Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I want you to know something, all though this industry is peppered with real corporate monsters and greedy independent funeral home owners…
There are some real good people out there, I mean good, good people.
Now and again my phone rings, and speaking to me from the other end is a compassionate funeral home representative who shares with me a conversation that always starts quietly with “I have this family…”
It continues in with something along the lines of “I know you can help them or I heard about your location or I see what you’re doing on your website...”
Ya know, AGAIN!, these are some real good people who still try to follow the guidelines as to why they got into this industry. THEY REMEMBER! They have good hearts and compassionate souls.  Unfortunately in this difficult economy where jobs are scarce and individuals are grateful to have any job, these individuals must remain anonymous.
In the end, the quiet conversation I share with these anonymous individuals, (AND THEY ARE OUT THERE!) always seems to end with, “please don’t tell anyone we talked” them asking “may I call you again if I have a family that needs you?”
These are good people, I thank them for standing by the oath they took when they chose the profession they are now in and were not blinded by greed and corruption like so many others are…
NOT ALL! But so many, and there are allot.
To those still trying to serve the community outside of their employers walls, Thank you, you are doing a very good thing, and if you need me, I'm here. I would love be be an extension of your compassionate effort to help a family.

Friday, November 26, 2010


I just had the misfortune of serving a family that fell directly under this scam.

The following information about scams committed by funeral homes and hospices is provided here and was given to Hospice Patients Alliance by funeral home directors in our nation who are concerned about these abuses within their industry. When a terminally ill patient comes under hospice care, it is very helpful if the family takes action to make all arrangements for funeral services before the death of their loved one, if possible.

 At the time of death, family members are often quite emotionally upset and vulnerable to making hasty decisions without adequate planning and consideration. Can you "comparison shop" for funeral services when your loved one has just died? Not likely. .... and that is exactly what some rogue hospices and funeral homes count on when they set you up for a joint hospice - funeral home scam that can take advantage of you at a vulnerable time in your life. Such a scam may cost you many hundreds, or even thousands of dollars more than what you should have paid for such services!

One of the major scams committed by such rogue hospices is to refer the family to one particular rogue funeral home, if they haven't made arrangements beforehand with another funeral home. The rogue funeral home then charges their very highest rates for funeral home services and the family has no idea that they have been scammed, because they trust the "compassionate" hospice people. If individuals go to that funeral home directly inquiring about charges for funeral services, they get offered discounted rates, but hospice referrals get charged the highest rates.

Where does the extra money go (from being overcharged for services)? The funeral home that overcharges you will "kickback" or give back to the hospice that referred the hospice patient! So, both the hospice and funeral home get extra money. That may be shocking to think about, but we have confirmation from funeral home directors and owners that this is happening to vulnerable families. Those funeral home owners who are honest and do not participate in the illegal hospice-funeral home kickback schemes end up financially damaged, because the hospice refers exclusively to their co-conspirators in the kickback schemes.

To avoid any possible exploitation at the time of death, always make arrangements beforehand, do some comparison shopping and deal with funeral homes directly. Hospices are not supposed to recommend any particular funeral home. In Arizona, if you have not decided, they are requiered BY LAW to present you with the name of "three" of the most afordable funeral homes availiable. If a hospice does recommend one particular funeral home, THIS IS ILLEGAL! be very careful to check out prices and ask the funeral home what the "full price" is, what the "discount price" is, and whether you are getting any discount or not. You do not have to use the funeral homes "recommended" by a hospice (considering this is an illegal practice). They should not be recommending any funeral homes...that is a decision for you to make, not the hospice. If a specific funeral home is continuously recomended as being "very fair" or "they will take good care of you" BE CAREFULL! Consider asking for verification of this illegal procedure from the hospice supervisor or nursing supervisor.

If someone is recomending, then someone is getting a kickback...

Saturday, November 20, 2010


This topic is one that I hold dear to my heart and is very personal to me. What, do you ask is the funeral homes responsibility when it comes to obtaining honors for a fallen veteran?
The funeral is responsible to acquire as much honor services that the veteran has earned for service to country.
NOW! The big play it to convince you that the funeral home is going ABOVE AND BEYOND what is expected of them to do so you will think they are doing this at no cost or charge to the funeral home, or... they are doing this out of the kindness of their heart. Let there be no mistake, none what so ever, that everything this kind hearted funeral home is doing is everything that Veteran EARNED for service to country. Not because the funeral service providers are kind hearted people.
I find it deplorable when I listen to funeral service providers try and convince families that they are observing these honors ONLY because the funeral director went out of his or her way to ensure that the veteran received what otherwise the government would have forgotten completely about.
There was a time when it was an honor to handle the services of a fallen veteran, now most locations use it as a marketing tool by placing flags on their websites and selling and displaying military style memorabilia and products.
I have no problems at all considering Avenidas Funeral Chapel more than qualified to serve American Veterans. 
  • The owner is a Disabled American Veteran 
  • The owner is Retired United States Marine Corps
  • The owner is 10 years prior United States Navy
  • The owner spent 2 years on the Navy Color Guard honoring fallen veterans all over California
  • The owner spent 2 years as a Marine Corps Drill Instructor perfecting and mastering the art of "Military Honors, Drill, Presentation and display"
So what is a veteran entitled to? 
 Well if the veteran was separated from the military under honorable conditions
Benefits for veterans who die at a Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital
  • Gets $300 burial or cremation allowance
  • Gets $300 plot allowance if they don’t use a National Cemetery
  • Gets transportation from VA hospital (our charges reimbursed)
  • Gets transportation to place of interment or services (our charges reimbursed)

Benefits for ALL veterans and spouses
All Vets and their spouses with honorable discharge and with one day of active duty are entitled to free cemetery property, headstone, Opening & Closing, and perpetual care at any National Cemetery.
  • Honorably discharged veteran serving any length of time before 9/7/80.
Veterans entering service after this time must serve 24 months of continuous active duty or for the full time for which the person was called to active duty.

Military Funeral Honors
"Honoring Those Who Served"

The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for providing military funeral honors. "Honoring Those Who Served” is the title of the DOD program for providing dignified military funeral honors to Veterans who have defended our nation.
Upon the family's request, Public Law 106-65 requires that every eligible Veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, to include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps. The law defines a military funeral honors detail as consisting of two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the Veteran's parent service of the armed forces. The DOD program calls for funeral home directors to request military funeral honors on behalf of the Veterans' family. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration cemetery staff can also assist with arranging military funeral honors at VA national cemeteries. Veterans organizations may assist in providing military funeral honors. When military funeral honors at a national cemetery are desired, they are arranged prior to the committal service by the funeral home.

REMEMBER! In order for the veteran to receive these honors, you MUST present the Funeral Home with the Veterans DD-214 or Discharge Certificate, in some cases the Veterans Administration can assist in obtaining documentation for proof of service, but this is ONLY if the Veteran has been seen at a VA healthcare facility.

When you sit with the funeral provider, don’t ask them if they can try to get Funeral Honors. Tell them to do it. The Veteran earned it, it is not the funeral homes services to give away. If they can not help. Please, Please move to another facility that will honor the Veterans sacrifice and service to country.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Recently I was honored with sitting with a family to plan the arrangements for a family member. The topic of the “visitation” came up, they asked what they should do. I responded with, “what would you like to do?” and in turn, they responded with… “what is traditional?”
Well, what is “traditional” I ask you?  Who’s tradition? Yours? Mine?  WHOS? You see, my experience is that tradition differs from family to family. Not race, not religion, not side of town you were raised on or what kind of car you drive.
Now, the only TRADITION I usually see is the tradition of the funeral home recommending you use the maximum amount of time in his facility that will bring more revenue to his business.
I have seen visitations last 12 hours in a facility which many funeral homes love to offer because that is also a great deal of revenue for the facility. Then again I have seen other facilities allow families a ½ hour private family visitation prior to the scheduled visitation. This is what we do at Avenidas.
I have been asked by families if they can just have an hour visitation prior to the service. Then they get charged for the “minimum” three hours as per the price list. Why? (you only used one hour)
If it is your desire to have a simple one hour visitation prior to a chapel service consider including a chapel service half way thru your three hour visitation service, concluding with the last hour as a closing visitation. Tell the funeral arranger/director that you do not want a chapel service, just the three hour visitation and that you do not need their assistance for a chapel service. There is no reason why you should not be allowed to do this; you are the one renting the facility for a three hour time period witch just so happens to be called a VISITATION. Use it as you see fit. If they choose not to accommodate you, ask why not and if they refuse to accommodate, then it is all about the money. Consider moving on.
Now, why do we have a visitation?  Some like the idea to say goodbye. It has been my experience that this is very important for younger people who are just starting to comprehend what life and death is, and assists them in understanding or bringing them aware of mortality.
Some individuals are just morbidly intrigued by looking at and observing the presence of a dead body. As uncomfortable as this may sound, the reality of it is, is that this does exist.
Then there are those that wish to say goodbye. See the person for the last time and face the reality that they are gone.
Then there is probably the biggest reason of all, because the funeral director/arranger convinces you that you NEED to do this for closure.  Well, what is closure? Accepting the fact that the deceased is gone. 
If you spend time with a living individual and one day they are no more because they have passed, trust me, this is called death and at that moment you will know what closure is and how YOU will find your own closure with the deceased. In death we mourn and grieve, and we all do this in our own way. We do not need a person dressed in a nice suit telling us what we need to do to mourn and rack up charges so they can have nice clothes and take an annual cruise to the Bahamas.
So why visitation? Because you want to, that is the only reason why. If your family is trying to decide on whether to have a visitation or not and the director just sits in the room with you and stares around at everyone making you feel uncomfortable, this is not because they care. The only thing they care about is you making THEIR right decision that puts more money into THEIR pocket.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


An individual dies; a call goes out to the funeral home. The funeral home dispatches either a member of the staff to do what is commonly referred to as the “removal” OR, a company is dispatched that is in the business of doing removals for all the funeral homes on its register.
 Now, this is not uncommon. Funeral homes have been doing this for some time. With the exception of the well established removal companies, many funeral homes recruit the lowest bidder. The lowest bidder usually hires a bunch of crazy collage kids that are looking to make a few bucks on the side and have a strange job they can talk about with their friends.
The other concern you may have is usually, if the individual is a “home removal” (Passes at the residence) the funeral home will charge for a “second man removal” This is also a so called requirement if the individual is over a certain weight. This is added cost that many families can do without and assume that there is nothing that can be done to change this or prevent the cost.
First things first, if the Family wishes to assist the individual dispatched from the funeral home to place the deceased on the removal cot, there is no law against it. All you have to do is tell the funeral home that “the family prefers to assist in placing the deceased on the cot” It is a very simple process and can assist in lowering cost. If your Funeral home representative tells you that you can’t do that, I encourage you to look for another funeral home.
Also, you might consider asking the care facility staff to assist the individual doing the removal. My experiance with any hospice facility is that they are more than eager to assist the family anyway they can.
Number two, the funeral coach.  The family is attempting to save money any way they can on a service, and can’t understand why the coach costs so much.  Well, I can help you resolve that. Don’t use the funeral home coach. Use a family SUV or if the deceased had a favorite 4 x 4, why not use that?. It is quite legal and cost saving. This is not only cost saving for a local burial, but also is quite cost saving should you choose to transport the deceased to anywhere within a neighboring state or close city. There is no law stating that you can not transport a loved one in a casket or out of a casket without the proper permit.  If a funeral home tells you that you need to pay MORE for them to prepare the proper permits to do this, beware, this is the same permit that the funeral home prepares for them to transport or have transported.
The Limousine, First things first, in this economy, how many of us can afford a limousine? But if you choose, shop around on your own. You will be surprised the deals you can find.  3 hours is usually the minimum that Limo companies charge and services are usually about 3 hours.
Motor Escorts. Not a necessity but during a service with a great deal of participants, almost a must.  Escort companies carry a great deal of insurance to do their job, and for this reason, cost a great deal. This cost SHOULD reflect on the CASH ADVANCE section of the price list. If it does not, ask why.  If it is on any other section of the price list, this means the funeral home is putting their charges on top of it. Make them tell you why they feel they need to charge more.
In the end, if you feel the cost is a bit high, ask why and if the funeral home will not work with you on pricing in regards to transportation, remember, there are others out there that will be glad to.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Thought we would share some of the letters we have received from our families we have had the opportunity to serve.  Thank you for the kind words, we are so glad we are here to help.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


So you experience a death in the family. The family has tasked you with finding a facility to handle the arrangements. You review different locations on the internet and SOME even have funeral packages at really affordable pricing. You call the location and the counselor tell you, “Oh yes, all the services are included” In fact, the counselor is not lying to you. But you being inexperienced in the industry confuse SERVICES  with MERCHANDISE and the way the counselor presents it to you, it sounds like all the merchandise is included in the package, when in fact, it is not.
A funeral contract is made up of three different fields, By LAW!
·         SERVICES
Services consist of ANYTHING that is NOT merchandise and you DON’T pay taxes on, such as:
·         Basic Service of the funeral director and staff
·         Transport to the funeral home
·         Embalming
·         Dressing/Casketing
·         Visitation
·         Church or Chapel  Service
·         Graveside Service
·         Coach use
·         Limousine (If the funeral home owns a Limousine)
Merchandise is defined as anything you buy that you can keep, claim as yours and PAY TAXES ON.
·         Casket (cremation or burial)
·         Burial Vaults
·         Grave markers
·         Urns
·         Cremation Containers
·         Register Book, folders or prayer cards
·         Casket cross
·         Memorial DVD’s
Cash advances consist of, but are not limited to;
·         Church usage fees
·         Cremation fees
·         Death Certificates
·         Permits
·         Funeral Escorts
·         Air fare
·         Limousine service if it is “Contracted out”
·         Flower services
So as you can see, if it is not stated on the so called “FUNERAL PACKAGE” it is probably not included.
Review the package offered and selected. Ensure that if it is offered as a “PACKAGE” that it is just that, a package. Package is defined as all inclusive, everything needed. When a funeral home offers a package it should take into consideration everything that perhaps the family may want. If it is just a bunch of select services offered from the “services” section of the price list, you are being misled.
Allot of the pricing you may incur is in fact from merchandise. Find out by printing a copy of the web page you find the package on, on the internet, take the copy to the funeral home and tell them, “no this is all we want, we will provide the rest” Watch the counselors jaw hit the ground, because in reality, you can provide all the rest, and he has to honor his package offered on the internet at that price.
The funeral industry is a “Service” Industry yes, so if you choose to use just the SERVICES of any funeral location, you are well within your right. The funeral home must still honor the SERVICES side of the contract, even if no merchandise is bought. You would be surprised how many provide you with substandard service because you choose to buy your merchandise elsewhere. (Its called saving money, not being CHEAP)
It has been my experience in the past that people have even shopped around for caskets and merchandise from other locations. This is not illegal as well. Some funeral homes, like Avenidas Funeral Chapel offer a line of caskets and merchandise with personalized printing for purchase and delivery to ANY FUNERAL HOME IN THE VALLEY, it is legal, and quite ethical. Our imported casket line is extremely affordable and available to the public for purchase and delivery.
Do your homework, be aware and ensure you screen your funeral service provider no matter who they are with. The above topic is to help you save and provide a service well within your budget.
…or don’t, and let them get the best of you, or your pocket book!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Where do we start, the corporate funeral industry is alive and well in America. There was a time when corporations were trying very hard to buy up as many small, independent funeral homes and cemeteries as possible in the shortest amount of time.  The goal was to corner the market and raise prices to the level that no one could afford services, or at least the services that were offered by them, thus forcing people to purchase pre-need funeral insurance from them at their prices and making their stocks SOAR!

One problem, stocks fell about $60.00 a share thus forcing the closure of all their smaller, VERY personal neighborhood funeral homes and consolidating body preperation and storage to the GIANT funeral processing centers where no matter where the funeral services for family member was being held, or what funeral home you were dealing with that was owned by a specific corporation, the body was being taken to the "BODY" processing center. Here, DOZENS of nameless bodies are being, embalmed, dressed, painted and boxed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

All these funeral homes are owned by the same corporation,  BUT! they charge different prices for doing the same thing at the giant funeral center. One corporation has even created a smaller branch for the "Less Fortunate" families that can't afford the higher prices of the palacial funeral mansions they own. Another corporation introduced a branch to serve a specific "Ethnic Minority" because it was believed that this minority was more prone to burial, which can be more exspensive.

There are ALOT of these funeral corporations throughout America.

In the end, its all about stock prices and the dollar, rest assured that customer service is the last thing on the mind of the CEO of any corporation when he has to meet goal to get his annual bonus.

ASK YOUR FUNERAL PROVIDER WHO THEY ARE OWNED BY AND WHERE THE DECEASED WILL BE PREPARED AND HELD. Ensure your funeral provider is NOT just about "stock". The funeral industry is about compassion, understanding, and affordability.  Or at least it should be.

By the way, if you didn't realize, we are NOT corporate owned.  We are here to serve our community, not a CEO's bonus package.