Sunday, September 25, 2011


Wow, this is a tough one.

First -  Every funeral home's pricing is affordable to someone, and any funeral home can charge whatever amount they want. No matter how ridiculously high the price is. This is not illegal. .

Second -  Corporate funeral homes, or ANY funeral home on cemetery property will charge you the most outrageous price they can, you are an easy sell. They feel you will probably expect to stay there because you think they will take care of you.... they won't.  Be cautious of the phrase "now lets go over to the mortuary now that we are done with the cemetery part" YOU are to think this is appropriate and you are obligated, you are not.

This is a story about one of those locations, it is factual, you will be surprised and stunned. Read on.

Now, to the left  is a rental casket, the casket shell is re-used and the interior is removed with the deceased and sent to cremation in a INSERTABLE and removable  rigid cardboard container.  The cardboard container costs the mortuary about $170 to $220. The use of the rental shell costs you from $330 (Avenidas Funeral Chapel) and up to and over $900 at some corporate funeral homes. Mind you, this is a "REUSABLE CASKET" and you are just paying for the shell, this does not include the insert. The casket itself costs the funeral home about $1,500.

Now, to your right is a CREMATION Casket. Cremation caskets are a one time use casket that is used for the service, viewing and storage of the deceased and then cremated with the body. They are UNIQUE to caskets because they have little if no metal in them. Cremation caskets are the "NEW" burial casket (for revenue) to the funeral industry. Even though less costly to make than their metal burial counterpart (most anyways and most come from China), The price on these caskets is climbing more and more and more. The funeral home needs to  charge you more to compensate for the amount lost due to lack of burial services. Not understanding that the general community is turning to cremation due to its affordable appeal to the community, a vast part of the funeral industry feels that the consumer will not know the difference in service prices, all that they will know is that disposing of a human body will cost the same, no matter what. The corporate funeral chains count on your ignorance of the procedure and its pricing to make money. Remember, 69% of services in Arizona are CREMATION! 38% to 70% nationally.

All that said, do you see much of a difference in the two caskets? Yet the cremation casket costs more for the same thing....

The use and sale of a CREMATION casket is highly encouraged by the industry over a RENTAL casket. Why you ask? Revenue. They also have more pressure power (playing on your emotions to not use a rental) over the rental, AND, this is the big one, not only are you charged for cremating the deceased, you are also charged for burning the casket, this with the excuse that it takes more time, more fuel,  more time means fewer cases (bodies) can be cremated that day.

The corporate and high cost funeral establishment would like to do away with the rental casket, at up to and over $900 profit in a single use, and that's just for the casket, they feel there is no money in it. That's over $900 and up.... no money?

The Story

A family came to us about 10 days ago in search of a solution to their funeral/cremation nightmare.  This family had lost a member and decided to go to a local mortuary/cemetery location in their neighborhood.  Not even aware that this was a corporate funeral home, they decided that it was most convenient.  The deceased most simple wish was the have a visitation with the body present yet no viewing, (closed casket), military honors or flag folding with three active duty members to do this, playing of taps, a few words from a minister and memory folders. Total time, 30 minutes for family, 2 1/2 hours for everyone else, in the evening. Then on to cremation.

As you have read everything above, no more, no less, total cost - $8,100.

Our cost for the same thing with the Rental Casket?  around $2,300.

The difference  - $5,300

That is Eight Thousand One Hundred Dollars!

I don't know if you are aware of it or not, the same price at any other facility will get you a full blown burial with visitation, church service, hearse, flowers, cemetery costs, book, folders, military honors, escorts, limousine for  the  family,  memorial video, casket cross, clergy and on and on...

There are a few things that I find VERY disturbing about this poor family's case.

1. They  were not wealthy -  They did not have a large amount of capital (cash). Yet the counselor sat them down and ensured they spent as much money as they could possibly spend giving them absolutely no advice on how to save and cut corners. The counselor DID NOT take the families budget into account. If an arrangement/funeral counselor does not even mention or bring up your budget, you should consider this a red flag. Be warned, they are not looking out for your best interest at all.

2. There was no viewing -  Yet  the family was required to have the deceased  dressed, prepared and embalm (perhaps they were NOT told it was not required and afforded the family to act on their assumptions and have it done, this is not uncommon).  Embalming is not required by law, and I am also aware that this facility only requires embalming and dressing if their will be a viewing, the body was not viewed. This is a direct violation of the Arizona State Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers rules and the "Funeral Law" established by the Federal Trade Commission. I find it hard to believe that a family that was short on funds would request these procedures if they could not be afforded.

3. The casket -  Why in the world would a family that was not in a financial position to afford such an extravagant casket that would be cremated, choose such a vessel over a rental casket, that looks the same, if not better and costs much much less. Because the ARRANGER merely rolled over from the planning stage to "now lets pick the casket", not ever offering the family the more affordable rental casket.

Seeing how uninformed they were of what to do and how to do it, this trusted funeral arranger merely took full advantage of this poor grieving family. This funeral arranger failed in all areas to assist this family in making the right decisions. Thus, when the the family left the facility, they immediately called us and were very much filled with anxiety and spoke with our counselor with a "What have we done" tone in their voice.

The sad thing about all this is, even though the family spent this exorbitant amount of money at this facility, the funeral staff and managements could not see it in themselves to at least offer a register book.


Now, many may ask, if the family was in such financial distress, why did they pay it and why did they not leave?

1. Shame - Many counselors will subtly put the burden of shame on a family to encourage them to stay, "Are you sure you want to go to a CHEAPER location". No one uses the  rental casket these days, really, a rental casket? Are you sure that's what you want for your DAD? You know someone else has used that don't you?"

2. Fear - Fear of legal retribution from the corporate giant. Nice facility, nice suits, hefty prices equals one thing, big lawyers. The family thinks that because you sign a contract, you are bound financially to the services requested. The only financial responsibility you have is that which has been accomplished up to the time you change your mind and have the loved one removed from the facility, I.E. removal, refrigeration etc.  The word "contract" is used as much as possible in an arrangement conference giving you the illusion this is a legal session. Making you feel very intimidated or very important. It is meant to be that way.

3. Guilt - Isn't your dads, life, service to country and Blah, Blah Blah worth all this at least?

4. Uninformed - People are told "Surely your aware that the cost of funerals are going up and up and up.  Oh all funeral homes charge just about the same these days, It's the economy, Burial costs about the same as cremation, well you did ask for the most affordable package". 

5. Trust  -We thought we could trust him/her. They seemed so nice, it was a nice place, They ensured us that is the best we could do. We signed a contract, we did not know we could change our minds or services. They referred allot to God and religion."They told us to trust them". 

6. Unaware -  We  did not know we had options outside of the packages that were presented to us. We thought we had to take all that other stuff that came in the package. Stuff we don't understand and won't use that cost a lot of money. When we inquired we were told, "you have to take it, it comes with the package, I didn't know we could walk out, I didn't know that we could shop around".

7. Confusion - We were so confused, we did not know what half of what we were being told was, all we knew is that we thought it was "REQUIRED".  We were not told it wasn't.

8. Commission - The driving force behind this counselors sale is NOT your best interest, it is a commission payment that they receive to sell the largest, most expensive package. Corporate funeral ARRANGERS, as they are called, are traditionally low paid inexperienced sales people who profit off of your misery. Their mission is to turn big dollars for the "company" to insure that corporate stocks do not fall.

The Outcome

In the end, out of a sense of guilt and desire to honor their  financial  commitment  to this corporate  facility, the family did stay with them.  They apologized a great deal to my counselor over the period of the service. Why? Because they failed to remember that they had a member in the family that worked at a family owned and operated funeral home.  They made a very bad decision and did not know nor were not told by their "COUNSELOR" how to change it let alone get out of it. This would never happen because the counselor would lose the commission. Of course he/she will not guide you to a more affordable service.

Remember something, The responsibility of the counselor/arranger/director, or who ever sits with the family to make the arrangements is to ensure they are aware of what is, and what is not required, needed or the law. If all the counselor does is sit in the room and tell you "What do you want" they are allowing you to act on what your "assumed" Idea of what a service consists of" or what you need. Most things that ARE recommended, are usually not necessary.

If you say,

"I think we need embalming"
They will embalm and charge you.......

Don't we need to buy a casket?
They will sell you a casket.......

Do we need a Limo?
They will get you a Limo....

How about an urn?
They will pull out the urn book for selection....

You got it! CONTRACT!

And so on, and so on, and so on............

Corporate funeral provider will sit there and let you assume all you can about the funeral industry and do little to share with you the do's and don'ts about what is required, and what is not. They will then add all this to your service thus applying it all to your "contract" and ringing up those unnecessary charges you thought were required.

You, on the other hand will assume that them sitting there and putting all this to your "contract" as you ask about it  is acknowledgment that it is required, and you will pay for it. Silence is golden, and profitable.

Remember the only interest they are looking out for, is the bonus payment they will get at the end of the week, and unfortunately you will be the one paying for that bonus.

This is a very sad story, but this is not uncommon in the corporate funeral industry. Please do not let this fall on you as a victim. It is in your best interest to be aware, be advised, and be warned of these scandalous practices done by funeral counselors who are hoping for the big commission dollar at at the expense of your sorrow and misery.

Monday, September 19, 2011


A simple dream

About two years ago I lost my job as a dragline operator. I had decided to move into heavy equipment after I made a conscious decision to leave the funeral industry due to my observation of what I felt was a very greedy and corrupt industry. I really did not want much to do with it. I found myself really disliking people who worked in the industry, not because of what they did, but because of who and how they did it to people. I care a great deal for people and want to help as much as I could, but I also found myself working for people and corporations whose main concern was how much can you bring to the table when you make arrangements with a family. It was all about the numbers.

I spoke with my Mom in depth about what I could do, she said that I should do what I was good at, helping people to bury and grieve over their loved one. I sat down and wrote up a business plan, for one year I spent time putting together a small business that I felt could do better than those around me and be humble enough to not make a family uncomfortable with what I was trying to do for them. I knew a few people in the industry and one suggested I go talk to a man by the name of Tony Cerillo, Tony is the owner of "Serenity Mortuary Services". Serenity is the facility I use to do my family's cremations. Tony has been in the industry for 40+ years, and he was voted the number one funeral director in Arizona in 2009. I could not think of a better man to seek guidance from, and that's all I wanted, I really wanted to do this on my own. 

We found two or three locations at first, one always seemed to give way to the next until finally I found myself in the west valley. Goodyear then Avondale, I went through the motions of petitioning the city  of Avondale to open in the "old town" district. I hat to go through a 4 month process before I could open. The location I found was the old "Western Avenue Baptist Church" on Western Avenue. It needed a bit of work, ok, allot of work. But we did it. I remember when I was out and about picking furniture for the funeral home people would ask what I was doing with it, I would tell them, "I'm opening a funeral home". They thought I was crazy. I had so much furniture and equipment stored in my garage at home that I had to rent out a storage unit.

All the re-modeling we did by ourselves. We didn't want to go "over the top". We were on a tight budget and we wanted the place to be like as if you were at your own home. I think we succeeded. People always say that when they come in.


On September 21st,  2010 we opened our doors. I made it a very good point to have a very good relationship with any merchandise providers that sold retail to the community. It was not my intent to burn any bridges before  I crossed it. I tried to reach out to other local funeral establishments in the area, but before I was afforded the opportunity, they were already doing what they could to interrupt my business. From contacting funeral merchandise providers and telling them if they chose to provide services to Avenidas, then their services were no longer needed by them. Some service providers stayed with me, some left. That's ok.

I developed a very good working relationship with some very loyal merchants to include Serenity Mortuary Services, PBF Caskets and Urns, Desert Oasis Flower Shop, Ken Wyman, John Moreno, Eddies Caskets, West Valley View Newspaper, Sunflower Flowershop and Gifts, and many, many  local and national providers. I have also tried very hard to create and maintain good working relationships with other funeral homes such as South Mountain Mortuary, Harper Funeral Home, Ganley's Buckeye Funeral Home and many other funeral locations throughout Arizona and southern California and all my Brothers and Sisters at American Legion Post 61 in Avondale.. I enjoy a very good working relationship with The Mexican Consulate of Phoenix, Maricopa County Coroners Office and Office of Vital Records.

I have made it a point to reach out to some of the local worship facilities in the area, again some have been receptive, some have not. My thanks goes out to clergy and staff of many local churches that have opened their doors to us,  and afforded me the opportunity to provide services to their church and congregation. My gratitude also goes out to many of the local hospices, hospitals, and charity groups, that have been instrumental in getting our message and mission out to the community. 

To serve the community

Since we opened our doors we have been privileged to be called on to serve approximately 145 families. We do not take this calling lightly. It has all ways been our intent to reach out to the community anyway we could. We have done this through Facebook, our Blog, which you are reading now (thank you for reading) called "Lets Talk About It", and good ol' fashioned word of mouth. My intent is to keep the community informed, be it through comical presentation of the industry and heartfelt disturbing events that others have had the misfortune of happening to them. As comical or sad as it may seem at times, it has always been my intent to inform you anyway I could and help ensure that YOU are not the next story or nightmare someone else is reading about.

Pricing, Pricing has always been a big argument of mine, I feel very, very, VERY responsible to let the community know that it just does not cost that much. I have been told that I would not survive on what I charge, that we could not make it on our prices. Well, I beg to differ, In the year we have been open we have not incurred any debt, we have held our own and their is no "Big Bill" hanging over our head or "personal account" that we have had to dip into to save us. Because of you, the community we have survived the dreaded first year.

Now, how did we do this? We did it by treating you, the community as much more than a "case number". We did this by dressing and behaving a little more humble. We did this by not trying to pretend we are anymore than we are. There is a saying in the military, "We put our pants on just like you, one leg at a time". We pride ourselves in that we don't need to charge an arm and a leg so we can enjoy those luxuries in life that others can not. One of the requirements to work with us is that if you have an ego or arrogance about you, there is no room in our business for you.

My Veterans

It has been also my intention to serve the Military Veterans Community.  To provide them with the most affordable dignified services taking into consideration their service to country first and ensuring we have done everything we can so the veteran will be rewarded with all he/she deserves. Veteran services are not just a "job" to us, they are the special recognition that so many have been denied, and so many deserve on their way to rest.
No one has been turned away

Just like it says....... I honestly do think that everyone sees that all things are worth something, and all understand that things cost money, this is inclusive of a funeral service, BUT I fail to understand how anyone can charge the same amount of money for a casket than you would pay for a small car.

I can tell you in the year we have been open that no one has departed without service. We have done and will do everything we can to insure that a family is afforded a dignified service, be it direct cremation or burial. We have done all we can to assist.

Thank you!

Wednesday, September 21st 2011 is our one year anniversary. I kept telling my employees that all we have to do is get through that first year, get through that first year. Well we did. We did not open to be a flash in the pan, to raise our prices over the year to make more money, To gain the communities trust then sell out to a corporate giant. We opened to serve you, and without you, we would have never done this. We owe it all to you. WE are here for YOU!

We have been told we would not make it, we would be shut down and we would be run out of town. We were told we would not last due to our competitors "superior" service and "luxury" facilities. We were much to humble. Unfortunately, those that felt this way were unable to comprehend that "luxury, superiority and elegance" are the last thing on a families mind when they are grieving. The family knows it, some businesses do not, they are out of touch, they have wandered from the path. It is not about them, this is about you and your family.

At times like this, the family is in search of "comfort, dignity and respect". All the rest is just glitter. Glitter is not a emotion or feeling one expresses when they lose a family member or friend. Glitter is something you put on for a night on the town or to show another how important we are, most of the time this is done in fun. I have learned in the industry that granduer is not of great importance to a family when a person dies, not to those that are grieving anyways. Some may prefer it, and if they do its good to know that there are those locations out there.

Ours is just not one of them.

We are proud of that, you, the family's are the important ones.................., not us.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for allowing me to help you, serve you, guide you. I promise I will not let you down and we will always be here.

With much heartfelt respect,

Miguel A. Legaspi,
Owner, Avenidas Funeral Chapel

Oh!  Semper Fi (Always Faithful)

Friday, September 9, 2011


First things first, I believe in God.

I had the honor of assisting a family in the final arrangements for a family member that passed away this week. It was a difficult time for them, as all arrangement processes are. You try to take the burden from their shoulders as much as you can, its important to me that I take as much pressure off of the families shoulders as quickly as possible. I try very hard to put their minds at ease and afford them the opportunity to grieve and find support amongst themselves and friends.

One of the situations that arose was the families effort to locate a worship facility that they might be able to have a simple visitation and service at. It was becoming more and more of a hassle for the family so I stepped in to assist. I contacted one location in a neighboring town that the family had previously contacted and asked the minister if the chance was open for the church to provide its facilities to the family for a service. In the industry, it is not uncommon for a families minister or a minister to contact a local church and ask permission to use the facility for a service, even if the family member was not a member of the church.

I contacted this local church and communicated to the minister about the families situation, their small budget and perhaps if there was a way that this facility could assist in providing a location for the service.

Minister "X"
The first thing I was rudely told was, "Well, I talked to my insurance underwriter and he said it was too big of a risk, I can't do it". He hung up. I was shocked, I could not believe what just happened. Basically I was told by a local minister to go jump off a bridge, or words and meanings to that effect.

I sat at my desk numb, thinking for a minute what to do. I was a bit disturbed that a local worship facility would not even consider providing a simple 2 hour service to a local family. This minister did not even afford me the opportunity to offer a small honorarium to his facility for it's use.

After about five minutes I decided to call him back, I was to ask if perhaps I had misrepresented myself or came off the wrong way, I'm sure whatever it was I would be able to correct his misinterpretation of my request. Well, the phone was answered and again I re-introduced myself and I was told, "Where are you calling from?" I told him "Avenidas Funeral Chapel here in Avondale.   I was just hoping that a facility of God, that a family reached out to might re-consider to provide a service to the family?" "Who are you?" He shouted, "Are you chastising me"? At this point I realized I made a very big mistake trying to appeal to this mans emotions and compassion.

I was told, and I quote:

Look! I know exactly what you and your people are like, people like you coming here and breaking all their legs all over my parking lot and everything at MY church. I heard about those people, they're a problem, I have no time for you or your type here.

Pastor I thought the Church was suppose to help out by serving the community, I have a grieving family here, They need a little compassion and help. I don't think I'm asking for so much.

Oh yeah, and just how much are you making off of this family using my church? Whats in it for me? Why don't your people go bug the Catholics or someone else? Use their church. I bet she didn't even go here did she?, stop wasting my!

First off, I thought the the church was suppose to be the house of God that belonged to the people, I thought that even if a person was less than perfect that everyone was welcome in the house of the Lord. 

I was not aware that payments for services were required and expected.


I want to know exactly what was meant by the comments "your people" and "they're a problem" and "you and your type".

Please don't think harsh of any church of God. I have worked with some very fine ministers, pastors and priests in my day.  Please remember that if you find yourself in a situation while looking for a worship facility for a service and your calls are not returned, you are given many excuses and much hesitation, or the topic of whether the deceased was a member of the congregation comes up over and over, or the topic of a honorarium comes up. Perhaps you should seek elsewhere.

I know one thing now, I will never recommend, nor ask a specific pastor or his church for a family while they are grieving and are looking for a compassionate soul to help them through these times.