For the past 18 months, we have been reporting intermittently about a rogue language school called Rumah Bahasa, the so-called ‘House of Languages’, which exemplifies all the sins of the Indonesian TEFL industry in one horrid package. The story began in 2013 when one whistle-blower teacher came forward and said on Dave’s ESL Cafe that Rumah Bahasa was employing teachers without degrees or TEFL certificates, asking them to work on tourist visas and passing them off to Indonesian students as qualified educators.
To make the package more believable, Frendy Horas (the 23 year old con-artist behind Rumah Bahasa) came up with a clever ploy. He decided to locate his schools in glossy premises within Lotte Mart malls. Mall-mad Jakartans would be impressed by a language school inside a mall rather than a mere ruko (shop-house). Horas knew that people would think that a glossy new school would convince customers that Rumah Bahasa was a serious business, with educational knowhow. Many people are misled by appearances, of course, and this was an excellent example.
THE GRIFTING BUSINESS
As a former TBI Bekasi teacher once put it, in the grifting business there is always bait. The bait which Binsar used at TBI Bekasi Sun City was the promise of a salary of Rp 11 juta. Once he got people working for them, he would get them to break Indonesian law and then apply the screws, trying to blackmail them into working for him for half that amount. At Rumah Bahasa, the bait was different. The bait was the shiny premises itself. People would look at it, presume that RB was a serious outfit and sign up. The bait of the fancy premises would persuade people that RB was a legitimate and well-financed business they could trust in.
Once enough victims had taken the bait and signed up, Horas started announcing that classes would be ‘delayed’ and then making elaborate excuses about why they couldn’t get a refund. By early 2014, we were receiving upwards of 40 people a day visiting the site with searches such as ‘French Horas Penipu’ (Frendy Horas is a cheat), ‘Frendy Horas Harus Dipenjarakan’ (Frendy Horas Must Be Imprisoned) and ‘Bohongan Rumah Bahasa’ (The Lies of Rumah Bahasa). We were contacted by several former teachers, staff members and customers who complained of unpaid wages, courses that never started and empty promises of refunds which never materialized. There were also threats that this blog would be sued, which reminded us ever so much of the cyber-bullying and intimidation of TBI (The British Institute).
THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF HORRORS
By late 2014, there were signs that Rumah Bahasa, the House of TEFL Horrors, was starting to come unstuck. Their new branches at Season City and Green Bay (grandiosely named Jakarta malls) closed weeks after opening and Frendy Horas even issued a rare public statement that a ‘win-win agreement’ had been arrived at with his creditors there. But he did not do as well with Bank CIMB Niaga, which sent debt collectors to Rumah Bahasa Kelapa Gading asking when Horas going to pay his outstanding loan of Rp43 million! Staff were instructed to tell the debt collectors that Frendy Horas was in Thailand, but in September 2014 he was really hiding out at their small new branch at Sunter Mall.
By the end of 2014, that branch too had gone belly-up, as had their branch at Lotte Mart Bintaro. By this point Frendy Horas was actively asking teachers to help him lure in new victims. He promised teachers that if they helped him lure in new customers / victims, he would use the money to pay the back salaries that he owed them. In other words, the only way to get paid was to help him defraud fresh victims. In this, Horas sounds like a typical sociopathic con-man, trying to make others complicit in his deception and crimes.
OF TBI AND RUMAH BAHASA
Truly, the whole story is a depressing reflection on human nature, as numerous people have been willing to aid and abet Frendy Horas as he defrauds the Indonesian public. TBI (The British Institute) even went so far as to submit an official legal document to WordPress asking them to shut down this blog, partly because we had ‘escalated our campaign’ against Rumah Bahasa. In the sick worldview of TBI, it is somehow the victims of Frendy Horas who are in the wrong for exposing the truth about him. In TBI’s perverted, amoral worldview, calling a con-man a con-man is ‘defamation’. Also, Lotte Mart management have been disappointing and generally refused to help victims of the Rumah Bahasa scam. The best remedy, it seems, is for victims to share information on blogs like this. This will warn potential victims in advance. Due to the efforts of whistle-blowers, Rumah Bahasa, the House of Horrors, will soon close its final branch and this TEFL nightmare will be over.