The busiest period ever for traffic to this blog was in the 1st quarter of 2014, and it had very little to do with TBI. Though this blog might be named after The British Institute, the story that generated the most interest was actually Rumah Bahasa. During the early months of 2014, it was not unusual to receive between 200 and 300 views per day and the search times were almost inevitably one of the following: Rumah Bahasa, Rumah Bahasa Lotte Mart, Rumah Bahasa Kelapa Gading or, increasingly as time went on, Frendy Horas- the owner of the troubled school chain. For a couple of months there, there were 5000 to 6000 views per month and they were overwhelmingly devoted to our expose of Frendy Horas and his scandal-wracked language school.
This was at the point when news of unpaid salaries, broken promises for visas and months-long delays for refunds were all a fresh revelation for the customers of RB. Many of their customers had taken them at face value and were surprised to learn that many customers, teachers and staff had fallen victim to Frendy, “the sweet-tongued liar and bull**** artist”, as one source memorably described him. Compared to TBI, there were only a few half-hearted attempts to silence us. Yes, a few fake positive reviews from identical internet service providers appeared. Yes, there was one half-hearted attempt to silence us with threats of legal action. But they didn’t last long. In comparison, the cover-up and misinformation campaign from Preece and his proxies at TBI has proven absolutely relentless.
So what was the outcome of this flurry of views? Well, after a few months, a couple of schools, “Season City” and “Bay Walk”, closed just weeks after opening. Frendy even released an odd statement in which he said that a “win-win situation” with his creditors at the malls had been reached. Basically, this was a very thinly disguised “saving face” announcement, in which Frendy really admitted that his dreams of rapid expansion in Jakarta had come unstuck. And it was all due to the original teacher-cum-whistleblower who put the information up online. Without him, the ball never would have got rolling, the later Indonesian informants never would have come forward, and the whole RB scam would have taken much longer to run out of steam.
So what, you say? Well, let’s not underestimate the pain and hardship that Frendy inflicted on his trusting customers. His victims were typically 4 – 6 million rupiah out of pocket after being cheated by him. They had paid several months’ “tuition fees” up front for courses that never started. There are dozens of these people out there. How many more people would he have enrolled at “Bay Walk” and “Season City” had they opened? There were hundreds of customers at Kelapa Gading, so the number of victims was actually very large. Remember, there have been tens of thousands of views of the negative reports on this blog. The number of people interested in RB was in no way small.
4 million or 6 million rupiah is a very large amount of money in Indonesia. This is 2 to 3 times the minimum monthly wage for Jakarta, so the losses to many families were quite substantial. Hoping to invest in education for a better future, they were allegedly cheated out of 1 or 2 months’ wages by an unscrupulous con-man and parasite like Horas. Sure, in a world were Iraq and Syria are in the midst of a massive humanitarian disaster, this might seem like small beans, but it has been a stressful and upsetting experience for many decent, hard-working people. If this blog has stopped Horas claiming another clutch of victims before his scam of a school finally folds, then that’s a very pleasing thought for us.