Sunday, November 27, 2011


Please enjoy this while you read, it makes me sit and think.
 “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’ ”

(Luke 2:8-14)

Christmas is coming!
I wish no ill will on anyone or their desire to help others, lets just be honest about why we do it and the drive behind our efforts.
This is one of the busiest times of the year for businesses, corporate and independent, large and small. This also includes the funeral industry. Now granted, no one can predict death to make it possible for the funeral industry to market its services at Christmas more reasonable over any other time of year. There is really nothing joyful or festive surrounding the death of a family member or friend. Quite the contrary, it is difficult.
So those in the industry sat down and put their heads together and tried to create a plan that could best market and serve the funeral industry. This through the loss of a family member or friend, focusing the families tragic loss around Christmas time. This is what they came up with.
I will break this plan down for you, and how this best serves the owner of a funeral home or corporate interests:
Pre-Need Funeral Insurance
Christmas is the best marketing opportunistic time of the year for a funeral homes pre-need program, especially if you experienced a death over the last year.  YOU are vulnerable, emotional, lonely and a target, be guarded.
Pre-need, what is that? What good could it possibly be other than to provide payment for services when the insured individual dies. Pre-need funeral insurance are NUMBERS! In the funeral industry, those numbers are guaranteed business, AND also increase the value of the funeral home should the owners decide to sell or should a buyer be looking at the funeral home, they would ask to look at the pre-need files that are on hand to see if those numbers would make it worth the $850,000 that the seller was asking for, if that.
A local funeral home the next town over sold to a corporation for a great deal of money, why? The location was not very nice, it was never open BUT! The pre-need files were of great value due to how many there were and the cost of each service. Remember, pre-need funeral insurance, this is the great “Black Friday” of the funeral industry.
Now lets talk about the memorial services that each funeral home will put on and why exactly they will do this and spend so much to impress you.
The Christmas Remembrance Ceremony
A vast majority of those that have Memorial Services in their facilities do not do this with a desire to assist you in the grieving process. You will be asked to bring a picture of your loved one if invited, there will be candles, lots and lots of candles, pictures of services gone by, the candle lighting ceremony, or something that will bring very, very strong emotions to you at a pinnacle moment, at this time you will be in the depth of the ceremony, and you will be approached to commit to something, even if its just a phone number, it is referred to  as a lead. These are of great value, read on and you will understand.
A funeral home or pre-need insurance sales person will pay up to $75 for a single lead from their corporate office. These leads are of great value to an agent and a funeral home. For them to be able to canvas the floor with prospective clients such as yourself for free is a godsend and will appear as if intoxicating.
There will be people there that you do not remember being there when you used the services of this facility. You may ask yourself, "Who are these people that are treating me as if they know me?" These people are the pre-need insurance sales representatives that you have NEVER met. All they care about is obtaining a contact, a "LEAD".  These are very carefully orchestrated and organized events, the only memory that the funeral home wants you to have when you leave is the memory of......... the funeral home and the pre-need agent. REMEMBER! these representatives were hand picked by the funeral home to help sell their facility to you, through pre-need insurance contract sales, to help replenish the mortuary files, that is all. Oh! and also get a fat commission check.

Thus, the Christmas Remembrance Ceremony! Oh there will be many! You can rest assured that EVERY corporate funeral home here in the valley if not all over this country will be conducting a remembrance ceremony. The staff is dressed all festive and there are decorations, lights, food, prayers, maybe a tree, free personalized  ornaments (nice ornaments), free pens and pads and candy and junk with the funeral homes name on it and on and on and on…………. (I pass out junk with our name on it all the time, the hand sanitizers are nice) Oh, those staff members with a conscience? They don’t want to be there. Now the independent locations go a bit further, they may have the event catered.

The List
Now lets ensure we take notice of the list with your families name on it and the carefully blank lines underneath the deceased name, this list will be on a hand carried clip board and each employee will be designated to acquire so many names with phone numbers or better yet, addresses for future contact or to “send an invitation for next years memorial service”.
Now, I’m not telling you to stay away from the “list” people, but you don’t have to share anything with them. The point being here is that the one and ONLY reason you have been invited to this event was to help start re-stuffing the corporate pre-need coffers with all those pre-needs that have been used over the year for that specific funeral home.  Also, if this facility is on cemetery grounds, perhaps they can get you to purchase a piece of property as well on the extended payment service plan making payments over time. You may even be asked to provide names of family or associates you may know along with phone numbers, the insurance sales representatives get quite bold, almost as if in a frenzy, it can almost be identified as "disgusting" if you knew what you were watching unfold before your very eyes.

You will hear all the lines like:
      ~Surly if you can afford to buy little Jimmy a bike you can give him “peace of mind” by ensuring he does not have to go through what you went through with your Dad………

      ~Perhaps you can speak to your Mom and encourage her to do the right thing………

      ~We have such affordable plans and in the end the only positive thing that will come out of this is your family will not suffer when you are gone……….

      ~Christmas is such a giving time of year, such a small little monthly payment is such a huge gift to your family…….

~How about if I call you and we can talk a bit about your Dad over a coffee, you look like you need to talk.........

The list goes on and on. Then the phone calls start, and they do start. And the junk mail, tons of it, all about pre-need.  The counselor can make between $200 -$600 on a pre-need sale if it is a costly service. This is money time for them, this is "their" Black Friday, they have a month to sell as many policies from the amount of leads they get to you, the general public. If the funeral home owner is a pre-need insurance salesman, (I am not) and is writing his or hers own policies, that stacks their own private coffers/income. You know, the next new car or next trip to Europe. That's ok, we all are allowed to make a living however we see fit. But I know if I was dealing in pre-need policies, I would try to back of in December.
 What can you do?
Nothing! Go to the service, eat their food, take the gifts and drink the wine! In the end, don't give them anything at all, your not even obligated to tell them who you are. Oh, remember, if you share that you have no interest in anything they are offering, just the service and you are told there is a fee for so much as a bottle of water, report them to the local city food and beverage department. It is illegal to charge for water or food in a facility, even $1.00 a bottle, or to advertise it unless you have a food vendors permit/licence.
If you enjoy the camaraderie of these types of services, collecting free stuff and eating lots of free good food (and it is probably VERY good food), I encourage you to go. Best way to find out is to call your local funeral home or better yet read your local newspaper to find out when and where, then show up and enjoy!


If asked to RSVP, remember, with that comes names and phone numbers and addresses and names of individuals that will come with you and their phone numbers and on and on and on.  RSVP is also another way of saying "your uninvited unless you give us this information". Think about this, Do Churches make you RSVP prior to a services? So whats the difference?

What if I really want to purchase a pre-need?
Call the funeral home, find something affordable and dignified and make a simple appointment to speak to a counselor (never alone). You don’t need to do it in all the palatial settings, one does to dress up their facility with $3 - $5,000 worth of decorations and food. You see all this fancy and think, “This is the place I want to be taken too”. Remember, if every day was Christmas, we would never go back to work.                                                                  
For the record, independent funeral homes try to do this as well, to boost their numbers, line their coffers and TRY to establish themselves as upstanding citizens and members of the community.  I have learned over my many years of simple Military Service (USMC) that those values are earned over much time and seasoned with ones humble, gracious behavior, not insisted upon or expected over a glass of expensive wine, a cheese tray while trying to sell something to you that you did not want nor did you come for.
Never mind the opulent decorated settings that have nothing to do with memorialization of your loved one. This is the stage laid out to target a grieving family during the holiday season who has lost a loved one in the previous year. This is a deplorable practice, manipulating and preying on your emotions and tugging on your heartstrings for financial and monetary gain. It is a sham.
This is done because you will be missing your loved one the most at this time.............., they know this. They hope you do!
Feel good in knowing that you chose to honor their memory in your own way.

Oh, I have two little poinsettia plants and some garland in my entrance way at the funeral home. It's very humble, and  nice.
Happy Holidays!

P.S. I miss you!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


What do we have to be thankful for? Well, were do you start....

I know I met a few families who had the misfortune of of losing a family or friend this year,

While sitting around the table on Thanksgiving, think of those that you have to hold on to, think of those that need to hold onto you.

There are those that have lost their homes due to this horrible economy.........

Remember those that have lost it all, and you are still lucky to have your family there with you, no mater what the roof is that you are under.

There are those that have lost their jobs, their income and their saving...........

They still have their family and the health the good Lord gave them, along with the will and the drive to not give up and continue the search for a better life.

There are the elderly who have no one, they find themselves alone on this most difficult time of the year with the memories of loved ones gone and a life that is good but could be better if the neighbor family next door could maybe take a little time to reach out to them. Invite them over, or even just check in on them.

Their is the single parent who is trying to figure out what to do this holiday season, the 3 kids aren't aware that it may be a little difficult for Mom or Dad this year, All they know that this is a happy time of year, and it should be full of joy and presents. This is a situation that maybe the neighbors could help out with, ensure the parents burden is eased and the kids could have a little better holiday. It's really not asking allot.

There is a thousand different situations that a thousand different solutions can solve, and that many more people, people that are in positions to do something... Can you afford a turkey? or two, or five and take them to a church to be passed out, anonymously. Who needs to know? do it for yourself. It feels good, and rest assured that no matter what you might be able to do this year, it will make a kid, a family, a Mother or a Father so much more happy than you will be. Their not asking you to do this every day, their not asking for a direct deposit every week into their bank account. Just a little help now. A little something.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends, happy thanksgiving to you all. I hope you spend good time with good people who love you and enjoy your company.



Thursday, November 3, 2011


An elderly gentleman came in today to inquire about direct cremation. His Mother had tasked him with the job of searching the local funeral homes for an affordable cremation service.

Mr. X as we will call him sat with us and inquired about the charges for a direct cremation, after we shared it with him and told him what was involved and included in the service, he responded with, AND?

I kind of sat there and looked at him and responded with "and what?" He looked back at me and said, the other charges, what about the other charges? I told him, sir, there are no other charges. He seemed a little frustrated like I was trying to get one over on him. He said, "look, I've been all over the west valley today getting prices on direct cremations and everyone has other charges if I push them hard enough. Now I know the day I need your services that those "other charges" will appear, just tell me what they are and we will move on."

I understood the mans frustration, I knew exactly what he was talking about. But again I told him, "There are no other charges Sir".

An all inclusive Direct Cremation consists of many things, but you would be surprised the things that funeral homes will leave out to quote you a lower price. I will explain what they are and why they do it. Well, they do it to get you in the door with a low price.

Direct Cremation consists of:

  • Proportional share of the overhead cost
  • Transport to the Mortuary
  • Administrative fee's
  • Refrigeration
  • Filing of the death certificate
  • County fee's and permits
  • Cremation container
  • Transport to the crematory
  • Cremation Process
  • Container for the Cremains
NOTE - A good funeral home should be able to turn around a cremation in 48 to 96 business hours under good circumstances. Be caucious if a facility tells you it is "standard procedure" for it to take longer. Sometimes it may, but those are things that can be expected at times.

Now, lets break all this down one thing at a time:

Proportional share of the overhead cost - This is a charge that is attached to all services that are provided by the mortuary. It is also referred to as "Basic Service of the Funeral Director and Staff".  This charge or "Service charge" is included and is all overhead that the funeral home acquires on a daily basis, Electricity, water, chemicals, insurance. It can be as high or as low as the funeral home chooses to make it but no higher that the price of the "Basic Service of the Funeral Director and Staff" charge on the General Price List.

Transport to the Mortuary -  Now we start to get tricky and find "Fudge" room in the pricing of a direct cremation. This charge includes the "removal" of the deceased from place of death, a hospital, a hospice care facility, the Medical Examiners office or another funeral home.  It is the same charge or lower of that on the General Price List. NOW! This is were the Funeral home can tell you, "Well Mr. X, we had to do a 2 man removal because it is our policy to send 2 men to a home removal or hospice removal or whatever. That charge alone can run up to $150 more at some locations and if you pay for it, call the hospice facility to ensure that 2 people did show up. Also remember, at a hospice facility the staff is always ready to assist and usually do. Also you may find a charge for a "Human remains pouch" or "body bag". Traditionally, if the deceased is picked up at the hospital, they will provide, if the deceased is picked up at the Medical examiners, you will pay for a pouch. through the funeral home because they "swap" one out. Hospice facilities don't use body bags and if they do, they don't charge. Also, a funeral home will pick up a body up to a certain distance one way, usually 25 miles, after that they charge per mile.

Administrative Fees - Another slippery area, Administrative fees is a very broad charge, it covers just about whatever the funeral home wants it to, or as little as it wants it to. Typically it is covering communications between 3rd parties and the funeral home or anything that goes into the handling of documents or paperwork, this may or may not include obituaries or cemetery in-urnment scheduling. This could cost more. How much more? this is again up to the funeral home. Ask questions.

Refrigeration - WOW! this is a real go getter. It is usually the one cost that can increase your cremation cost up by 1/3. Most funeral homes say refrigeration is included, read the small print, because it is probably provided for up to the first 24 hours. The secret is that the process may "magically" take four to five days thus incurring more charges for "extended" refrigeration, around $95+ a day more. If the doctor fails to provide signature in the allotted time (72 hours max is the law in AZ), you will be expected to pay for his failed responsibilities. This is not uncommon, thus many funeral home administrators have no problem with not using much enthusiasm to pursue a doctor for causes and signature. It's guaranteed cash.

Filing of the death certificate -  This is a VERY SIMPLE PROCESS! it takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes (ON THE INTERNET) at the most, a bit of faxing and a phone call or two to the Doctors office. The Funeral home is responsible for the statistical information that goes on the Death Certificate and the medical information comes from the Doctors office, they are responsible for that. FAXing is a requirement but those charges should be included under the "Proportional Share of the Overhead Costs". Some locations will charge you up to $20 per FAX. Again, a hidden cost. Oh, a funeral home no longer need a vehicle to file, they do not have to drive anywhere, so if you are being charged for the use of a "Service Vehicle" for the filing of the death certificate, you are paying for a service that you do not need nor did they use. Beware of those "extra trips" to the doctors office that are non-existent. Oh, you get a free death certificate for social security, it is the law. SOOOOOOOOO, when the funeral home tells you they will give you a free death certificate! it is yours anyways, they are giving you nothing. The same also goes for the Veterans Administration if the deceased was a veteran. Across the front of the document it says "FOR GOVERNMENT USE ONLY".  It takes a week to 10 days to get a death certificate from the county, please be patient. ($20 each)

County fee's and permits - Very  Simple, not complicated, the counties has a fee for cremation, in Arizona anyways, it's $15. Disposition permit fee is $4. You can't ask or charge anymore for these cash advance items.

Cremation container - In a simple term? A large cardboard Box. Funeral home price? about $10 to $15 dollars. Your charges? up to $130. Allot of funeral home tend to leave this charge off of the "Direct Cremation" price until you fill out all the paperwork. The excuse is then given, "Well we did not include merchandise on this because that's like assuming you wanted to buy an urn also, and we don't want to appear pushy OR now it is time to select the cremation casket".  YOU DO NOT NEED TO PURCHASE A WOOD CREMATION CASKET OR ARE REQUIRED TO HAVE EMBALMING DONE FOR A DIRECT CREMATION! The corporate funeral institution will tell you that embalming is required if the body is present EVEN if the casket is closed. That is fine, ensure the deceased has been dressed and embalmed and that they are placed in the casket AND VIEWABLE! (you paid for it). If embalming is somthing the funeral home insists on, ask for the casket to be displayed empty yet closed if you feel comfortable with that (you will save on all the preperation and the casket insert), this will help you save up to $600 in embalming charges. If the charges and situation surrounding those charges sound ridiculous, they are. Use your best intuition. The funeral industry counts on your lack of knowledge and discomfort in the industry to overcharge you, don not become another victim.

Transport to the crematory - OK, some funeral homes have their own cremation facility on site, most do not. If they have it on site, why are they charging you for transport? If they use another facility, the cremationist usually comes and picks up the deceased. So why would the funeral home be charging you for transportation if it is already included in the cremation facilities charges? Double dipping?

Cremation Process - This fee should be on the "Cash Advance" section of your contract, that is the amount the crematory is paid or charges. If it is not on that section, that is because the funeral home is stacking that charge to make more money and telling you the cost is high because the creationist charges so much. Allot of funeral home tend to leave this charge off of the "Direct Cremation" price until you fill out all the paperwork. The excuse is then given, "Well the price given is my charges, not the crematories. Those are different." or "I can't tell the crematory what to charge".

Container for the Cremains - Now to me, this is a very dirty, dirty little trick that some funeral homes practice. The cremation facility I use gives you the option of having the cremains returned in a black plastic container or a cardboard box. Both cost the same. I prefer the black plastic container, it is more dignified and durable. There are funeral homes that insist on the cardboard box to humiliate and shame a family into purchasing an urn. When they see the urn sale slipping away they may actually come right out and tell you, "you don't want to take your loved one home in just a cardboard box, DO YOU?" That is a very deplorable practice. Ask your facility what the cremains will be returned in, if it is a cardboard box that is taped shut, insist on plastic if you truly cant afford an urn at the time, even better, move on. Oh, if you are being charged to transfer cremains from the "Box" to an urn you might select, that's a hidden fee.

Now, what CAN you expect to pay that would not be included in a "Direct Cremation?

Insurance - If the service is paid with insurance expect to pay an insurance assignment fee, you will pay a certain percentage for the processing and maybe mailing fees. usually no more than 10% of the contract charges. If you are being charged more, re-consider that location.

Weight and size of the deceased - If the deceased weighs over a specific weight, you will be asked to pay more for the cremation process, depending on the weight of the deceased. This is not a ploy to insult but it is the reality of the industry. It takes more fuel and time in the retort (Cremation Oven) to cremate an obese person, thus less cremations in one day by that facility. Usually it is $1 = 1lb. over 250lbs. This should reflect once again on the cash advance section under "Crematory Fee's" if it does not. You are being marked up by the funeral home for their profit.

Taxes - Taxes are paid on merchandise only, this will be the cremation container. Look at the "merchandise" section of your contract, it will tell you exactly what you will be paying taxes on.

It wasn't meant to be this way...

Remember, cremation was meant to be the most affordable way to assist a family in providing closure while providing a disposition for the deceased. It originally started out to be affordable, economical and allowing the family the option of doing something privately with the cremains. Since its full scale introduction into the funeral industry it has become the most abused and manipulated form of disposition. Corporate funeral and some independent funeral institutions are literally profiting thousands of dollars on a procedure that at most costs between $100 and $300.  Please shop around for an affordable solution. You do not have to pay those high prices, the solution could be no more than a mile away down the street and around the corner at the next location.

Miguel Legaspi