Steve Schertzer

My tango with Tony the Tarantula

Dodging the TEFL scammers


From an email from "Tony the Tarantula." Received July 24, 2009.
I offer to pay you 12 months system, but working only 10.5 /11 months, on the 2 Semesters close approximately on every April (Songkarn Festival) and around every October each time is around 2 weeks holiday you can travel elsewhere (No need to teach and no need to attend the school) but you will get the salary payment from me as usual. (Summary of my payment: 37,000.- Baht x 12 moths = 444,000.- per year. But working around 11 months (444,000 / 11 months so each month you will get 40,363.64 Baht Net) -I have also provided 2 meals (Breakfast and Lunch every week day free of charge) Each month cost of 2 meals = 5,000.- Baht so your net income per month is (40,363.64 Baht + 5,000.- Baht)= 45,363.64 Bath net

Sounds good so far, huh? I better rush down to "Tony the Tarantula's" office to sign the contract before someone else beats me to it. But wait! Sounds too good to be true? Well, let's see. From a different email sent by "Tony the Tarantula" on August 5, 2009 when I asked to see the school.


 

I would rather not take any teachers to see the school before signing an agreement as my experience; a lot of foreign teachers I used to take them to see the school and then they told me that they didn't like the school, after I came back they applied direct to the school, so after that I have a regulation that I will not take any teachers to visit the school before signing an agreement.


Hmmm. I'd like to think that I can spot a shark in the TEFL industry from a mile away. Well, I was bored sitting in my room watching CNN, so I decided to check this guy out. To make a long story short, the 45,363.64 baht quickly became 37,000 baht a month. I ask why? "Tony the Tarantula" did his best to explain.

"Well", he began, "I pay your vacation. That's 3,000 baht more per month. Then I give you two free meals a day in the school canteen. That's 5,000 baht more per month."

Oh, how generous of you, I thought. You already know what happened when I asked to see the school. So I asked for phone numbers of teachers who took jobs from him. "Tony the Tarantula" explained that he couldn't do that until I signed an agreement with him. Bad experiences in the past with teachers, he explained.

"How about my work visa?", I inquired.

"Oh, I don't know about that", Tony said. "You have to talk to the school." And on and on it went.

So I went back to my room in disgust. Obviously "Tony the Tarantula" was just another one of TEFL industry's whores. You can't spit without hitting at least five or six of them. I knew I wasn't going to take the job, (only a desperate TEFL'er who pines for Bangkok's sleazy nightlife would consider this offer. More on that later.) But I didn't want "Tony the Tarantula" to think he can fool me, a dedicated veteran English teacher. That same evening I went to the Internet cafe and fired off this gem.


From: Steve Schertzer <xxxxxxxxxxx@yahoo.ca>
Subject: Re: Our meeting this afternoon.
To: Tony <xxxxxxxxx@yahoo.com>
Date: Thursday, August 6, 2009, 3:44 AM Hello Mr. Tony,

In regards to our meeting this afternoon, I want to thank you for your offer of employment. I look forward to working with you and the school in question. I say "the school in question" because you did not mention the name of the school in which I will be working. Do you think I should know this?

Also, you did mention that Philip, (the teacher from the United States currently working at the school in question), will be leaving shortly. I will be taking over for Philip. I'm looking forward to that. I also asked for Philip's cell number so that we can talk about the teaching position. You said that I can meet Philip at the school at the end of this month when I move into the new apartment. I would like to talk with him before then. That is every teacher's right to meet and talk with each other on their own time. Wouldn't you agree?

Also, my tourist visa expires on the 19th of this month, so I will have to go to Laos to apply for a non-immigrant B visa. I told you about this and you seemed to have no idea how to go about applying for one or about providing me with the documents necessary in getting one. Frankly, I find that strange since you are a recruiter who has dealt with many teachers before.

Mr. Tony, I am a serious teacher looking to work for a school that will appreciate me and the effort I put into teaching. I deserve to see the school, meet the teachers, and see the apartment near the school when I want or need to. Not when it is convenient for you.

You seem to be a very deceptive man. I am not. I am a dedicated teacher who wants to work hard for his students and make some money as well. Look at what you promised me in your previous emails. The agreement you showed me was far different than what your previous emails to me suggested. There is no 45,000 Baht net, but 37,000 Baht a month net. (I realize that this includes 2 free meals each day at the school.) Fair enough. That's good. Perhaps your emails should have said 37,000 Baht net a month, including 2 free meals a day at the school.

Mr. Tony, I know that as a recruiter you are making money from employing me at the school. It is either a one-time lump sum from the school, or most probably, the money that you are making from me is being taken from my paycheck every month. I would like to know which one it is. I would like to see the contract that you have with "the school in question." As a serious and dedicated teacher, I think that's fair and I am entitled to see this.

So Mr. Tony, if you are willing to work fairly with me, then I am more than willing to work fairly with you. Like I said at our meeting this afternoon, it works both ways. So it's now up to you. Show me the school and the apartment before I'm scheduled to move in, (in the agreement we both signed this afternoon, didn't it say something about free accommodation?), let me speak with Philip and the other teachers at the school, and show me the contract that you have with the school which will say how much money you are making from me and the other teachers.

Fair enough? I think so. In closing I want to say that I am an honest and fair-minded man. I hope you are too.

Sincerely,

Steve Schertzer.


 

As you can see, I was trying to be diplomatic. Not easy for me. Difficult as hell, in fact. I received a response from "Tony the Tarantula" two days later. I immediately shot back a response. Diplomacy be damned! For the sake of space, I have combined the two emails.


9/08/2009

Hi Steve,

(Tony)

I got your email dated Thursday, August 6, 2009 3:44 AM with many thanks. I don't totally understand for such a long email that you wrote to me after you left my office for a while and I was alleged to be a deceptive man just you want to let me inform you some unimportant information.

(Steve)

Unimportant information? Such as meeting or speaking with teachers already working at the school? Looking at the school and the apartment on my own time before I start? That kind of "unimportant" information? My God, we can't have teachers doing that now, can we? Soon teachers will start asking to be appreciated and respected. Heaven forbid!

(Tony)

-I have explained all of the details both via my emails as sent before you came to sign an agreement and I also told you while talking in the presence of you at my office, I think that just a simple mathematics as explained even normal people they will understand well, after you signed an agreement with me but why a well educated teacher as you mentioned yourself tries to not understand.

(Steve)

Simple mathematics? Like the 5,000 baht a month I will save on breakfast and lunch in the school canteen? 5,000 baht for two meals a day in a Bangkok school? What in the world is on the menu, steak tartar? Lobster in a creamy white wine sauce? I've seen Thai breakfasts and lunches sold on the streets of Pratunam for 20 baht each. With a fried egg on top! Multiply that by 20 days and you have 800 baht for two meals a day. Okay, say 30 baht a meal. That's 1,200 baht a month for two meals a day. Where in the world do you get 5,000 baht? I'm sure the rich students are paying that as well.

(Tony)

-I informed you everything those I learnt from foreign teachers' behavior those they did with me but you are always arbitrary try to request me as you like and there was no any other teachers asked me to see my contract with the school it was very strange thing I have never met before, and what for how much money I made it is not concern with you at all, I think that you are doing something very strange, are you O.K. I am not sure.

(Steve)

Personally, I don't care how much money you make. As long as you don't make any money off my labor. I am the only one who makes money off my labor. Seeing the contract you have with the schools is every teacher's right.

(Tony)

At the first met it seems that you are an unreliable man but I want to try and see what will be happened so I spoke to you since the beginning that are you definitely sure to attend the school on the first day of the semester' opening, but you have not any guaranteed; as my sentience feel that you may fail to fulfill your promise so I asked you for keeping your passport and /or your certificates but you refused all.

(Steve)

Like I told you, my passport is the property of the Canadian government. Feel free to contact the Government of Canada and request the holding of my passport if that would please you. As for my university degrees and TESOL certificate, they are mine and will remain in my possession at all times.

(Tony)

I have been doing in many activities in educational services for a long time, every teacher those have been working with me are very happy. If you think that you want to do everything at will, it is not allowed here, as you told me that you used to sign an agreement with other company and they canceled your position before taking you to school, it might be definitely in the same behavior that you have done with me in this time.

(Steve)

I have been teaching for a long time and can spot a shark in the TEFL industry from a mile away. Everyone of your teachers are happy? Really? Then give me their phone numbers so that I can hear the glee and laughter in their voice. Oh please, I want to experience their happiness. I want them to tell me what an honest and wonderful man you are. We'll start with three teachers, okay?

(Tony)

Fortunately I have not informed you the information of my staff and the school if not you might go to create a lot of dissensions with them and will cause me a lot of problems.

(Steve)

Oh so that's why you're not giving me phone numbers of some of the teachers? Because you believe that I will "create a lot of dissentions with them and will cause a lot of problems." Oh Mr. Tony, please forgive me. I didn't realize that I was such a bad person. And here I am in Bangkok just trying to get by and make a living without being taken advantage of by a slimy recruiter who wants to make money off my labor. How can I be so stupid?

(Tony)

If you are so conceited I think that it is still not too late, I can call any other applicants and you can find other job that you select which employer is the best as you imagined or as my suggestion you should go back home to Canada soon, why do you come to find a job in Thailand .

(Steve)

It's not a matter of being conceited, Mr. Tony. It's a matter of being careful. I'm sure an intelligent man as yourself understands the importance of being careful. Why did I come to Thailand? Because a lot of students will benefit from my kind and dedicated teaching. That's not being conceited, Mr. Tony. That's being confident.

One question: Would you want your children to go through the very same things that many kind and dedicated teachers here go through when dealing with slimy and unscrupulous recruiters? I hope not. If you believe that your children deserve to be treated with dignity and respect when looking for employment, then so do everyone else's children. Think about that, Mr. Tony.

Steve.


Now it gets interesting. This is the last email I received from "Tony the Tarantula."

12/08/2009

Steve,

Please don't send anymore emails to me further, I don't want to waste my time and my energy to associate with a meaningless or without substance person like you anymore and it will not cover my cost at all to do so. As I suggested you that you have better to go back to Canada soon, that is correct because Thai people are not pleased to welcome a person like you, we can find good and qualified teachers to teach English, even without you we can use and speak English well enough no need to cite that you come here because the Thai students want you to teach them, in fact the foreign teachers like you come just want to come for whoring in in the other hands Thai women they just wanted to cheat your money and one more reason that you cannot find works in your own home town due to you are inferior in qualification, comparing if not working in your own home town you will get many times more income than you getting here, I known your lineage and your background very well, so I known that why are you coming to find a teaching job in Thailand but I guaranteed that you cannot teach well, and the significant thing is that your voice is female's voice that has no any power at all, it shown weakness and nonsense as well as your manner is not a practical Caucasian I dare to say that you are not a good teacher I certified; any students who are taught will get nothing from you, amen.

Be careful that you are a foreigner don't try to look for any trouble here, it is not your home Canada , but it is Thailand remember. One more time Be informed that don't send any reply to me; I have blocked your email counting from now.

Tony.


"Tony the Tarantula" blocked me from his email. How mature. (I stick my fingers in my ears and shout: "Na nanana Naaaaa!!! I can't hear youuuu!!!!") Hey, that felt good. Who cares what "Tony the Tarantula" thinks and says? Like I said, he is just one of TEFL's many whores. In fact, from my experience in this industry and from the experiences of others, Tony is not one of the most horrible people out there. There are a lot worse. Now isn't that frightening? But he, and many others like him, should not be ignored.

Aside from the personal insults,

"...your voice is female's voice and has no power at all..."

(I talk like a girl? Really? Like, really? Like, OMG!!! Do I throw like one too? I can't wait to text Amber and Tiffany. Oh I'm like, so excited!)

"...your manner is not a practical Caucasian..."

I hope that doesn't mean what I think it does.

Tony and his ilk represent a nightmare for those like myself who just want to teach and make a positive difference in the lives of students. He may be an obstacle, but he's a huge obstacle in the face of so many facts--- good and bad--- that are out there in the English teaching world.

Tony and his ilk are not a problem for those itinerant EFL teachers, (part-time backpackers who just want to experience Southeast Asia for six or 12 months.) And he knows it.

"... in fact the foreign teachers [like you] come just want to come for whoring in the other hands they just want to cheat your money..."

Tony's own words in his final email to me. Tony knows why many teachers are here. So does his ilk. So do school principals and directors. So do other teachers. So do ex-wives. That's why it is such a nightmare for good quality teachers to come here and try to do good. Perception, in this part of the world, seems to be everything. And the millions of whoring backpackers who file in and out of here every year are certainly not helping that perception.

If the whole whoring situation really concerns you, Tony, (personally, I don't think it does), then why not try and do something about it? Why aren't you? Because the mobs of whoring backpackers posing as English teachers are keeping you (and your ilk) in business. These mobs of whoring backpackers are keeping your family in that nice suburban villa. They are helping to keep your wife in full sartorial splendor. They keep your children in expensive international schools where they are given English names like Matthew and Tiffany. So Tony (and your ilk), don't bite the hand that feeds you.

"...in the other hands they [the Bangkok bar girls, I presume] just want to cheat your money..."

Oh. Sort of like you, Tony? You know a thing or two about cheating people out of money. The 8,000 baht a month that you wanted to take from my paycheck for example. The difference between a whore like you, Tony, and a whore on Patpong? At least the whores on Patpong give their customers some pleasure in return.

I know I'm being tough on "Tony the Tarantula." There are worse than him in the industry. Far worse. But it's nice to know that I can spot these TEFL whores from a mile away and give them a piece of my mind. (Albeit a small piece. I think I've lost most of my mind after so many years in this business.)

There will always be people like Tony, or worse, in this industry. Just as there will always be hordes of backpacking sex-tourists posing as English teachers. This industry, like any other, is obsessed with money and power. And where there is money, there are pimps and whores. A lot of them. Welcome to the TEFL-A-Go-go. Happy hour is from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Two adjectives for the price of one. Nice. Cool. (Is cool an adjective?)

I will end with a warning from "Tony the Tarantula's" last email to me. then I will respond.

"...Be careful that you are a foreigner don't try to look for any trouble here, it is not your home Canada , but this is Thailand remember..."

My response: "F*ck You!"

Actually, I was hoping for something more intelligent, more eloquent. I'll try again.

My response: "Oh Tony, pull down your pants so that I can kiss your ass. Please, I beg you. Drop you trousers. I am honored and deeply moved that you have chosen me above all others. I can only hope to be a teacher truly worthy of your confidence in me. That you will skim 20 percent off every monthly paycheck of mine is but a small price to pay for your generosity. I only wish I can give you more, but as you know, I am only in Bangkok for the cheap beer and cheaper women. I weep with joy and mild trepidation as I await the beginning of the school year. I do hope and pray that I can last the 12 months of the contract because, as you know Tony, the ladies just want our money."

That wasn't exactly what I was going for. Okay, one last time.

My response: "I am fully aware that Thailand is not like Canada. We are a nation of laws. In Canada people like you are jailed for the unethical antics you pull. Don't try to look for trouble here? No Tony. I don't look for trouble. Trouble finds me. And you know what? I don't mind because trouble comes with the job. It comes with the territory. It comes with speaking out and being a dedicated teacher. So trouble and I--- we go way back.

One last thing, "Tony the Tarantula" (and his ilk): As long as there are students longing for an education, as long as children hope and dream of a better future, as long as little boys and little girls with untapped potential remain either out of school or in classrooms with burned-out or uncaring teachers, I will scream at the top of my lungs. I don't care if the culprits are sub-par backpacker teachers who are here just for the beer and women, or greedy recruiters and school directors who put profit over people. I will cause trouble. For those voiceless children who can only dream of a decent education, I will be their voice. And so will many other dedicated teachers. So Tony, (and your ilk), deal with me. Because I'm not going away."




Comments

i used to teach in thailand - more than 10years ago - i agree with the above - you sound angry. no one likes an angry type. however your rantings may have some benefit for new teachers i guess. maybe better to try and become budda as much as possible - even in canada.

By kanderson, hawaii (2nd March 2011)

Sad, sad, sad. I actually feel sorry for Tony.

Steve, your posts are a chronicle of your angry and paranoid decline into insanity. I don't know why Ajarn.com allows you to continue. You haven't written a positive word in years (except about yourself, of course).

Tony is right. You really should go back to Canada.

By John, Thailand (21st February 2010)

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