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.

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