Saturday, December 25, 2010


I know I have been away a bit longer than usual. I apologize.

Now, what is this "Basic service of the Funeral Director and Staff"?

On every funeral contract and for every service, one of the first charges you will see is the "Basic Service of the Funeral Director and Staff".

This is easy to understand but one of the least explained by the staff. For every service provided, you have to take into consideration that there are items and services outside of those itemized on the price list.

As any business, services provided are time consuming and are broken down to how and why they are a necessity in the "Basic Service" charge.

The Arrangement Meeting - this takes about one to two hours. This is when the family comes in and sits with the counselor to make selections, provide information and decides on dates. If a family is unaware as to what they may wish to do for services, this could take even longer or even require a return appointment to finalize the services.

Administrative duties - NOT VERY COMPLICATED! Don’t be mislead.

1.    Arrangement meeting with the funeral director OR staff – 2 hours. (You may not always meet with the funeral director)
2.    Processing information for the death certificate - MAXIMUM, 1/2 hour (Computer input, FAX, some phone)
3.    Order death certificates – 2 minutes, family has the option if they want, its not hard
4.    Processing the permit for cremation or burial – 0 minutes, the county does that
5.    Preparing the register book if personalized – 1 hour
6.    Preparing the memory folders or prayer cards - about an hour.
7.    Coordination with the cemetery - 5 minute, if the family didn’t beat you to it
8.    Contacting Social Security - 1 minute (FAX)
9.    Contacting the Veterans Administration (if eligible) - 3 minutes (FAX, phone)
10.  Ordering the casket - 45 seconds? maybe...
11.  Ordering the flowers - 1.5 Minutes
12.  Ordering the funeral escorts – 30 seconds (FAX)
13.  Ordering the limousine (family car) – 1 minute
14.  Obituary - 5 minutes
15.  Clergy Record – 10 minutes
16.  Music selection and arrangement – 5 to 10 minutes, depending on what the family wants
17.  Arrangement of Paul Bearers – 1 minute (Family provides)
18.  Arrangement and contacting clergy – 2 minutes
19.  Arrangement and contact with church – 5 minutes if required, also can pass info to the clergy

OK Now comes the interesting part, let’s just say your administrator is a few cans short of a six pack or not the fastest car on the race track, we will round everything up to get a final total of time.

Total time spent on all to include?  4 hours and 30 minutes give or take an hour.

So lets just say your Basic service charge is $950 as per your general price list.

Lets figure this out!

$950 ÷ 4.5 hours = $211an hour

Are any of these administrative duties worth $211.00 an hour? My 12 years of experiance in the funeral industry tells me NO!.

An administrator making $211 an hour would make $8,440 a week, $438,880 a year OR $4,388,800 over 10 years.
This is stupid, greedy and ridiculaous!

REMEMBER! This is PER CASE, Not per week, or per month.

Oh, one more thing included in this charge, there is this thing called;

 “Proportional share of the overhead cost”

I know, I know, ???

This is to include, but is not limited to;

·         Electricity
·         Water
·         Staff Salary
·         Supplies
·         Insurance
·         Auto payments
·         Mortgage payment
·         Toilet paper
·         Soap
·         Cleaning lady
·         Gardner for memory rock garden (if you have one)

If you can think up a reason to put it in there, an excuse will be made to put it in there.

Ok, so there you have it. But ask yourself, this is only the 1st charge of services, what about the rest of the charges we have to pay? What do they go to? Well profit, that’s ok isn’t it?

But how much is too much profit at the expense of my misery. Only you can ask and answer that. How much do you think you should have to pay? Nothing at any funeral home is etched in stone; if a funeral home does not choose to work with you, by all means, go down the road.

I don’t have any problems with a funeral home charging anything they want for services. What I DO have a problem with is any funeral home condemning and trying to chastise another location for trying to provide a more affordable economical solution to the overblown outrageous charges that have exploded out of this market.

If you feel comfortable going to a more pricy location, then please, feel free. But at the same time lets not think less of those that try to use a little better sense on their behalf by trying to stick with services that are within their budget and are presentable and acceptable for not only the family, but also the community that chooses to use those facilities. There comes a point when those condemning start to walk a fine line between the “haves” and the “have not’s”, placing themselves on their self-identified more affluent and upper crust of the pie…

Thursday, December 16, 2010


CREMATION COSTS A FUNERAL HOME ABOUT $155... and maybe 20 minuets of administrative work.

All funeral homes offer some type of cremation service, many locations offer direct cremation as the quickest and easiest way to complete the disposition process of a friend or loved one. It is a low cost service that many funeral homes have been trying to find different ways to be creative and incur more cost in a simple service to supplement the loss in burial services.

 Most funeral homes use one of 3 cremation facilities in the valley to cremate, needless to say if you are being charged more than $800.00 for a direct cremation, beware, a vast majority,(around 80%) of that price is profit. Be concerned... It is all the same procedure, done at the same place, the same way..

In the valley, you can get drug over the coals (no pun intended) for about $2,600 for a direct cremation. That's right, some places are charging over $2,600 dollars for this simple procedure.

 Cremation is up to 69% in the state of Arizona, that is a steady increase of about 4% a year. Funeral homes traditionally count on the myth that "Hispanics Don't Cremate" Magic Word? Myth. Traditionally the Hispanic, Catholic faith client is a cash cow and is preyed upon by the industry for its large BURIAL services and cash spent...Beware...

Direct cremation is becoming the new "MAGIC CASKET" profit that mortuaries have been looking for to replace their "DWINDLING CASKET REVENUE". It does not cost that much so you should NOT be charged that much. If you are paying that much, the only driving factor behind this outlandish price is...


Sunday, December 12, 2010


So you are brought aware of the death of a friend of yours, you couldn’t make it to the services. You realize that the funeral home used by the family is not in the local area they lived in, and the date of service is a few days from the date of death. You wonder why it took so long for the family to handle the arrangements and why they chose a location on the other side of town. Finally after it is all over, you run into a mutual friend of the family who attended the service and you ask;
So was it a good funeral or just a cheap knock off?
What did I just type? What did I just insinuate?
Not the type of question you would ask is it? As a matter of fact, some of us often wonder when a friend or family member dies how the immediate family is going to afford the services that are mandatory to reach a final disposition of the body. Burial or cremation, full services or just a simple visitation…a decision has to be made.
This goes back to my original posts when we first opened and how you would be lead down the path to believe that you should be ordering the french cuisine of funerals when all you might be able to afford is a simple burger. In the end, both meals fill you up, but with a burger you won’t get stuck sitting at the table figuring out how you are going to pay for what you just ate.
I don’t think I ever mentioned it but…
There are no payment plans, no credit applications, cash, check or credit card UP-FRONT. AND after burial, the funeral home can NOT threaten you with digging up the loved one to receive final payment.
I have seen funeral homes ask families if they have:
  • Fine jewlery
  • Antiques
  • Stocks
  • Automobiles
  • Motorcycles (specifically Harley Davidson)
  • Mobile Homes
  • Deed to property
  • A house
Be very careful of those facilities you use, I will be the first to tell you that "some" of those "affordable" locations can be less than reputable. When all else fails, try to raise funds through civic events such as car washes, bake sales and try putting donation jars at local facilities in the neighborhood.

Of all things, TALK TO YOUR COUNSELOR! Let them know were you stand, keep them in the loop. Don't be embarrassed and be honest. If a funeral home can't understand your position and starts slamming you with $100.00 a day storage fee, consider moving on, find another facility. If you know you need to come up with the funds, the first question you should have is, "What is your daily storage or refrigeration fee?"

So why would I use the phrase “cheap knock off”? Well, because there are establishments out there that will try to convince you that anything other than the absolute BEST that THEY have to offer, or another funeral location, is just a cheap knock off.
The difference between what they offer and what you may choose is irrelevant when it comes down to affordability, and people will try to confuse you and throw this type of spin into your decision making process to encourage you to pay more for what you don’t need.
A full service funeral home is something that is designated to the facility by the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers. A funeral home can not designate itself with these credentials.
A great deal goes into the process of acquiring ones license in a specific location and neighborhood.
Some funeral home owners look for ready made and established facilities to purchase, put the key in the front door, and drive it away.  This already comes with the community relations the facility has with the community, thus the new owner takes not only the credit for all but also the fame of the facility.
Others prefer the “from the ground up” approach. They start with nothing and build from nothing. They reach out to the community and honestly search for those parts of the community they can serve the best and help. They establish a good working relationship with local law enforcement, fire department and charitable organizations. Some times they reach out to churches but remembering that not all individuals attend church services and that they must also be provided a dignified service to as well.
As you can see, there are those that think on the level of “classes of society” and who is most fitted to serve a specific class. That is fine. If facilities and individuals feel that this is how they need to operate by adjusting there pricing to accommodate those “select” classes, then so be it. I encourage free marketing in America, I fought for those principals and am glad to have provided that opportunity to everyone. But remember, YOU, as a consumer do NOT need to be mislead, misguided or confused when it comes down to what you are purchasing, why you are purchasing it and what its worth is to you when you are trying to do what you can with what you have.
On the other hand, some facilities do honestly only charge what a service and merchandise is worth, Seek them out, PLEASE! Compare and then decide. I encourage you!
Take the time to tour some of these labeled “cheap knockoffs”, and decide for yourself if you have been mislead. In the end, I’m sure you will see the difference and that difference will not be as financially painful as you originally thought.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


So, let’s talk about caskets. Those seven foot long, two and a half feet wide, two and a half feet tall boxes. Metal or wood, sealer or non-sealer, gasketed or non-gasketed, ornate or plain, fixed hardware or swing bar. Now I bet you’re confused.
The one and only thing all these have in common is they all do the same thing. Provide a “vessel” for the final disposition of a set of human remains in the ground, or to be cremated later.
Sounds kind of cold doesn’t it? It’s meant to, in fact I bet your thinking, “Well, if that’s the way you put it, I can make that myself”. Well guess what, YOU CAN! The law states in Arizona that the family has the right to provide any type of casket-like container for human remains internment to the mortuary and it can not be refused. (Or words to that effect). Cemeteries don’t care, as long as you use a dome liner; put it in a vault or a grave box. If it’s GOING IN THE GROUND, it is the law and they are just glad they sold the plot.
Let’s talk about the lifecycle of a casket.
A casket is born when a family purchases it.
 It is ordered by the funeral home from a local distributor. It is then delivered to the funeral home, inspected, dusted and shined. The deceased is placed in the casket. The visitation is then set up.
NORMALLY the casket is viewed for about three hours at the visitation - or all night/overnight vigil for some of you old-schoolers.
The casket is then taken for a ride in a nice car (hearse) for about 25 minutes.
The casket is then placed in a church for about 45 minutes.
The casket is then taken for another ride in a nice car (hearse) for about another 25 minutes. (This time probably with escorts.)
It is then displayed at a cemetery for about 30 minutes.
It is then lowered in the ground and covered with dirt. Total in ground life after being covered with dirt? Five months to five years.
So let’s just add up the total time use of the casket for the event.
3 hours + 25 minutes + 45 minutes +25 minutes + 30 minutes = 5 hours and 5 mintues.
This does not equal eternity, nor will the casket last for eternity. But you would be surprised how many times the word “eternity” may come up in a casket sale by a very clever sales representative.
Caskets are made by a variety of manufacturers in America and now abroad. I will list them below, along with what I would name as their equivalent in cars;
Batesville – Cadillac
Aurora – Lincoln
York – Chrysler
Astral – Chevy
There are various distributors in America. A vast majority of caskets made in America are made in or around Indiana. Over the last 5 years there has been a great influx of caskets from China that have SWAMPED the casket market. Casket distributors have tried desperately to hold out on this flood but have failed and now most distributors AND the big 4 (named above) are even including those Chinese caskets purchased at half the price of what it costs them to make them. China produces some spectacular wood caskets and very, very ornate caskets. In the end, I have YET in my 12 years in the funeral industry had a family ask me if a casket was made in China. By law, the seller must reveal this to you.  And even then, few care.
Caskets come in different thicknesses; steel 16 gauge, 18 gauge, 20 gauge, and copper or bronze 48oz or 32oz. The lower the steel gauge, the thicker the metal. The higher the oz, the thicker the metal. So why would you need one thickness over another? I don’t know! Personal preference or maybe you just WANT to spend more money.
A vast majority of wood caskets are imported from all over the world. Some are made here, but most are imports. No woods are gasketed or sealers.
Definition of Hardware:
Swing bar = handles are able to be swung on the side of the casket. (more expensive)
Fixed Bar = handles can not be moved (less expensive)
Corner pieces = corner pieces on the casket, the more ornate, the more expensive.
Gasket = rubber gasket goes around the inside of the casket, between the lid and bottom portion (more expensive)
Cranking locking device = key locking device on the foot of the casket, cranks the lid down on the gasket (MUCH MORE EXPENSIVE)
Head Panel = goes on the inside of the lid of the casket, embroidered, personalized (more expensive)
Single Color = that’s it, single color paint job, no gasket, simple fixed hardware. (VERY LEAST EXPENSIVE)
Look, in the end, there are about 500 different things you can know about caskets. If most casket venders were honest, you would not need to read this.  For the record, about 50% of your funeral home bill can be the casket sale if you’re not careful. Of that, about 50% to 70% of that casket cost is profit, which goes directly into the pocket of the funeral home.
Casket stores are interesting, but unfortunately most of them (not all) are starting to see the fat profit in caskets and are busy slamming the funeral home to you while they take money out of your other pocket.
You can buy a casket at ANY funeral home for ANY reason, even if it’s for a funeral at another funeral home.
The lesson here is why you would consider spending thousands and thousands of dollars on a box that is going in the ground after being viewed for a little over 5 hours.  This is a box that is probably nicer than any furniture you have in your house, or nicer than any car you have ever had. This has nothing to do with dignity for the deceased. This has nothing to do with laying them to rest in style.
This has to do with a casket purchase that you made, that’s all. If you want to do this, by all means go for it, but wouldn’t that be put to better use for something like……maybe a nicer marker, everyone will see that for a long, long time.
I have walked many cemeteries in my day, and in all those walks I have never been able to distinguish what casket was an ornate mahogany or a brushed metal bronze under my feet, or which one was a simple pine box under that beautiful marker.
When someone sees a beautiful headstone in a cemetery, someone is much more likely to think, “Man, how his kids must have loved him…”

Saturday, December 4, 2010



Last year there were 13,480 conventional burial in the state of Arizona. This constituted 30% of the death dispositions for the year of 2009. Although cremation still holds the lead (28,307 or 63%) when it comes to final disposition, as you can see, burial is still quite popular.

Regardless of how you look at it, burial is a money maker in the death care industry. A burial plot can run you anywhere from $3,100 to $8,000 at need (at need is when you need to purchase upon a death. I will refer to immediate burial as such in this topic).

First understand this, there are three things needed when you purchase a burial plot “at need”

1.      The burial plot
2.      Opening fees
3.      Closing fees
4.      A basic in ground container (what is this?)
5.      Perpetual care (promise to take care of the plot forever)
6.      A double depth grave IF you choose to bury one person on top of the other at a later date

Things you DO NOT NEED from the cemetery when you purchase “at need”

1.      A grave marker
2.      A grave marker base
3.      A memorial bench
4.      A flower vase
5.      A very expensive in ground fancy vault
6.      Another plot for future family members close to the purchased grave

Burial plots vary in price; remember the one farthest from “a tree” a specific “garden area” or “monument” will cost the least. A favored area by a specific race can also be very pricey. Choose a simple are away from everything. In time a tree will be planted and the rest of the graves will fill out to your selected grave site.

You will be charged an opening and closing fee, this is to dig the hole and fill it in. For safety reasons you will be told you can not do this by yourself to offset the fees.

There is no law in Arizona requiring an in ground container for a grave BUT! A cemetery, like they ALL do in Arizona require you to purchase a;

·         Dome Liner
·         Grave Box (single or double depth)
·         In ground vault

Why? You ask. They will tell you it is to prevent the ground from caving in once the casket collapses and deteriorates. (Selling point number one) Casket collapses? Deteriorates? Well this wont happen if you upgrade to a real expensive in ground vault.

You are not required, remember, a dome liner works fine and will you ever dig up the grave to view the deceased or see if the box collapsed? Probably not, so if you really want one to give you peace of mind, by all means, do as you will. In the end it is up to you.

Perpetual care ensures that the grass is watered; cut and the markers are weed whacked FOREVER! Ya think? Drive around the valley and look at some of those real old, old cemeteries in the valley that are overgrown or the markers are knocked down. Ask yourself then about “their” perpetual care. This is a scam but you can’t get around it.

A double depth grave is something to be taken into consideration if perhaps your parents are to be buried one above the other. This is a good idea if you want to honor their wishes. When you purchase a grave you only purchase the plot down to a certain depth, if you want to go deeper, you will have to pay for that space UNDER the grave. Go figure, another ploy to make money.

If cash is tight at the time of death, Purchase those things listed above under the first list.
DO NOT let anyone convince you that more is needed. You do not need a marker yet, a vase to locate the grave (selling point number two), a memorial bench. Or fancy anything.

If you purchase a vault or box or liner elsewhere (you can if you want), they WILL charge you an inspection fee(selling point number three). ENSURE IT IS INSPECTED if they charge you. This is another way to make money and or force you to purchase from them.

If you use a CORPORATE funeral home on CORPORATE cemetery property, they will refer you to the cemetery. Expect to pay hefty prices, there is no reduction in price for using the same facilities, they do not give discounts. They do not care.

In the end, I have one more recommendation, since the economy went south; many people have found themselves trying to sell off anything they can for finances to survive. This includes…… CEMETERY PROPERTY! All cemeteries recognize this and see it as a golden opportunity to re-purchase their sold plots at a real cheap price. In turn, so can you. I recommend going to the wonderful world of


There are dozens of locations available. You will incur“transfer of deed” fees.  Make sure everything is included. Call the plot owner and ask about those things listed above.

Burial is expensive but it can be done, watch you funds and stick to your budget.  

Oh, there is one cemetery in the valley that has the GUARANTEED lowest "at need" prices in the valley, contact me and I would be more than glad to put you in the right direction.