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Autor:  Silvio
E-mail:  não-disponível
Data:  25/MAR/2004 11:25 PM
Assunto:  Info de 2002 da Espanha
 
Mensagem:  http://www.iberiannotes.blogspot.com/2002_11_03_iberiannotes_archive.html First came two competing chains, Wall Street Institute, now controlled by the American company Sylvan, and Opening School, owned by the old-line distance-courses company, CEAC. What these guys did is advertise a "totally new method" of learning English painlessly and with no work or struggle. All you had to do is come into a Wall Street or Opening branch, spend a few hours a week there, plug into a computer or listen to audiocassettes, and you'd teach yourself English. The scheme was a little more complicated than this, but that was more or less it. They put up a big advertising blitz promising people the moon, linguistically, and convinced a lot of people (also using techniques like cold-calling, and always, always, the hard sell) who didn't know much about language and how it is learned but were desperate to learn English. Meanwhile, they sold franchises to people who didn't know anything about language either, but were willing to kick in the cash to buy the Wall Street or Opening system, including the computer and electronic setups. So you had ignorant franchisees running "education centers", which were basically language labs, selling English to ignorant customers who bought the hard-sell. Meanwhile, very little English was getting learned by anybody in these places, but after about 1995 they became almost ubiquitous. Both Wall Street and Opening opened a couple of dozen franchises in the Barcelona metropolitan area; seeing one was as common as seeing a McDonalds. By about 1998 or so it was starting to become clear that these franchised systems were not getting the job done. Letters from disappointed customers became common in the newspapers and very negative gossip began going around the Barcelona English-speaking community, much of which depends on the English-teaching sector for its livelihood. Also, Opening and Wall Street used the typical health-club sales scam, getting the customer to sign up for a year at a time at prices approaching $2000 and paying in advance, while the company knew the whole time that most students would drop out fairly quickly when they got tired of typing stuff at a keyboard and listening to audiocassettes and not even frequently receiving help from an authentic native speaker, much less an authentic English teacher. The two chains advertised a money-back guarantee with so many escape clauses in it that it wasn't worth anything, and a lot of people became very irritated at not getting their money back when they tried to. By about 2000 the bottom was beginning to drop out of the market for Wall Street and Opening; you started to see shuttered-up franchises and fewer TV advertisements, then none at all. At exactly this time, Brighton, a chain of traditional English activities with a very poor reputation for hiring unqualified teachers, sometimes illegally (i.e. by reporting one salary to the government for tax purposes and really paying a different one; this is politely known in Spain as tax fraud) and then not paying them on time or at all, jumped into the market with both feet. Its flamboyant owner, an Argentinian wheeler-dealer whose name is Alfredo Ibáñez Nicolás but who uses the slightly improved Alfred Ibañez de Nicolás, opened up several more outlets to the chain. Rumor has it that Ibáñez leads a very expensive lifestyle that includes the consumption of large quantities of cocaine. Ibáñez started running full-page advertisements in the Vanguardia every day advertising something called the B.T.S., also known as the Brighton Total System. This consisted of having normal (but generally lousy) traditional-style English classes and access for customers to an extremely ratty room with a few computers, a VCR, and a boom box. Brighton did the same thing as Wall Street and Opening but with a lower budget; no TV ads but lots of direct-marketing hard-sell phone calling. About this time all three chains figured something out: that there would be real money if you made it possible for potential customers to finance their English "studies". Students would take out bank loans for the amount of the course and the bank would directly pay the school in full. The bank would then be in charge of collecting the loan, which the student didn't normally know he'd gotten into because the contracts they signed had an awful lot of fine print, big words, and confusing clauses. In 2002 the chains began to crack up. In August, Opening announced that it was closing permanently after a couple of months of irregular operation during which several franchisees closed down and others began opening only for limited hours. Then it all hit the fan when customers began to ask about getting their money back. Uh, they weren't going to get their money back, and not only that, they had to pay off their bank loan whether or not they were getting any English out of it. Opening didn't have any money to give back, or at least they said they didn't, and the banks certainly weren't about to become angels of charity. Brighton went down at the end of October under much more spectacular circumstances; their teachers went on strike after not having been paid since May. Ibáñez, apparently coked up, called a staff meeting in which he vehemently promised that everybody would be paid. He then proceeded to disappear with the main computer's hard disk and files and the company's books, not to mention whatever cash was lying around; the staff at the main office, when telephoned by a Vanguardia reporter to see what was going on, replied, "Ibáñez has run off with the money." Some 5000 customers in the Barcelona area have been affected by the Brighton collapse alone. Most of them are out fairly substantial sums of cash, at least several hundred bucks and usually more. They're suing. The banks want their money back. Best of luck. Wall Street, meanwhile, is still plugging away, though they admit losing almost a third of their students in the past twelve months; they officially announced that they were down to about 50,000 all over Spain, from the 72,000 they claimed last year. Such a messy, undignified end as those of Opening and Brighton seems unlikely for Wall Street, as they're backed by Sylvan, but Wall Street is in trouble too. They had 167 branches in October of last year and they're down to 126 as of now.


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 English Made in Brazil -- English, Portuguese, & contrastive linguistics
Employee of Wall Street Institute  –  Inspector  24/MAR/2004, 11:59 PM
Re: Employee of Wall Street Institute  –  WSI Employee  25/MAR/2004, 12:30 AM
Re: Employee of Wall Street Institute  –  WSI Employee  25/MAR/2004, 12:33 AM
Re: Employee of Wall Street Institute  –  Inspector  25/MAR/2004, 12:40 AM
Wall Street Institute  –  Silvio  25/MAR/2004, 11:09 PM
 Info de 2002 da Espanha  –  Silvio  25/MAR/2004, 11:25 PM
Re: Info de 2002 da Espanha  –  Rodolfo  26/MAR/2004, 8:48 AM

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