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

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.