Thursday, August 25, 2011


Yesterday I spoke with the director over at the State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers in regards to an issue that was brought to my attention. It seems that we were being refereed to as  a "Low Cost" funeral home.

"Low Cost" Hmmmmmmmm!

Well let's have a look at that phrase. You see, in today's economy, we tend to try and follow the trend. Right now it is my observation that many families can not afford steak every night for dinner. There for something simple like chicken and noodles or even sopa and arroz will suffice. I am not saying there is anything wrong with such a simple meal, but for some, this has become the "norm".

Now steak is a good meal, and I like steak, but again in today's economy it appears more and more that steak, as much as we like it in America is becoming a luxury. We, as a society, a vast majority of this society can no longer afford to eat steak three times a week. Times have changed, and society, to include businesses must understand that our spending habits and budgets have and will change with the times. Lets take into consideration Applebee's 2 for $20 dinners. They get it. Need I say more?

So, lets get back to that topic or that label of being a "Low Cost" funeral home. Now, there is a corporation that owns a chain of funeral homes in the valley that they pride themselves in referring to these locations as "Low Cost" facilities. This is the marketing tactic they feel they need to do to separate the haves and have-nots, the blue collar from the white collar or for a more understandable perspective, the rich from the poor.

There are also some independent funeral facilities in the valley that follow in the same footsteps as these corporate funeral giants doing the exact same thing, separating or trying to separate the classes.

Buy a car?
Again, back to the topic of "Low Cost" funeral home label. Well, I don't look at it like that, in comparison to my corporate competitors the next small town over. We here at Avenidas still are able to provide an elegant facility, larger selection and more personalization, more options than they can or will. All this at still a more affordable price not a lower cost or "Cheaper Price" ( did I not do a blog on this when we first opened?). If it is your desire to have more than they offer, THEY will be referred to the "White Collar" side of their funeral chains or the "haves" side of their business, or to keep it  simple, the richer side of the funeral chain.

Observe or listen to the words that fellow funeral establishments share with you either in print, in person or "on the PHONE" when you are shopping around.

Degrading or insulting comments are a facilities way of making a last ditch effort to get you to come into their facility or not to leave their facility. If this is all they can do by insinuating their competitors affordable charges equal substandard or immoral practices or service, then consider moving on. These are gimmicks of a shoddy used car salesman that is itching to get your cash in his or her pockets. Is this the type of facility or staff you want preparing your services?

Over the top advertising be it through busy sloppy adds that are almost overwhelming is a sign of corporate splatter (as I like to refer to it) or over convincing. Is it necessary? Should your facility, your name and reputation not speak for itself?

Once again back to the topic at hand, "Low Cost" funeral home. Instead of entertaining this phrase any longer, I feel very comfortable in accepting the label or referral as "Affordable Priced or "Comfortably Affordable".  At Avenidas Funeral Chapel I no longer feel that we have to nor have we ever had to prove our pricing, our staff or our services to anyone. We are good at what we do, we are proud of what we do and we are here to do what we do for you, in a comfortable, affordable and dignified location.

Remember, this is what they want you to believe.
Remember, if someone is referring to another location as "Low Cost" all they are doing is pointing the finger back at themselves and saying "Over Priced and over rated in their own eyes". OR! if they are corporate its all about "We have a quota to meet at all cost".

So check out that "Low Cost independent" facility as referred to by another local competitor, I think you will be amazingly surprised as to what you will find.

And again, I will stand on my comment that we have NEVER, EVER referred to any other location, be it by name, corporate name or street address to promote or belittle their services or staff, pricing or facilities. We do not, we will not.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


WOW! Delicious chicken...
Yesterday on my way home from work I decided to stop of at a local chicken joint and get a bucket of chicken.  It was a regular day and I decided to walk in instead of going through the drive thru to get my chicken. So I walked into this place and there were three people in the place behind the counter. A young lady, lets call her Diana, walked up to the counter and said “Hi! Welcome to Chicken Land” (fictitious name) can I help you?” Diane had the best demeanor that I have ever seen in a “chicken place”. I was really blown away by her friendly greeting and real sincere desire to help me select the right chicken to suite my needs and hunger.  I asked her, Diane, how long have you worked here? She said a while since she graduated from high school; she needed a job until she could decide what she was going to do. I was really blown away. Most places it takes all you have to ignore the fact that the kid behind the counter trousers are hanging below his…, well, you know.
Will that be a wing or a thigh?
I worked fast food during high school and I know what its like to have to deal with people and food.  It is really hard to deal with people on a daily basis who really don’t seem to care who you are, only that they are hungry and they want the chicken on the racks behind you and they have about 20 minutes to eat and get back to work.

I know Diane could not have made $7.50 an hour MAX and for that, she gave me a great smile, a pleasant greeting and was quick to retrieve my chicken.  As I left it almost didn’t seem fair that she did all that for me, put the cash in the company drawer and commenced to grab a towel to wipe down the tables out front. The sad part being, her boss back in chicken central in Kentucky does not know nor will they ever know or care who this person is on the front line in the chicken wars. They just want her to push the chicken.
So why am I doing all I can to bring Diana and the chicken fiasco to your attention? This is a simple person doing a very simple job as she goes through life serving people for such a small hourly wage. I’m sure that at the end of the week she gets her check and goes home and is happy to have served a few people some chicken and earn a little wage to enjoy her weekend, help out around the house or maybe care for her family. The point here is Diane did not appear to me to be very self deserving with her attitude in her job or position.
So many in this industry we call funeral appear to me to feel that way. I talked to a man as of this week who was trying to do a simple cremation for his sister. He shared with me that he called 13, that’s thirteen, funeral homes prior to our location before he felt comfortable enough to work with one. He was amazed at the charge for a direct cremation. He kept asking, and what else…, and what else….. Nothing I shared with him. Direct Cremation, $585 complete. All included.

I was told by this gentleman that he was disappointed with how insensitive the industry appears, once they make the pitch for the big sale and all you want is the direct cremation, it’s like the air is let out of the counselor’s sail. They just don’t appear to care. "They cant get me off the phone quick enough" he said. He asked me,  "Why do people not care or act like they are doing you a favor by talking to them? Why do they act as if you are asking them to throw a piece of trash away for them? That's my sister!" He said.

I shared with him that it is my belief and experience that: (I am not an expert now!)
  • 1. MOST Corporate funeral staff work on commission for the service packages sold, a direct cremation does not draw that much commission for the arranger, if any at all.  Remember, anyone who has the opportunity to receive a commission on a sale will sell you ANYTHING for that commission. The more sold, the bigger the commission.  There is the incentive.
  • 2. Smaller funeral homes don’t make that much on direct cremations so whether one is provided or not, there is no great loss of revenue. Some care, some don't. 
  • 3. Corporate staff works by the hour, they are not serving from a family owned point of view, in other words, it’s just a job to them, not something they originally chose to do.
  • 4. The employee just doesn’t care. Its an easy weekly check for them, either they help you or not, at the end of the day they just punch the clock and go home.
Bla Bla Bla, I have no time for this....
My 13 years of experience leads me to believe that a vast majority of poor service in the funeral industry falls under number 4. And they don't care. Most of these people should not be working in the death care industry. They took the job out of necessity and lack the passion and compassion to serve people during these trying times. Remember, when you find yourself talking to a person that is giving you the impression that you are annoying them, disturbing them or is spending more time talking or laughing with someone in the background or being put on hold, do yourself a favor and hang up, because they don't care, not for you, or the next caller.
There are a lot of good honest people out there that work in this industry because they really want to help people, both corporate and independent. Let me repeat that! There are a lot of good honest people out there that work in this industry because they really want to help people, both corporate and independent. Now the reason I repeat that is because I don’t want my post to be interpreted as one that is laying blame on all others and making myself the beacon of light in the funeral industry.
The funeral industry has its good and bad, like, uh, let’s see……. steel mills, churches, shoe stores, window cleaners, gardeners and yes even chicken land!
So the next time you find yourself in need, please call around, with a little luck and good reception from a caring individual, you just might run into a caring counselor who will greet you with a gentle smile, a caring heart, a gentle touch and does her job not for the bonus or the hourly wage, but because she wants to help you.

Even if your just buying a bucket of chicken.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


What You Get and What You Don't Get...

All veterans are entitled to burial in a national cemetery, a grave marker (regardless of the cemetery), and a flag. Spouses and dependent children are also entitled to a lot and marker but only in a national cemetery. There will be no charges for opening or closing the grave, a vault or liner, or setting the marker in a national cemetery. Depending on the circumstances, a family will be responsible for all other expenses including transportation to the cemetery.
  • Death during active duty. All funeral expenses will be paid by the military—body preparation, casket, transportation to the place of disposition, interment (if in a national cemetery), and marker. In addition, as of July, 2005, next-of-kin are entitled to a "death gratuity" of $100,000, retroactive to October 7, 2001.
  • Death due to a service related injury. There is a $2,000 "burial allowance" for these veterans which may be used to cover some of the funeral director's expenses, the casket, and transportation to the cemetery. IF death occurred in a VA facility, transport of the body to the cemetery will be paid, provided it is no farther than the last place of residence. If burial is not in a national cemetery, there is a $300 "interment allowance," but it is unlikely that will cover opening and closing or vault charges, let alone the cost of the lot. Although a marker is available at no charge, the private cemetery will probably have a setting fee.
  • Nonservice-related death in a VA facility OR while collecting a VA pension or disability compensation. There is a $300 "burial allowance" which may be used to defray some of the usual funeral expenses. Although burial in a national cemetery is free to these veterans, all other mortuary expenses are the responsibility of the family. Transportation to a national cemetery (not farther than the residence of the deceased) will be provided only if the death occurs in a VA facility. The $300 interment allowance applies when burial is in other than a national cemetery.
Death of a veteran outside a VA facility, not receiving military pension or compensation. The $2,000 and $300 benefits do not apply, nor is there reimbursement for transportation to the cemetery. The lot in a national cemetery, any required vault, interment, a marker, and flag are the only burial benefits. If interment is in other than a national cemetery, the family is responsible for the cost of the lot, opening and closing charges, the vault, and any fee charged for setting the government marker if that is selected. The family must also bear all other funeral costs.
Spouse and Dependents
  • A spouse and dependents of an eligible veteran are entitled to burial in a national cemetery even if the veteran is not buried there.
    A spouse who remarries a nonveteran may claim burial rights from the prior marriage.
    Spouses receiving military pay and who die in a military medical facility are eligible for military transport to the nearest national cemetery or no farther than the last permanent residence.
    Adult children of veterans are entitled to burial benefits only if disabled and dependent.
Others Who May be Eligible
  • There are a number of others eligible for veterans' burial benefits if the person has provided military-related service. The list is quite long and includes civilians who were involved with military efforts during war-time. Members of the National Guard and Reserves with 20 years of service are eligible. Some Public Health Service personnel are also eligible. You should inquire if you believe you might be entitled to such benefits.
Persons Not Eligible
  • Divorced spouses
  • Adult children
  • Parents, siblings and others—even if they are dependents
  • Those with a dishonorable discharge
  • Those convicted of subversive activities and capital crimes


  • Memorials are available to all veterans, spouses, and dependent children buried in a national cemetery and will be set without charge. For veterans who died before Sept. 11, 2001, markers are available to them —not to the spouse or dependents—for use in other cemeteries unless the grave has already been marked by a private memorial. For veterans who died on or after Sept. 11, 2001, the government will provide a headstone even if the grave already has a private marker. The installation cost must be borne by the family when in a non-government cemetery. Several styles of markers are available and must be consistent with existing monuments. Niche markers for cremains are also available.
    Inscription must include name, branch of service, year of birth, year of death—in this order—and may include emblem of belief, rank, and decorations earned. At private expense, additional items—such as nick-names and terms of endearment—may be added but must be approved by the VA.

Miscellaneous Benefits & Other Information

  • You may not reserve space in a national cemetery ahead of time; arrangements are made only at the time of death. Therefore, there is no guarantee that spouses will be interred side-by- side.
  • Burials in a national cemetery are not usually conducted on weekends.
  • National cemeteries provide space for both body burial and cremated remains.
  • Check with the cemetery regarding gravesite adornments other than natural cut flowers.
  • Military honors or a funeral honor guard may be available from nearby military installations or veterans groups. Fly-overs are reserved for those on active duty at the time of death.
  • A flag is provided on request for the burial of any veteran. Apply through the VA and pick up at a U.S. Post Office. Family members may wish to purchase a flag case for later display, available through private sources.
  • Next-of-kin, other relatives or friends may request a "Presidential Memorial Certificate." More than one may be requested.
  • A family may apply directly to the VA for all benefits. Although it may be convenient to let the undertaker do so, you may wish to ask if the mortician charges for submitting claims.
  • When the body of a veteran without next-of-kin is unclaimed from a VA facility and the estate is without sufficient assets, the VA will assume responsibility for burial.
  • Other than for sea burial, there are NO casket requirements for routine body burial. An undertaker handling the unclaimed body of a vet must supply something more durable than cardboard, unless the body is to be cremated.
  • "No-fee" passports are available for family visiting overseas grave-sites or memorials.
  • The National Cemetery System may be asked to do a search to locate anyone interred in a national cemetery. In addition to general vital statistics, you will need to know the state from which the veteran entered military service.
  • There are STATE-run veterans cemeteries that may offer the same or similar benefits, with some restrictions. For a listing of VA cemeteries, check


Lets unlock this mess
The VA has gotten numerous complaints from vets who were approached by large CORPORATE commercial cemetery and funeral outfits offering free cemetery lots or other so-called veterans benefits for a minimal fee. These offers are made thru various veterans organizations thru free breakfast or lunch seminars to supposedly explain their "Free Cemetery Benefits" that they offer. Please understand that cemetery benefits offered by these organizations are already offered by the veterans administration at no charge to you or your family. It is the hope of these CORPORATE agencies that you are unaware of your already free and earned cemetery benefits and that you will not question the legitimacy of their credentials or assumed representation of any government agency. This can be confusing and misleading for some elderly veterans. Please be cautious.

They DO NOT represent the U.S. government or the VETERANS ADMINISTRATION! 

Please ensure that you are not being manipulated into purchasing items and privileges that you are already entitled to at no charge to you.

Be sure to ask:
  • Must you also purchase another lot at the same time to get anything free?
  • Can my spouse be buried with me at your cemetery for free?
  • Can I be buried with my spouse at your cemetery for free?
  • Can my spouse and I be buried together at a National cemetery? (this should be yes)
  • Is the cemetery or any part there of maintained by the federal government?
  • Where is it located?
  • How much will it cost?
  • Is it a national cemetery?(We have a National Cemetery Section) wrong answer
  • Can I get the same at a National cemetery for free? (this should be yes)
  • Is "perpetual care" additional?
  • What are the costs for opening and closing each grave?
  • Must certain memorials be purchased through the cemetery?
  • Am I entitled to a free memorial marker from the federal government? (this should be yes)
  • Can it be placed at your cemetery? (this should be yes)
  • What are the costs for setting memorial markers?
  • Is a vault required? Even for cremated remains? May it be purchased elsewhere?
  • Are there marker or planting restrictions?
  • What are the "administrative" charges?
  • Who owns the cemetery? Is it a Corporation?
  • Is there a nearby Veterans cemetery which charge nothing to me for the same services? (this should be yes)
  • Do you, your CORPORATION or any of your agents represent the federal government in any way at all?
  • May I have a business cards and name to present to the local Veterans administration for verification?
Understand your benefits and what you have earned, do not be scammed into purchasing something that is already yours. If you are the child of an elderly veteran, please accompany them to these so called "free seminars" to assist them in understanding their true benefits and legal rights. Never sign anything without first presenting it to the local veterans administration offices for verification. If you feel pressured, walk away...

Burial At Sea

Burial At Sea Burial (or the scattering of cremains) at sea is available to all veterans and dependents, and is provided by the Navy or US Coast Guard. A flag is required, and—if supplied by the family—can be returned. If supplied by the Navy, it will not be.
Because sea burials are done at the convenience of the military, the family may not witness sea burial.
Bodies waiting for sea burial must be embalmed to a state of preservation that will last for at least 60 days. (This is accomplished with undiluted embalming fluid; "stiff.")
A nonsealing metal casket must be used, bound with six bands of nylon. The casket must carry 150 lbs. of extra weight.
Two-inch holes (20 total) must be drilled in the top, bottom, and at each end.

To reach the regional Veterans office in your area, call 800-827-1000.

Semper Fi