saying that the truth will come out in the court case, while doing whatever you can to make sure the case does not come to trial and the facts heard (through delays and demands that the litigant come up with half-a-million as a security deposit to continue with the case), is an easy ploy to see through. The fact that you have attacked all parties but never denied the charges of fraud, speaks volumes.

While you may have managed to intimidate a few witnesses from joining the case against SABA in the early days, the majority are now too numerous and too incensed to give you the satisfaction of the trial falling apart for lack of corroborating witnesses.

Any worthy business would be horrified to have so many complaints made against itself and would try to deal with them discreetly and quickly, not go into full-attack mode, privately and publicly, against those who felt the business had failed to live up to the promises made; doing so just shows up how weak are the fundamentals of that business.

I understand your wish to continue as you have been, but you are attracting the wrong kind of attention for any business to flourish in a small community such as ours. We all have our failings, nobody is perfect; we all have our different approaches to training butlers but you do not see a profession rising up to denounce one of its members unless something were seriously wrong—in this case, a legion of unhappy ex-students and clients and unethical business practices all hidden under a smokescreen of PR and marketing that puts the entire profession at risk.

My suggestion to you, therefore, is to have enough humility to consider that maybe there is something wrong with your grasp of the fundamentals of the profession and the business model you are using and try and salvage your business instead of throwing out showers of glitzy PR and trying to throw the attention off yourself by attacking everyone else. Empty phrases accusing others of your own shortcomings do not fool anyone and will not deal with the issue you face. If you need any assistance seeing what you appear not to be able to see, feel free to communicate privately—we are here ultimately to assist everyone in the profession, including you and your employees, just as we are assisting those who have fallen victim to your business practices and deficient understanding of ethics.

But before we can help you, you need to end the litigious mindset and this current court case, apologize to all those you have harmed and make up the damage caused by finding them jobs or refunding their monies, or otherwise dealing with whatever issues they have with you. And put an end to the knee-jerk attacks and self-defense, so you come into a frame of mind where you recognize things can be improved and can then accept guidance, including improving your understanding of the basics of the profession. This will, of necessity, include improving the view you have of your fellows, wanting to be of service to them, not regarding them essentially as sources of adulation and funding. For, in the final analysis, particularly when it comes to your clients, it is not all about you, but them.

A very well-written article on SABA by Mr. Vincent Vermeulen, Managing Director of the School for Butlers and Hospitality in Belgium, can be found here, with comments on same by Ms. von Ulmenstein in her own blog, here.

Any unhappy SABA students who would like their voice to be heard finally and to share their story, can contact Ms. Yang Lin, the chief litigant in the case against SABA, via the Institute.

* NOTE: It may be that some of the facts presented in the MBJ regarding SABA are not entirely accurate, a claim made by SABA, but the task of cross checking them has been made difficult because the counter facts offered by SABA are proving to be incorrect, twisted, or even delusional. However, where facts can be corrected, they will be, as nobody benefits from operating upon incorrect information.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.