Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2021, Message from the Chairman

Steven FerryMessage from the Chairman

It is encouraging to see butler schools busy with on-line and in-person assignments as well as placement requests, and the butler world, whether in private service or hospitality, slowly starting to come back to life again.

It is also very encouraging to see the principals of many butler schools coming together to set the standards for butler training so that those who put their trust in the butler training profession are enabled, not disappointed.

Which brings us, yet again, to the sorry and sad saga of the South African Butler Academy, now going chameleon- or octopus-like under various other additional names. One might wonder why we keep making an issue of it, why it has become such an unseemly and seeming tit-for-tat. But there is a difference: We are not targeting an individual in some psychotic determination to destroy them, but holding fast to the uncompromising line in the sand that is not to be crossed any further if we are to have any chance of  passing on butler skills to future generations so the profession keeps being useful and relevant.

While the principal of SABA has decided to attack myself with great gusto instead of seeking to resolve the multiple complaints of his clients and students, it should be known that my offer of assistance, confidentially, to help SABA become a force for good (by abandoning knee-jerk attacks on dissatisfied clients and students and instead, helping mediate resolutions for all those aggrieved, as well as bring SABA up to nominal standards so their program is able to produce good results) was at first met with what seemed like interest but which quickly turned into another stab-in-the-back diatribe.

As I have said before, the issue with SABA is not myself, but itself and its failure to train students properly in the first place, and then attacking students who express concerns about the training that was delivered versus what was promised.

I leave you with another story of just one ex-SABA student, Mr. Henry Musoke from Uganda—his story is why we (and others) will not be bullied into silence despite legal threats and social media rantings, or mumblings about how titillating and improper all this controversy is. While I am sure SABA will be reading this, they can rest assured that I do not read their diatribes about myself or anyone else. Why? Not because I am so conceited that I think I am 100% right and anyone complaining is 100% wrong. No, it is because a trainer starts to die the moment he fails to learn something from his students, peers, or clients. I am not perfect, and can always use correction from any number of my peers, but Mr. Cross is not someone I would ever seek counsel from in order to improve my performance as a butler trainer, because as a butler and butler trainer, he has nothing of value to teach me, judging by his conduct and the results he is achieving with his students.

In reprinting this letter to the editor, SABA also should know that any efforts to continue to vilify Mr. Musoke will have no effect, as he joins the many other ex-students who are no longer being bullied into silence—he being one of the participants in the Joint Class Action against SABA. After he was mistreated, he approached the Human Rights Commission, but gave up eventually due to the trauma of dealing on his own with SABA. He is no longer alone.

“I came across your article [written by the Chairman of Aspire Globally Limited] and I can only report on one butler school. Not that I want to be biased, but you spoke about the alcohol use and sex. I was a student at SABA in Cape Town in 2015, my sponsor had paid my tuition and we selected this school because they promised to get me ready by the end of the training. We paid upfront, I was excited, it was a fantastic moment.

“But during the training, I was always belittled, it was like I needed to become some English guy of the Victorian era or a 5-star Chef to feel comfortable. The school had a problem with me right from the start. They promised to teach me chauffeur services, [but] these were never conducted. Every time I asked about this training, it was asking for trouble. Being a religious man, we are not allowed to drink, [yet] the academy demanded that I test the wines to show my appreciation. In no time I became drunk and requested to take a nap because of feeling drowsy. Instead, they recorded me on their camera and told my sponsor that I came drunk to the academy, something the sponsor did not approve of. Numerous times I was excluded from various trainings despite paying in full. I do believe that some butler schools lack professional expertise and fail to admit it. 

“I think the course was meant to last for eight weeks, but they stopped my training three weeks short without reason and called security to escort me off the premises. It was the biggest shame I had [experienced]. I tried to take matters to court but being alone and confused, my sponsor no longer believing in me, I took my pain with me and completely withdrew and [will soon be] completing my MBA—I am no longer in the Hospitality industry [as I am] not interested [in it] anymore.

“I was robbed. I hope students are not going through similar experiences that I went through at SABA. Thanks for the article, it was great reading it. I saw a response from SABA, but it is expected for them to act that way. I personally forgave them because I have the power to do that and because there is life outside the butler industry.”

So why do we continue with this unseemly public fight? Not to do battle with a belligerent SABA, but simply to make sure that when people look up SABA online, they will find the other side of the story and not just streams and streams of incessant self-promotion on all social media lines. In this way, potential students and clients can make an informed decision—think of this as a TripAdvisor service!

Please forgive us, therefore, while we tend to our dirty laundry, but also realize that SABA is just one little annoyance: there is so much good going on with the many other players in the industry that we have plenty of cause to cheer.

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.