Butler standards Newsletter SABA South African Butler Academy

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2021, SABA Update

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The South African Butler Academy

The case is making slow progress, after starting a year ago, hampered by continued failure by the defendants at SABA to provide the requested information, such as evidence of Mr. Cross’ claimed education and employment credentials.

Meanwhile, the defendants are still actively advertising fake jobs to scam unsuspecting consumers into enrollment; according to Ms. Lin, “Consumers wishing to better their lives through learning employable skills, especially those from under-privileged social and economic backgrounds, do not deserve to be deprived of their money and time and to be abused by the respondents.”

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, September 2021, SABA Update

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The South African Butler Academy

At the end of July, 21 consumers/former students filed another complaint against the South African Butler Academy (SABA) and its recruitment arm, Guild Recruitment (GR) for violating the Protection of Personal Information Act by long-term publishing their images despite their objections, online trolling, defamation, and abuse. Among the 21 consumers/former students are Ms. Lin Yang and Mr. Paul Raicus, who seek damages of 100,000 Rand each from SABA and GR.

It is the nature of legal proceedings the world over that they take months and years before making their rulings.

This unfortunately, in the absence of the defendants accepting that they may have erred and therefore changing their ways voluntarily, means that any future clients and customers continue to risk suffering the same indignities until the court finally rules.

I was reminded of this when reading sworn affidavits and feel that it is only fair for prospective students to be aware of what past students claim to have been common practice at SABA. The below is taken from just one graduate, Mr. Paul Raicus, his statements being fairly typical of the rest:

  1. Taking well-remunerated job postings from other placement companies’ web sites and posting them on their own so as to make prospective students think well-paid jobs await their completion of the training required at SABA to apply for these positions; reinforcing this with congratulatory messages to claimed but always anonymous “graduates” who had allegedly obtained these positions;
  2. Inflating pricing for SABA courses by up to 400% according to the nationality of the candidate;
  3. Falsely claiming to be members of FEDHASA and the European Butler Association and to being certified by FEDHASA and that their certificates were accepted internationally;
  4. Accepting students who could speak little or no English when the classes were conducted in English;
  5. Regularly hiring out SABA students to SABA’s clients or using them to host their own parties—all on the pretext that it was “practical training,” yet the work required no skills needed for their training and was only occasionally supervised. SABA and GR pocketed all the money paid by clients (22,000 Rand for 16 hours x 7 days in one case) because “the work was part of the training and therefore would not be subject to payment to the students.” The student in question missed a week of the beginning of the course he had paid for and was threatened into not speaking to anyone else about it;
  6. False claims by the principal (Mr. Newton Cross) about working as a butler for certain dignitaries and celebrities, and being a butler on the Queen Mary II when he was actually a waiter.
  7. As noted by the complainant, the principal neither knows nor demonstrates in his own behavior the core values of service, and has limited skills and educational background, making it difficult to see how he could legitimately train others;
  8. Forcing students while standing over them every other day to spend an hour promoting SABA on social media; the principal and tutor coached them on what to write—and particularly for those who could not speak English, dictated what to write;
  9. At the same time, SABA personnel constantly threatened to sue any students who spoke badly of SABA;
  10. When graduates were more free to provide information on how they actually felt about the training on the Facebook page of SABA, their comments were removed immediately and they were blocked from its Facebook page;
  11. The complainant stated that, based on his existing knowledge from 15 years in hospitality, that he knew more than the principal and teachers, and that he learned absolutely nothing new from SABA’s training; but he did experience bullying, lies, greed, incompetency; and furthermore observed the less-experienced students who had sacrificed everything to do the course for the promised jobs, experience submission to the bullying, fear, broken spirits, and shattered dignity;
  12. SABA staff tried not to allow the complainant to see their written works because, he states, they were afraid he would see through their plagiarized and inferior works;
  13. The training consisted of no practical assignments or practicing, which was covered in SABA’s eyes by the work-without-pay jobs they were obliged to perform;
  14. The promised meals consisted of hotdogs that students were required to prepare themselves because it was “part of butler training.”
  15. Despite the constant cleaning students were obliged to do as part of their training, the school was overrun with cockroaches;
  16. Accommodations were bedrooms shared by several students per room and shared bathrooms for which students were charged 10,000 Rand each.
  17. A key member of the staff was an alcoholic, as observed by the complainant;
  18. False information on the application form included a non-existent library, ironing center, and high-tech center, and a building entrance on the cover that was not the SABA training venue at all but a completely dis-related building.

I would advise any future students to consider the possibility that the problems highlighted in this list may have some merit, and to compare them to the glitzy marketing materials and social media put out by SABA that otherwise might encourage them to follow in the footsteps of the many complaining ex-students/graduates.

Whether or not the court case finds SABA and GR guilty is beside the point here, because as with any product or service being offered by anyone, feedback is part of the expected landscape for prospective purchasers to make up their own mind whether or not they feel a vendor is honest and offering the kind of service or product they seek.

As SABA, per the above, forces students to write glowing comments on SABA and threatens any who say anything that is unflattering, and then removes any that are contrary to SABA’s glittery self-projected image, there is every reason for future students to be given a more balanced picture when deciding whether or not to attend a SABA course.

Feel free to copy and paste or link to this article in any platform where prospective students may be visiting.

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.

Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2021, Letters to the Editor

PostBoxLetters to the Editor

Several subjects were brought up this month:

“It is always so exciting to see the monthly newsletter in my inbox. First, I wanted to congratulate you and your colleagues on the fantastic news regarding the Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers. By adding merit to the continuous efforts to advance the skillset of the Modern Butler, it ensures great service to the Principals—I applaud all of the parties involved. “Some of your personal attributes and numerous abilities are focused on the future of the industry, telling the truth with unwavering conviction. Thank you, very few people have courage to speak with such candor.
“My first two semesters at college are over and I am now not only a senior but also a senior citizen (62) with a 4.0 average. Next year, at this time, I will have a lifelong goal achieved with my Bachelor’s degree. With a career in service, it was always about my clients’ needs, not mine—although it is still awkward not to be ambling about a mammoth home with a plethora of tasks to accomplish. 
“It would be remiss of me not to mention that I am in agreement with your statement about our workforce preferring unemployment to being gainfully employed. Disgraceful, especially during the Memorial Day Weekend, as we celebrate our fallen heroes who helped give us our freedoms. It has been an amazing phenomenon for me to watch, but not in a good way. My mate is a private chef, he hasn’t missed a day of work during this pandemic period and I only work part-time because of school.
“I cannot wait to try the ‘Grilled Pineapple Mojito’. It sounds like a fantastic drink and future customer favorite. Thank you again for the always interesting and informative newsletter.” D.S.

Ed: Thanks for your kind words—always good to have a kindred spirit appreciating the gist of our messages. You are a continuing source of inspiration in so many ways: When so many are winding down, you are just starting a whole new game. Well done on your accomplishments so far—I look forward to hearing how you have ace’d your Bachelor’s and what new doors have opened for you! I am sure Mr. Vargas would be happy to hear how the Grilled Pineapple Mojito was received by your patrons.

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“I enjoy reading the MBJ and seeing how precise butling is.” JH

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“I’m a long-time subscriber to your newsletter and a devoted Butlerphile. I stumbled across this amusing article 12 Shocking Things I Learned as A Butler at the Plaza Hotel and thought I’d pass it along.” JW

Ed: Thanks very much for passing along this article, which we had not seen before; we will  include it in the next MBJ. I remember training Mr. Sharma and the team years ago and am glad to see they are doing such a good job. Glad also to make your acquaintance as a butlerphile

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One long-term butler responded to last month’s article about rising salaries and opening up about his own personal issues that I promised not to share. What I would like to share, and which I do not think he would mind, is that he had reached the top of his game and was bored silly because he had everything under control—so he was thinking about moving on. This is probably a common issue amongst senior butlers, and the advice to stay in his area and develop other games to play in addition to continuing to manage his job, was well received. Obviously, having a challenge in life is very important, and it can be created by expanding into other areas of responsibility in the household, or in society, or picking up new skills, as the letter from DS above demonstrates.

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Lastly, the below letter from Ms. Yang Lin, the chief litigant in the case against the South African Butler Academy, contains suppositions that may or may not be accurate, but which are based on careful research on her part, so they are being included here with the offer to publish factual information from SABA in next month’s issue to answer the points raised by Ms. Lin. 

“Congratulations on the forming of The Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers! Many students have been asking me when the trial date for the South African Butler Academy is, as they are impatient to see Mr. Newton Cross and Mr. Willem Adriaan Coetzer in the witness box. I’d like to provide an update: their delayed plea was finally served and we will see what evidence they will produce. 

“For instance, is Mr. Cross able to produce his employment record with the four presidents and/or Fancourt Hotel? The Human Resource Manager from Fancourt Hotel is unable to produce any employment record of Cross.

Perhaps School for Butlers & Household Personnel had a 2-week staffing contract from Fancourt, and he, as a 21-year-old trainee, served VIPs for two weeks, performing tasks such as room service and waitering. If that was the highlight of his career (according to his interview for Carte Blanche investigation), does he have much to highlight?

“If he did graduate from ‘Buckingham Palace Butler School’ and Cape Town University, why has he been so reluctant to show evidence? Was he really a waiter at Cunard, or a butler, as he claimed?

“Perhaps his real employment history is something like this: Housekeeper for Don Ezard in 2005 and 2007? Perhaps he also worked for Tony Fagrew and Ezard House and Westbank and Clarendon House? Perhaps Mr. Coetzer’s career is not what the SABA and Guild Recruitment websites claim it to be? Perhaps he used to work as a real estate agent at Acutts?

“Several SABA students have sent me a photo of an infamous wine label. I’d say let the “high flying label owner” live in his fantasy. When I did wine tasting and learnt the process of wine-making in a certain touristy vineyard, and left with a bottle with my name on the label as a souvenir, I didn’t bother to snap a photo for social media and claim that I was launching a wine product, nor did I pose in front of the property and claim I owned it. I mean, why pose as a pseudo Big Shot and end up being a laughing stock?

“If anyone sees what looks like scam job ads, they should report it. If they see internet trolling, report it. Google, Facebook, Tweeter, Instagram are all monitored by regulators.” Ms. Lin Yang

Ed: We will publish with an invitation to Mr. Cross to respond to your allegations, as this letter goes beyond being a letter to the editor and is more of a challenge to SABA and an effort to raise questions that are probably best answered by the court proceeding. However, if fakery and fantasy are indeed existing in our profession, then alerting others is prudent so they can do their due diligence and form their own opinion based on what they find.

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.

Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2021, Letters to the Editor

PostBoxLetters to the Editor






“So, so very sad that so many students were blindly caught in this HOT MESS … and SABA is still tricking people. What a disgrace these people are.” C

Ed: You are quite right, it is a very sad state of affairs. Hopefully, the court will decide in a way that will put an end to this travesty. In the meantime, the Alliance of Professional Butler Trainers launched yesterday, and the standards it is setting, will ensure that real educators can be identified for students who are looking for a place to learn the profession. All it takes is doing their own research and not being beguiled by the glitzy and incessant PR.

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.

Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2021, Letters to the Editor

PostBoxLetters to the Editor

Regarding that video shot in the Maldives

“Great memories. I have since learned how to hold a camera still! I learned so much that day, not least of which; how to tie a proper bow tie. You can’t spend a day with Steven Ferry and not come away wiser and more knowledgeable.” Frank Mitchell

Ed: What a lovely message, but I have to say, you are the one who is a mine of information on numerous topics, such as the ones you kindly provided columns on for the MBJ, and I never cease to be enthralled by your depth of knowledge. I still tell the story of when we were in the Maldives and someone had a golf cart modeled after a classic American car from the early 1960s, and you nailed the make and model. And there was I thinking your knowledge of cars was limited to every model down to the nuts and bolts of the Rolls Royce family! Hope all continues well for you.

Of Rice and Forks

“You’ve lived in America too long and worked in many places overseas but you certainly know how to upset a true Englishman and also an ex-sailor. You don’t know half the tradition that goes with port neither do you know about sailors hands. Why do you think we salute differently to other services? The public schools of England are proud of tradition and just because other countries have their traditions, they are still seeking the English way, so there!! Otherwise, my kindest to you both.” RF

Ed: I love it, thanks for the slap on the proverbial wrists. Yes, I found it upsetting too, but thems facts is thems facts and much as I love the English culture and way of life, I am concerned for its future. I would love to hear about those traditions in the Navy, though. I was told they never stood for the royal toast because they’d hit their heads on the rafters of the wooden sailing ships. Correct? If so, is it still the tradition?

“After perusing your forked article, I do so continue to get your point or, dare I say it, tang? I can see that despite Covid being forced upon us in conjunction with maniacal politics, you both are still at the zenith of your game. Bully for you!” LW

Ed: Good to know that you are holding your own through the bizarre efforts at governance being visited upon us. Dang, not a tang but a tine, but I get your point!

“Very thoughtful & interesting message, I especially liked the informative article you attached from Sara Goldsmith, The Rise of the Fork. My only observation regarding other comments is to say, ‘Each to their own.'” RS

Ed: “Glad you liked the message and especially that fascinating dive into fork history. It seems we do not just have strong coffee for which to thank the Iranians/Persians. Without contrary comments, we would never expand our horizons and knowledge, so we always welcome them.”

“On a few occasions, I have had the pleasure of dining in cultural settings where the norm was to eat with the fingers. Being game and with the, perhaps misguided, intention of being respectful to the culture, I had a go at eating with my fingers. Let me tell you – it is a learned skill and not nearly as easy or intuitive as one might imagine. I felt a little bit like a toddler making a mess at a highchair! I was even offered a fork out of pity, so my struggles did not go unnoticed. However, I was rewarded for my efforts with huge smiles and managed to keep the goat meat off my tie! I will never look at anyone struggling with an unfamiliar knife and fork again without remembering that, as children, we took years and tears to learn the skill.” FM

Ed: You must have cut quite a figure, tie and shirt, jacket perhaps, maybe even cross legged, struggling to eat rice with your fingers, (I imagine sticky rice is easier), but relieved that your tie remained goat-meat free! Thanks for sharing your excellent effort at cultural ambassadorship and taking away some worthwhile lessons!

SABA Again

“SABA lies about job offers. The work ads they place on social media are lies. Their skill is in advertising their so-called academy. The picture they create during training about butlering is one of a cruel and mean world. Their inferiority complex they disguise with arrogance and rudeness and is an experience to see. The teaching is so basic that it was on a par with what I learned in my mother’s house. I will never forget the unfairness with which they treated a person with skill and knowledge. I wish I could join the butlering school in Belgium—it is my dream. SABA was a bad experience. I had to resign my job, lost my bonus, lost my income and all for what? True lies and broken promises. Sadness is not a word, it’s a reality. The sadness is that they still carry on with their ways, catching others in the same net and nobody can warn them, so this mission of lies grows bigger and bigger.” CI

Ed: Thank you for having the courage to share your experiences and I am truly sorry that you (and others) were treated so poorly and have suffered so much. I do not know if you are already involved in the case, but if not, please do reach out to the chief litigant who can help guide you.

“Thank you for reply. I don’t have the time to become involved as I am back in Export logistics, which requires a lot of attention to details. I lost a lot of money, I lost a lot of precious time, and it is not worth my time defending myself against a lot of lies. I have had to bury my dream because of a fake company—another potentially excellent butler lost to the industry—it’s sad.” CI

Ed: I am sorry you had a dream and that it was dashed. I do understand you want to leave the whole subject behind you—we are sorry to have lost you as a potential member of the profession but wish you success as you move forward.

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, 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.

Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, April 2021, Letters to the Editor

PostBoxLetters to the Editor







“Regarding the South African school and how displeased the students are with the behaviour there, it is a sad, sad thing when students spend their own money and someone just robs them of it. I myself am unhappy to see that such trainers can start training when basically they are unfit to take on such a task. Standards are so important and need to be kept up all the time. I’m just so disappointed with the standards and it is good that you have spent a lot of time and energy in trying to see that these so-called trainers know about it. Thank you for what you are doing.” RF

Ed: Thank you for your kind words. As someone who himself has been a butler far longer than most of us, you must have seen quite a lot pass for butling that was questionable, and which would have made those who trained you raise their eyebrows rather considerably. Anyway, thank you for continuing to embody the standards from which the profession sprang.

“The claims [regarding SABA] are true: Discrimination, unworthy treatment, giving grades to unworthy participants and obviously too much talk of job offers but nothing to show. They are too proud.” DG

“Maybe SABA will refund people their hard-earned money.” PN

Ed: It would certainly be appropriate and standard business practice, where a student or graduate felt what they received had fallen far short of what they had been promised.

If you would like to join the joint class action, please contact Ms. Lin Yang via the editor. She will provide advice on how to proceed, including a sample affidavit. 

Questions regarding care of leather

“I have encountered soft leather couches that have been in storage for a few years and built up a thin layer of mold that a hard rub with a dry cloth removes to the eye. Should one use vinegar to remove the mold completely or will this dry the leather out too much? In this case, I suppose one can use a leather cream to return the moisture to the leather? Is it best to apply these creams out in the hot sun? Please advise on best practice for this situation.” AJS

Ed: If vinegar is indeed removing the mold and you have tested it on a part of the sofa that is somewhat hidden, then I would continue to use it, as in terms of mold remediation, vinegar is a fairly mild solution. The fact is that the sofa is not usable if it is moldy, so you have nothing to lose by ruining the sofa as a worst-case outcome, but then there is no need to ruin it. And yes, I would apply some saddle soap and when it has soaked in (not in the hot sun, please, which can crack the leather), then apply the properly colored cream. When you say “soft leather,” I assume you mean leather with some degree of shine on it, not analine/unfinished, Nubuck or similar?

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.

Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2021, Letters to the Editor


Letters to the Editor

“Good morning, what a fun day when the newsletter arrives, it always includes fantastic information. Thank you for keeping the reading public abreast of all the good and not so good (SABA) literature. In actuality, I love a whistleblower who has the courage and integrity to stand for many people in a similar situation. Your new photograph as well as your beautiful wife are a really pleasant addition. The newsletter is one of my favorite things to read. It always delivers knowledge, humor, and I always learn something new. What a talented group of professionals!
“Everything is fine here, I just started my next semester of college. Only 36 credits to go-I have 12 credits this semester and the school has already been talking to me about getting my MBA. I made the Dean’s list and had a great review from a client at work (Miraval Berkshires)—one of many I was told by the HR department. My years of private service have paid off!
“Thank you again, for everyone’s superior work ethic and the fact that you have the courage to make a stand for what is right. Oh, the Butlers in the Media made me laugh, maybe that robotic arm comes with a harness so I can put it on and have an extra arm to help me with Spring cleaning.” DS—an Estate Manager who has taken time off to complete her MBA and is paying her way by applying her butler skills part time at an upscale hotel.

Ed: Thanks for all the great news about how you are wow’ing the socks off your customers and tutors alike—feels good, doesn’t it? It would be further uplifting to see the other accolades that HR has received about you, wouldn’t it—or were they all verbal? Good idea to fit in the MBA if you can—I suppose there is nothing stopping you if you want it, right? Thanks for all the validations, glad the journal is still a good read for you. Yes, that photo was taken in the gardens of a large winery near Stellenbosch in South Africa. I thought it time I updated my physog* as the earlier photo was years old! I had to laugh at your idea of harnessing that robotic arm for household chores—what a great idea. You could also serve multiple people at once behind the bar and really get their attention, making Tom Cruise look like a rank amateur!

*Psysog definition: a slang word for the face

“My name is Jeremy Walter and I have been a subscriber to the Modern Butlers’ Journal for many years (judging by my email archive, since 2008!). It is always with eager interest that I read each issue. The butler profession has always been a source of limitless fascination to me. A butler’s dependability, efficiency, and altruistic selfless service are aspirations that I strive for in my current position in a law firm. I hope this isn’t gauche or improper, but I wanted to share, as a photographer, my gallery of butler images. I began uploading photos to stock photography websites in 2019, and to my splendid surprise, my butler images have been the most popular of all my work. Indeed, if one searches for “Butler” on, one of my images is right at the top! Alas, I may never be a proper butler, but I’m excited that my artwork is being used by others to advertise the noble art of your esteemed profession.”

Editor: Visit Mr. Walker’s gallery on Adobe Gallery here: and on Shutterstock Gallery here: 

Editor’s Note: Because the revelations about SABA are most disconcerting to many in the profession, quite a people wrote in about this subject. We publish a selection of that correspondence here:

“I read the email from the former student of SABA and was amazed and horrified at the same time: Amazed that a so-called butler school could act so unprofessionally and horrified by the content of the email. Then looking at the (Carte Blanche) video of Newton Cross sitting there so smugly batting away pertinent questions with such an open face and confident manner. We in the hospitality industry pride ourselves in being able to read people but I have to say I have no idea where he is coming from—it must be that he is such an egomaniac that he believes that he has done nothing wrong. l now see him and those around him in a completely different light and will assist in anyway that I can to help students/clients not fall into the hands of such people.” The principal of a butler school who, like two others, does not wish to be identified and thus intimidated by SABA.

“Applause to everyone standing up against SABA, and once again to Ms. Yang who had the courage to start this and support everyone following. Ms. Yang has spent a small fortune up to date on legal fees and is still pushing hard. I graduated from the previous South African Butler School (as did Newton Cross), worked in several stately homes domestically as well as internationally over the past 17 years as a Butler, Property and Estate Manager; I’ve trained fellow hoteliers at several 5 star Hotel groups. When a position was advertised in Cape Town (another of SABA’s falsely advertised positions to lure students to do their course for their own financial gain), I was told my training (again, same as Newton’s – in fact we graduated 4 or so months apart) and years of international experience as well as international renowned accreditation from the International Institute for Modern Butlers, International Butlers Academy and others, was not acceptable or sufficient according to Newton and Braam. SABA is the only institution I have came across that clearly advertise “SABA certification only to apply.” With more experience and training than the whole of SABA’s “trainers” combined, I was advised to redo their course… I have no words…
In the end, SABA is stealing and cheating, misleading and fraudulent, preventing trained and educated people from earning a living and scamming what little the rest have. Our industry is about uplifting, training, confidence, honesty, integrity and serving, again everything SABA is against, Students are our core of the future, and not to be belittled.” AJS

Ed: Thanks for taking the time to share your experience with SABA, which provides a valuable inside look at the true nature of their enterprise. I believe the previous owner of SABA would be rolling over in his grave if he knew what had become of his life’s work. Your comment at the end is spot on—students ARE the core of our future and should not be belittled—as I had heard had happened to you when SABA wrote rather peevishly and with as little dignity as they could muster in a Google review that you “served cows with silver plate,” whatever that means. I apologize on behalf of the profession that you had to experience such a poor example from those who are meant to be setting an example—and as I understand it, I apologize that you reportedly were blacklisted in South Africa by SABA and had to leave the profession several years ago as you were unable to find work. Thanks also for the accolades for Ms. Lin, well deserved.

“…SABA promised all students would be given the opportunity to be employed, but weeks and months after coming back home, most of the students, including myself, didn’t hear back from them…most of our students with poor backgrounds went to SABA for a better life/ opportunity but are now unemployed with their certificates at home.” A graduate who had private service experience before attending SABA

“I have been following the actions of the Institute with the other butler school, and sadly this is one of the reasons I diversified into other things…some agencies and schools fall short of delivering as their interest is in themselves.” PR

Ed: Indeed, there are people who consider themselves experts when factually they have very little experience in the profession, and then there are those that are outright criminal. The rest of us in the industry just have to stand up and police our peers, no one else will do it for us. Thankfully over time, the more professional schools tend to survive, the others tend to disappear just because ours is a small word and word does spread. But in the meantime, the bad actors can cause a lot of damage and that is why 8 (and counting) of the better butler schools are taking action.

“We have been following your latest newsletters and are greatly concerned at the misleading, false reporting and lies that you are spreading. Attached, please see our response to your latest newsletter. Kindly refrain from any reporting on SABA without consulting or contact us directly for a fair answer to any of your questions. We ask that you remove or adjust these newsletters since December 2020 within the next few days. 
Please respond to this email that you will act accordingly and refrain from reporting incorrect information without contacting myself or my team directly. Also, please send proof that you have either removed or adjusted your newsletters by close of business Thursday 18th of February 2021. Failing to do so SABA will instruct our attorneys to take appropriate legal action. We would appreciate your co-operation and trust you will do the right thing.” NC
Ed: I thank you for reaching out with your letter to the editor. It benefits nobody to have incorrect information spread so I am very happy to work with your lawyers—please have them contact me. I will be able to demonstrate to them conclusively that your four pages of complaint just received vary from the simple twisting of facts in order to present a false picture, to the frankly delusional. I have feedback from the others involved in various cases you cite that show this to be the case; and you forget that I was involved in one of these so know what actually happened; it is a marvel what a tangled web of confusion you weave to wiggle your way out of any semblance of responsibility for your actions.
If however, you find yourself able to present facts that do paint a true picture of events, I would be happy to issue corrections or publish these in the interest of fairness to you. But do not assume I can be browbeaten into silence like those who rely on your for placement that is still not forthcoming.
This is more fairness than you have accorded the many students whose heart-rending stories we have been publishing over the last few months. In the United States, we have something called the Bill of Rights, which guarantees freedom of speech, so please do not ask us to prevent them from expressing their experiences where you only attacked and threatened them when they tried appealing to your sense of fairness and ethics first—or in the upcoming court case. I believe South Africa has an expectation of the same general human right, and it would be a pleasant surprise if you were to regard your fellow South Africans as deserving of this and other rights.
Rest assured, also, that if their facts turn out to be incorrect in the court case, we will be happy to publish the truth, but it does not take a court case for anyone with two brain cells to rub together, to see what the truth might be, hence my insistence on seeking the truth. I am not closed to the idea that you are capable of telling the truth, so please do start to send it our way and we will be happy to present it.

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.

Butler standards Newsletter

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

IIMB logo

As the two cases continue against the South African Butler Academy, many reports are starting to surface on social media from those who feel aggrieved by the training they have received, thus allowing potential students to find something other than the streams of self-aggrandizing promotion that SABA puts out about itself or reportedly compels students to post. Many letters came in to the editor this month about SABA, and one ex-student sent a copy of a letter (quoted in part at the bottom) she wrote to Mr. Cross that gives some idea of the unprofessional level of training being offered by SABA, which, by the way, consists of just 2 staff, not the 501-1000 claimed on their LinkedIn page, with multiple qualifications and endorsements claimed being figments of their imagination (i.e. being an alumni of the University of Cape Town and the Royal Butler/Valet School at Buckingham Place—there being no such school). They have actually made dozens of false claims, too numerous to list here, in order to fool potential students into paying for their services.

As one might expect from someone who knows how simple it is to create a perception and manipulate it in social media, SABA’s response to the true nature of its operations being made known has not been to correct its ways and seek to make up the damage done to its countless alumni and ex-students, but to change its name in the hope of avoiding potential clients connecting them with their registered name. Already, they have come up with four new names for their organization: SABA International Butler Academy, SABA International Butler Academy & Training School, Butler Academy Saba, and International Butler Jobs & Training. Whatever actions they take to avoid facing up to their excesses and their continued betrayal of the trust of their students, will be noted and shared.

Which brings us to some good that is coming out of this sad SABA saga—butler training schools around the world have finally been prompted by SABA’s excesses to join forces in an Association of butler schools, with the aim to set standards for effective training and ethical business practices so that our exclusive profession can never again be blindsided by those whose purposes are self-aggrandizement and -enrichment rather than sharing knowledge that empowers graduates and serves clients well. Other professions have long had associations to maintain standards, but while butlers are one of the oldest professions, butler training schools have existed for less than 40 years and can thus be forgiven for not organizing earlier. Stay tuned for more announcements.

SABA-court and related links: YouTube which is now running at over 30,000 views.

More information at this link and at link about an earlier case SABA lost.

If you would like to share information about the defendants, please contact the chief litigant, Ms. Lin Yang: ylin63 @

One ex-SABA student writes to Mr. Newton Cross:

“This needs to be said for myself and for whomever else this may have happened to. You taught us in the time we spent with you about dignity, respect and most importantly mindfulness…. Mr. West constantly put me in situations no person learning or otherwise should have to endure, as he was constantly intoxicated, showing up for classes reeking of alcohol through his pores. When I shared a villa with him, he was constantly drunk, walking around in his underwear, and drank the entire stock of alcohol for the cocktail lessons we were to have. The last straw was him being taking to the infirmary as the staff thought he was sick that morning, but he was in fact hungover! Furthermore, driving around the city on a day off to look for boys and men for Mr. West was a trip I just want to forget ever happened.

The entire process of becoming a butler and paying all that money was belittled by the personal information that was disclosed, including about your personal life, Mr. Cross: I will not go into detail but these things were none of my business. I started to record all these ramblings with the intention of letting you know that when Mr. West travels perhaps he should not drink. However after you were so nasty to me I had a change of heart. 

How should I have behaved when everything you taught us was obviously not being displayed. All this put an awfully bad taste in my mouth, I never did use my certification, or the CV you so diligently informed me not to use. That is why I left so abruptly, because I had 10 days of hell and I wasn’t even being paid for it. You need to treat people better.”

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.