How ‘Premium’ Is Binsar?

Yesterday we argued that TBI had been playing a confidence trick on Indonesia by claiming to be a ‘premium language school’ when it really offered nothing special that EF wasn’t offering except for slightly better paid Native Speakers (and these haven’t received a decent pay rise in half a decade). Now Michelle didn’t understand the ‘TBI is a confidence trick’ metaphor. The whole concept of comparing TBI to a ‘Ponzi’ style confidence scam was hard for her to process and she didn’t even seem to know how literal we were being. I have known for a long time that abstract concepts elude Michelle: this is probably why the world of academic qualifications has been such a weak spot for her. But you just go ahead doing things the dirty old ‘TBI Mafia Way’ and see how much growth and prestige you gain, Michelle. Count me as a sceptic.

But if the ‘Ponzi scam’ metaphor is too sophisticated for a Preece to appreciate, let’s keep things simple. Here is a rough working definition for a confidence trick. This is so close to the mark with TBI these days with its empty promises that even Michelle might recognize herself in it.Just think of how ‘premium’ it is to sell students KTC teachers without KITASes or to allow Binsar to use the TBI name and something might start to make sense, Michelle.

The perpetrator of a confidence trick is often referred to as a confidence (or “con”) man, woman or artist, or a “grifter”. The first known usage of the term “confidence man” in English was in 1849 in New York City. It was used by the New York press during the trial of William Thompson. Thompson chatted with strangers until he asked if they had the confidence to lend him their watches, whereupon he would walk off with the watch. He was captured when a victim recognized him on the street.

A confidence trick is also known as a con game, a con, a scam, a grift, a hustle, a bunko (or bunco), a swindle, a flimflam, a gaffle or a bamboozle. The intended victims are known as “marks” or “suckers”, and when accomplices are employed, they are known as shills.

For the more discerning reader, we ask you how TBI can claim to be a ‘premium language provider’ when it allows Binsar Simorangkir to use its name. Isn’t the purveyor of supposed ‘premium’ courses that use imported textbooks that anyone could buy, taught by people on KTCS really a flimflam? Isn’t all this talk of ‘leading English language provider’ 100% deception when Binsar, Nunu and their ilk are running the show? And that is before we get to Binsar with his teenaged Native Speaker and ‘flier on windscreen’ marketing. For example this is what TBI Bekasi says on its web page:

Despite being relatively new, the school has quickly built a reputation for providing quality English language courses with Saturday Business Communication programs being very popular. In addition to the business program we also run others programs including Children, Teenagers’, Global (General) English and Exam Preparation.

Now that is the sales pitch. But how does it stack up against the reality? Well, we have heard that TBI Bekasi teachers often enter the premises 3 minutes before their lessons start and wing it, while Binsar even employed a 19 year teenager to teach students. The guy only had his O-levels from school in the UK. This reality is so divergent from the praise TBI heaps on itself and in its promotional literature, that it borders on the fraudulent. 

Binsar has earned nothing but revulsion, bitterness and scorn from the many teachers who have worked for him. His cheapness, his cluelessness about decent management and his slipperiness whenever money is at stake is now a given. According to this teacher, TBI Bekasi doesn’t even have a photocopy machine available for teachers to use (they aren’t trusted with the paper, think of all the cost they might run up!) and yet TBI, with a straight face, can say this of itself online:

TBI’s mission is to be the best English language training provider in Indonesia and Southeast Asia by offering world class training and customer service. In doing this, we aim to build the capacity of educators, professionals, entrepreneurs and students to communicate with the global community through the medium of the English language.

World class training? Not even letting teachers print teaching materials is the reality. Using any old ‘bule’ face as a Native Speaker. This is so far from world class training and customer service that TBI should be shame-faced. The credibility gap between what they say and what they do is so wide that TBI now looks like one big con. If Luke- oh I mean Michelle- cannot understand how dishonest and misleading it is to call Binsar’s school ‘premium’ and ‘world class’ when he has earned the disgust and contempt of everyone who ever worked for him, Michelle should stop reading this blog. It isn’t intended for ‘moral imbeciles’.



One thought on “How ‘Premium’ Is Binsar?

  1. In response to Michelle: TBI works like this: It says it is ‘premium’ and ‘world class’ while using textbooks you can buy at any bookstore. Even EF has interactive software and their own books now- TBI’s curriculum is ordered out of a bookstore catalogue. Even worse, TBI is actually a tax evader enagegd in criminal activities, but it hides it reasonably well for a time. In the schools, TBI offers horrible old computers, dated classrooms, and franchise schools where anything goes, and not even a lecherous old thief like Binsar is reprimanded. In short,TBI falls well short of its promises. In the case of Bekasi- it is laughably bad. The one thing it has going for it- which cons many Indonesian students- is Native Speakers. It needs Native Speakers to make the con plausible enough to justify the very high prices. It is also very good at intimidating critics into silence, maintaining an image of respectability.

    But TBI is so incredibly greedy, it resents paying decent wages to expats (which is all that keeps the whole business afloat outside Bandung). So Binsar underpays and scams and doesn’t pay THR or airfares. More and more people mumble that TBI ain’t all that. The rave reviews from expat teachers evaporate. More and more whispers about corruption and tax evasion spread. The con slowly starts to unwind and the whole franchise school system looks sickly. TBI is forced into placing more and more ads online to attract expats. The recruitment crisis doesn’t ease though, and TBI resorts to being an open rogue operator, doing ‘gentleman’s agreements’ to employ expats illegally, which besmirch the slick persona of TBI even more. Franchise owners rebel against Mariam and then her ‘bule’ lackey Luke for conning them that TBI was ‘premium’ and 2 schools close, while former TBI expats report horrible experiences at multiple schools. The whole confidence trick that TBI is ‘premium’ unravels day by day. TBI looks increasingly small and irrelevant outside Bandung.

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