RB Cinere Mall: Hiding in Plain Sight

Is there any hope of the 300 latest victims of Frendy Horas gaining any justice? Sadly, it seems unlikely. They were lied to and cheated by the ‘marketing team’ at Rumah Bahasa, who were really nothing but fraudsters conning hard-working families out of their money. In a lawful country, they could go to the police, government or the media and they would report the case. But Indonesia is not that country. People who reported Rumah Bahasa to DIKNAS (the Education Department) and Immigration in North Jakarta got no help whatsoever.

Indonesia’s corrupt bureaucracy has turned a blind eye to the whole affair, even though Rumah Bahasa was not even registered as a PT. (registered company). We have long suspected that DIKNAS has been criminally complicit with Rumah Bahasa. How else could it open 7 different branches, many of them in malls, when it isn’t even registered as a business? Someone serious greasing of palms must have gone on. This means that nothing will happen, even though Rp2.000.000.000 has been stolen from hard-working Indonesian families. As we already said: a sad, sad business all around.

Drawing Lessons from the RB Cinere Mall Fiasco

What, then, are the lessons to be learnt from Frendy Horas’s massive new scam? Is there anything positive which can be salvaged from this train wreck?

I would argue that Indonesians have to learn to be more discerning customers when it comes to selecting language courses. Stuck with a government which won’t lift a finger to help them, even when serious fraud has been committed, English course students need to be more cautious and strategic in their selection of a course. The case of Rumah Bahasa Cinere Mall proves an excellent example of the importance of due diligence.

A School Without Its Own Website

The first warning sign is that this school did not have its own website. What kind of serious language school doesn’t even have a webpage in 2015? The answer would seem to be one that wants to steal your money and then close its doors after 2 months.

Indeed, Rumah Bahasa Cinere Mall seemed to be ‘hiding in plain sight’. Yes, it was open and taking from Rp 4.5 – 12 million rupiah from each customer, but it didn’t have any online presence. It clearly wasn’t in business for the long haul. A thorough search of ‘Rumah Bahasa Cinere Mall’ on Google yields the thinnest of results.

At Least They Have 5 Facebook Friends!

The only official presence this school had online was a Facebook page. Even more ridiculously, it had been updated only a couple of times in 2 months and only had 5 friends! This ought to have been ringing alarm bells for anyone who took the time to look into it. A serious school has more of a substantial online presence than a Facebook page which anyone could have made in 10 minutes one afternoon. A business with positive word of mouth would have had many more ”likes” and ”friends”. It was just the thinnest, flimsiest cover imaginable.

Worryingly, the only other trace of this school online was some website which gave away free coupons. Rumah Bahasa was advertising 1 month of study at a 62% discount. You could study for a trial month for a mere Rp 500.000. This is hardly encouraging either. While Frendy’s team were accepting up to Rp 12 million at the front desk, they were giving away the course at a steep discount on a cheap, tacky website. All of this should have awakened people’s suspicions.

Once again, we strongly advise English students to do their research. Do not hand Rp 5 million to some school which doesn’t even have a website. If the best the school can do is a Facebook page with 5 friends and 2 likes, then they aren’t a serious operator. Just because a school is located in a mall does not make them reliable, knowledgeable or trustworthy.

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