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.

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.

Letters to the Editor Newsletter

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


Letters to the Editor

Dr. Maniku

“I wish I had known Dr Maniku and his empire. I wish I had been a guest at his resort and ordered a specific Danish open-faced sandwich and then had to help him out. I also wish I had been there and ordered a surf and turf and leaned back to watch the magic. Thank you Dr M for what you did in this world. May your God be with you.” BK

Ed: Thank you for the kind words about Dr. Maniku. Magic is the right word for what he accomplished—and I can say that I am sure they would have risen to the challenge with your open-faced sandwich (curious what it is)—they did when I put a similar challenge to them, and it was served without delays, cooked to perfection 


“It is interesting to observe that SABA has geared up into a frenzy mode, posting every hour in their social media, boasting about their excellence. In one of these postings, Newton Cross demands respect, missing the point that respect is earned, not demanded. SABA’s Google Review has a distasteful display of self-glorification, with SABA rating itself 5 stars under two different names (SABA and Butler Academy hub), the two employees of SABA rating themselves 5 stars and Newton Cross’ husband, Adriaan Coetzer, also rating it 5 stars, while ridiculing and belittling their own students who rated them 1-star. As some ex-students have pointed out on social media, SABA is the exact antithesis of what they claim to be: respectful, humble, and discreet. Students from Zimbabwe have been the hardest hit by the abuse—most of them lost all they had saved and borrowed, some were expelled without refund, and others are still waiting for the so-called jobs years after graduation.” Ex-student 

“This is so true, I was mislead by this school. I served 7 years as a chef in the South Africa Navy. I specialized as a pastry chef at Silwood culinary school (an amazing place). I was ready to take my career to a new level and felt that butlering would be the right step. After seeing an advertisement on Gumtree providing Jobs for butlers as chefs, I contacted the school and sent my resume. I was informed I needed to do the course first then I would be eligible for multiple opportunities within the hospitality industry because of my experience. Armed with this so-called knowledge, I felt sufficiently comfortable to leave the navy thinking they would ‘help find me find a job’ and I used my pension to pay for the course. One week into the course, I realized that “sub-standard” does not even begin to describe how poor of an education this school provides. If learning how to fold toilet paper and towels and set up a high tea really is a butler’s job, then I might as well have gone to YouTube and found the information for free. Newton Cross and Braam West pit students against each other, ask students to type their ‘wonderful’ experience at the school on social media, tell students to change their cell phone voice tone, Facebook page, Instagram, LinkedIn account; some students are emotionally blackmailed and threatened with [no] employment if they don’t comply with their standards. With such a high unemployment rate in South Africa, good honest students who want to make an honest living for their families, who would make wonderful butlers, give up so much to do this course only realizing afterwards how this institution is a scam. This piece of paper [certificate] that’s worth nothing is all they have to fall back on. SABA preys on the weak, desperate, and misinformed, through clever marketing and advertising and can fool the best people at times, having us thinking this place can help better our lives, careers, and help find us well-paying jobs.” MQ

Ed: Thanks for sharing your heartbreaking story and observations about the betrayal being committed against so many earnest and hardworking individuals who have no doubt overcome considerable obstacles to attend SABA only to have their hopes dashed. Hopefully, with enough people rising to tell their story, joining the class action suit and speaking to others to alert them directly or through the media, we can put an end to this blatant scam.

“Thank you for having the courage I didn’t have in 2016 when I did the course. I have way too many bad experiences to share in just one email. Newton Cross and his partners are absolutely defrauding people. I am in the States now and that certificate is not recognized outside that awful upstairs room we trained in. Lucky for those who got a house to train in. I applaud you for the courage to take them on.” TM

“Having saved and paying R35,000 is just a nightmare for me; the course was below average and I thought after the course they would help us out, but no word from them. I regret having gone there, they are a scam, they should give us back our money, and I hope justice will prevail. T.” MM

Ed: Thanks for sharing your thoughts on SABA. I am sorry you had to go through this. You can do something to right the wrong and bring about some balance again to this subject for yourself while also helping prevent unsuspecting students from experiencing the same disappointment: Share your story with Ms. Yang Lin at Since the court cases became common knowledge, many more people are coming forward with horror stories such as yours, providing affidavits as a minimum and even joining the class action suit in the hopes of receiving justice and even a return of their funds. It is the only way to bring about some measure of closure. Ms. Lin can help guide you on the affidavit and class action suit.

“I’m glad to see that SABA is receiving the exposure it deserves: Exploiting people this way should not be allowed. Well done Miss Lin Yang for speaking for those who need it.” S

“SABA is a money making scheme—I did not finish the course per the schedule, was shouted at, disrespected and lied to. I was forced to work long hours for their functions and to advertise them on all social media platforms for their benefit. We are not stupid, being given cheap “made in China” gloves and bow ties that we had to pay a fortune for. The way students are treated is a disgrace. The property is not a mansion but is presented in a house that has no business-property rights. The arrogance of Newton Cross is astounding—he lies on Carte Blanche and makes out everything is fine. IT IS NOT. Do not waste your time, money, effort to do this course. The certificate is not worth the paper it is printed on. Talk to students directly who did the course and you will find out what lies and empty promises they are making!” C

“The treatment and lies and manner in which students were dealt with was shocking. For any student or person interested in doing this course, think twice and read all the comments. The promises of securing jobs and placement overseas are BS. Spend your money on a different program.” CW

Julius Smith article on formal versus informal

“I would advocate a formal role – it sets boundaries, clear role-expectation and little opportunity for exploitation. In the latter, I suggest the role does not expand to include chauffeur, housekeeping/laundry or dare I say it, gardening duties. Supervising and caring for children of any age requires focused attention, planning for activities, and behavioral coaching, something SIRI is not equipped to do although it is very useful for activating in-house technology.” AA

“I couldn’t agree more: Setting boundaries should be a module of its own for novice Butlers! On my very first assignment, for lack of sound advice, I learned this the hard way. Consequently, when the couple divorced, I was faced with an impossible choice – both parties wanted me to stay on with them. The only option was to disappoint both of them.” FM

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.