Friday, November 30, 2012

THE I.D. VIEWING SCAM

I found this BLOG on the Internet, I am posting it due to the fact that as of lately families have been telling me of a specific funeral home in the southwest valley that has adopted these practices. REMEMBER! it is common practice for unethical and unscrupulous businesses to use these practices to prey on your emotions for profit.

 
NOTICE - THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT BY LAW FOR AN I.D. VIEWING! NOR IS THERE A REQUIREMENT FOR AN I.D. VIEWING CASKET SHOULD YOU CHOOSE THE VIEWING.

I.D. Viewing or Scam....., you decide.

Many funeral homes are now requiring "personal identification" or ID viewing prior to cremation, hoping that when you see Mom in a cardboard box, someone will ask if there isn't something a little nicer. In fact, this tactic was recommended at a funeral industry symposium—Keys to Cremation Success, "How to Add $1,400 to Your Cremation Calls"—where the speaker admitted that such a maneuver was self-serving. Unless this occurs after a plane crash, for example, where there might be a legitimate doubt regarding the identity of the deceased, this is, indeed, a despicable and manipulative tactic. The funeral home certainly isn't going to show you the wrong body.
 
Not only is it a basic responsibility of the funeral home to be certain of the identity before ever taking custody of a body, it is also a reasonable expectation that the funeral home will not co-mingle bodies or "lose" the identification. Yes, occasionally there are stories about the wrong body being cremated or the wrong body in the casket for visitation, but these represent sloppy funeral home practices, not a failure to identify.

This is an ID Viewing Container,
it costs $69, they charge $300+
Some funeral homes have the gall to charge for this "required" viewing or for "preparation for ID viewing." According to the Federal Trade Commission, you may CERTAINLY decline either of these charges unless you specifically asked for private family viewing or unless there is a state law requiring personal ID viewing by next-of-kin. There are no such laws. (none in Arizona, or Goodyear for that matter)
A son went to the nursing home to sign the permit for cremation after staff from an SCI-owned funeral home arrived to pick up his mother's body there. Although the nursing home staff had most certainly already done so, he was asked to identify his mother's body. When he said he had no desire to see his mother's body, he was asked to sign the following:

ELECTION NOT TO IDENTIFY BY ACTUAL VIEWING
I, _____________, having declined to make identification through actual viewing of the remains of ___________________________, my ____________________, hereby agree to indemnify and hold [an SCI-owned funeral home, The DIGNITY guys] and its officers, directors, shareholders, affiliates, agents, employees, successors, and assigns harmless from any and all claims, liabilities, damages, losses, suits or causes of action (including attorneys' fees and expenses of litigation) brought by any person, firm or corporation or the personal representative thereof, relating to or arising out of such failure to identify.
I understand that [the named SCI-owned funeral home, The DIGNITY guys] will wait three (3) additional days after all papers and/or forms required by law have been completed and filed with the appropriate governmental agencies before proceeding with cremation and will charge a storage/ refrigeration fee for the same.
 
~ DO NOT EVER SIGN ANYTHING LIKE THS! ~ 
This is ALSO a ID Viewing Container,
its Cost, $10, your charge $10
Well, being stressed at his mother's death and all that he needed to do while juggling work commitments, the son signed the form thinking it was a simple release. At no time was he told how much the storage fee would be, he claims. Six days later, he got a bill for $250 dollars more than he expected: storage for five days at $50 per day. Paperwork indicated that the bill had to be paid by the next day, a Friday, but he put off doing so to seek legal help. By the following Tuesday, the funeral home became threatening after a Funeral Consumer Alliance inquiry—additional storage would be charged because of the son's delay . . . because he had not signed any "contract." Even though the son had signed a permit to cremate when the funeral home picked up his mother's body at the nursing home, Funeral Consumer Alliance was told that the body had not yet been cremated because of the lack of a "contract." At no time—until Tuesday— was the son informed, he says, that a "contract" was the pivotal piece of paperwork necessary before his mother could be cremated. Eleven days had now elapsed with his mother's body stored in a cooler. One other reason the son was unwilling to sign the contract: His signature would indicate that he had been given all price and other disclosures required by the FTC prior to making any arrangements. Such information came after-the-fact—with the bill—and he had no intention of signing a false statement.
 
In legal terms, the son was a victim of duress and undue influence, not to mention the FTC violations that were committed. There was no legal reason to hold the body for three days AFTER all paperwork was filed, and the funeral home may NOT impose such a charge, let alone without notifying the consumer how much the charge will be. Funeral Consumer Alliance  is filing complaints with state and federal agencies on the son's behalf, but other consumers should be forewarned about this new manipulation of cremation customers.


Please do not fall for this unscrupulous practice. This is just horrible. If it is your choice to wish to see the deceased prior to cremation, the facility has the right to charge you for this I.D. viewing, but only if you choose one. They can not tack on charges such as disinfection, preperation, any casket use or I.D. viewing casket. Its hard enough as it is, please dont let them make it more dificult, and they will try. Say goodby as you choose to, not as they choose for you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

LOSING A LOVED ONE AT CHRISTMAS...


 Hi everyone, 
 
I Found This article on the Internet. I added the pictures to try and give it a little chistmas spirit. Now, it has been my experience that most of us choose not to speak of death or sickness  or losing a family member around the holidays. Mainly out of fear of spoiling the holiday for everyone or maybe because we don't want to remind ourselves that a real happy time we spent with the one we lost is gone, and we will never enjoy it again. This is part of life, the loss of a loved one. Whatever the reason, you CAN talk about it. It really makes things allot better. First the tears will come, then the memory, then laughter and probably more tears. But I promise you, you will feel better. Try to reach outside of the box and talk about the one you love, the memories, the good times. It honestly does help. I pray for all of those that are reading this trying to find an answer to the holidays during the loss of a loved one.
 
Merry Christmas!
Miguel Legaspi..............
 
Losing someone you love is hard. If your loved one dies around Christmas, it can be even harder. The way to deal with death at Christmas to realize that, when someone you love dies, change is unavoidable. However, change can also help you get through this difficult time. While you can't rush the grieving process, you can find ways make your holidays more pleasant and less stressful.
Deal With Day-to-Day Life and Holiday Stress When a Loved One is Dying.
 
1. Expect a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Preparing for loss is in some ways worse than death itself, because of the uncertainty and dread. Your feelings can vary by the hour, which is completely normal.
 
2. Be good to yourself. Take time to sleep, cry, exercise and eat nutritious meals. Pray, meditate or just relax in a calm and quiet place. Distract yourself for a few hours with a book or film or spend time with a friend. You can't take care of your loved one or anyone else if you don't take care of yourself.
 
3. Encourage visits during your loved one's best times of day. If he is most alert and comfortable  earlier in the day, ask visitors to come in the morning.
 
4. Consider which, if any, traditions you want to participate in this year. Think about your financial and emotional resources. Maybe you want to skip gift-giving this year or perhaps it would cheer you up and be a welcome distraction.
 
5. Celebrate this last Christmas in some meaningful way. Give cards and gifts and put up decorations. Even if your loved one is comatose, you can bring in a poinsettia or holiday floral arrangement to brighten the room and play favorite holiday music. Remember that is always possible that your loved one can hear you and feel your touch, even if you don't see any response. 
 
6. Find counseling now. Your school, workplace or place of worship should be able to recommend someone. If cost is a concern, you can consider support groups, including Internet forums.

7. Enjoy whatever you can during the holiday season. There is no harm or disrespect in celebrating. Your loved one would want you to find comfort where and when it comes.
 
 Accepting Christmas After they have passed.
 


8. Recognize that feelings of sadness, grief and even anger may intensify during the holiday season. The added expectations and stimulation can make it even harder to deal with the anniversary of your loved one's death.

9. Talk to friends and family. Ask for and accept emotional and practical help. Be honest about your feelings. You may hesitate to seem like a "downer" when everyone else seems to be celebrating, but realize that most people are eager to help. If you want to talk about the loved one, know that you can and let others know this.
 
10. Consider which holiday traditions may be helpful and which may be hurtful. The first holidays following a death can bring back painful memories and emotions and the holiday media blitz can leave you stressed and exhausted. If you are too conscious of the empty chair, you may want to skip hosting Christmas Eve dinner for the entire extended family. Or you may find comfort in this tradition and in sharing memories with people who were close to your loved one.
 
11. Find counseling. Your school, workplace or place of worship should be able to recommend someone. If cost is a concern, you can consider support groups, including Internet support groups.
12. Help yourself by helping someone else. Offer support to others affected by your loss. Consider making a charitable donation or give a gift in memory of your loved one. You could also volunteer at an animal shelter or another charity, since they are often shorthanded during the holidays.

13. Spend time with friends or family members. Invite someone to share a meal or see a concert with you. You could also volunteer at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter.
 
14. Simplify what you can and ask for and accept help. For example, if you can't deal with making turkey with all the trimmings, you can have pizza or pasta.
 
15. Prioritize your own needs and the needs of those who are also most affected by the loss. Do what works for you and them. You may find comfort in familiar surroundings or you may want to visit somewhere completely new.
16. Get through today. Don't worry about how you will handle the holiday next year or ten years from now. By then you may want to return to certain beloved traditions and locations, or you may want to celebrate elsewhere or in an entirely different way.
 
17. Extend the meaning of the holiday to the natural world. In cold climates you could snowshoe or ski and in warm climates you could surf or water ski. Beautiful natural settings offer opportunities for peace and contemplation and for fun and exercise.
 
18. Remember and honor the loved one with a special toast, a favorite carol, a lighted candle or a favorite photo. You can also write a card or letter or keep a journal of your thoughts and remembrances. In the coming years, Christmas can be a time to remember your loved one. You can visit a place you both loved or that the person had always wanted to see and see it "for" her.
19. Enjoy whatever you can during the holiday season. There is no harm or disrespect in celebrating. Your loved one would want you to find comfort where and when it comes.

  

Saturday, September 22, 2012

HOW TO JUSTIFY THE COST OF CREMATION IN YOUR AREA.....


WHY DOES IT COST SO MUCH?



A typical cremation chamber
 
The cost of cremation can be much, Much, MUCH! less than a traditional burial. Two of the main reasons for the reduction in cost are a fancy casket is not required no services nor is a burial plot necessary. The cost of cremation can vary widely depending on the services that are selected. A general guideline for "DIRECT" cremation costs is from around $500 to $3,200. You can, of course, get fancy and run the price up. Direct Cremation should reflect on a funeral homes "General Price List". The price can be advertised lower, but it can not be advertised higher, it also must be itemized.

Direct Cremation should Include all of the following, If it does not, beware of hidden charges;

  1. A proportional share of the overhead cost
  2. Removal of the deceased from place of death
  3. Transport to the funeral home
  4. Refrigeration for a specified amount of days
  5. Arrangement conference
  6. Filing of the death certificate
  7. A Cremation Container (cardboard Box ONLY, that's all you will need, nothing more)
  8. Transport to the crematory
  9. The cremation process
  10. A simple container for the cremains (NEVER accept a cardboard box, this is a ploy to make you feel guilty and purchase an urn) 
* REMEMBER!, most facilities charge up to a specific weight, ensure you tell the facility if the deceased is a small, medium or large individual. This will alleviate any discomforting situations after you have made arrangements. A good funeral counselor will ask you this during the conference. If the deceased is over perhaps 250 pounds, expect more charges.
  

Instructions

The first step in determining the cost of cremation in your area is to make some decisions in advance. If you know what services you want you can be sure that you are talking about the same thing with each provided that you contact regarding cremation costs. Make a written list of all the things you want to know and ask every one of those questions, there is nothing more interesting than watching a counselor squirm when you pull out, "The List". You will be surprised how much the answers will vary from person to person. Some things to consider are in the following steps.

Cremation Container

This is the container the deceased goes into for cremation. Cremations can be done in simple wooden boxes, cardboard boxes or sometimes in nothing at all (not in Arizona). This depends on what is allowed by the laws in your area. You may have to pay for the wood or cardboard box. Ask if it is included in the cremation costs. You do not need anything more than a simple box, that is all, do not be talked up to purchasing a casket as something more fitting to the deceased memory (as described by you up selling counselor).The price of the cremation container Cardboard Box) should appear on your General Price List and also on your contract that you sign under "Merchandise". Some facilities charge well over $200 for a box.



Final Disposition of Cremains

A favorite place, a favorite time...
A decision has to be made as to whether the ashes will be put into a mausoleum, kept in an Urn, or spread (Scattered). These choices all impact the cremation costs. A spot in the Cremation Urn" section of a mausoleum can cost several thousand dollars while scattering the ashes can be free. Urns a fairly inexpensive objects, you can bring your own and if a facility charges you to transfer the cremains, move on. Most funeral homes have something affordable, our urns start at $65. We have a cremation package for $599, urn included. Consider also ROSS, COLES, BURLINGTON COAT FACTORY or a hobby store to find something simple to your liking.

When you are discussing the services provided be sure to find out if pick up and transportation of the body are included in the cost of cremation or if you will be charged separately for it. I have always found it hard to understand the $95 after hour removal fee for two men. It is not uncommon for a family member to assist in placing the deceased on the removal cot.

Death Certificates

First off, please be patient. Inquire whether they will be providing you with a certified copy of the death certificate and cremation permit as part of the cremation costs. This should be included, one for social security and one for the Veterans Administration. A funeral home should be willing to assist you in obtaining more for up to 6 months after death. If they don't, they have poor customer service. Death certificates can take 2 weeks to a month for delivery, it is difficult not to get excited when they don't get to you quickly, again, please be patient, they will come. The Funeral Home should be charging you the same price that the county charges you for these. If they are marking them up, they should tell you. Death Certificates should be under the section of "Cash Advances" on a contract.

Delivery and Transport of Cremains

Ask if delivery of the ashes to the family, cemetery or third party location is included in the cost of cremation. Ask if the funeral home will hold the cremains for a specific amount of days. FEDEX and UPS will not deliver Cremains, The United States Post Office is the only transport that will via registered certified mail that can be tracked. Expect to pay $50 on up. For transport out of country, follow the guidelines from the Embassy of the country you are taking them into. Yes there will be a charge for doing the paperwork, and there usually is ALLOT of paperwork that could take up to 30 days. Our Veterans Cremation Package with inurnment includes transport to the National cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona, 25 Veterans Memory Folders, 4 memorial bookmarks, Military Honors, a flag and taps. All for $585.00

Crematories

Well, many funeral homes try to promote that they own their own crematory, Less than 3% (three) of funeral home have their own crematory. Corporate funeral homes such as the Dignity guys and Advantage Cremation and Burial all use the same facility. They are all owned by the same crematory. Most crematories are very much above par, some are not, just like funeral homes. It has always been and will always be a tradition for a funeral home to contract with a crematory, unless a funeral home does a HUGE volume of cremation, it is not a good investment for them to open an on site crematory. This has always been the way it is. Be cautious of funeral homes that own their own crematory that charge a "Transport to the crematory" charge.... Huh? Right around the side of the building? What happened to the on site crematory?

 Once you have your thoughts together contact providers in your area for prices. Look on google, call and ask questions. Prices can vary greatly. Be very cautious of funeral homes that will offer you a cut rate bargain out the door that undermines their advertised price, WHY? Why would they do this?

Service Industry

Be aware that a funeral home is in the business to sell services so they will probably try to sell you more services. The funeral home is a SERVICE INDUSTRY! Some in the industry just feel that cremation is not the service they prefer to sell. Don't let the emotions of the time run away with your budget, Budget, BUDGET! I can not stress that enough. If you do not want to purchase a $500 urn, then don't. Stick to what you want to do. Find a location that is within your budget, not one that is convenient because you don't want to do this, you will thank yourself later for saving up to $1,800 for a direct cremation for traveling 10 miles out of your way.

Cremation Societies

A Cremation Society is very similar in function to a funeral home, but with substantially lower overhead costs (REALLY?). They are required to be operated by Arizona licensed funeral directors. They maintain rigorous standards and security systems and are regulated by the Arizona State Funeral Board. Cremation Societies have a smaller buildings designed for small gatherings, but seldom can accommodate viewings, or visitations, they mainly are just office spaces. This customized design does not mean that they provide lesser service and care to their clients and their family members but it is suppose to allows them to have competitive price points and be value driven. Unfortunately, this is the farthest from the truth. Most Cremation Societies are very pricey ($800 and up) and do not handle the disposition or "cremation" of the deceased at all. They contract out just like the funeral homes. Thus these cremation societies are nothing more than a fancy name for the same service, using the title "Society" to make the service appear as peer driven or of "People Just Like You and me"...

So, don't be fooled by these "Societies", though some have good intentions, many have fallen into that very deceitful and corrupt practices that many funeral homes have. They are nothing more than corporate additions to the funeral coffers. Cremation societies, while trying to promote affordability are no more than the corporate, high end funeral home in cost. You are probably much better off seeking out a small independent to save money.
 
  • National Cremation Society is owned by SCI, the Dignity Memorial Providers
  • Neptune Society is also owned by them, at least 75%, only because the Federal Trade Commission refused to allow them to purchase it all so they could not corner the market.
  • Cremation Society of Arizona is owned By Heritage, a large funeral establishment in Arizona.

Cremation societies tend to get sold off to the next highest bidder and many horror stories have been shared of ones family member disappearing after being picked up. Not all of them, but some. "GOOGLE" cremation society scandals, you will see. Also, If you try to get a refund from these "Societies", most of the time all you will get is maybe a third of what you paid for with a letter telling you to read the fine print on the contract.
 
Cremation Pre-Payment Insurance

With a Independent funeral home? Wow, consider it. It is such an affordable low cost service, do it and get it out of the way. Get the paperwork done and spend time with the family, it will be a weight  lifted of of your shoulders. A good funeral home will send a pre-need counselor to your home to write the contract for services. 1/2 hour of your time, that's all it takes.
 
Imminent death - You know, it is is difficult to consider but if your loved one is close to death, visit the facility of choice, do all the paper work and be done with it. NO FUNERAL HOME CAN TAKE PAYMENT UNTIL THE TIME OF DEATH! Its the law, its unethical and the funeral home is in a position to deny that you ever paid them anything. This is a common practice by those that sidestep this law. When your loved one passes, all you have to do is make payment and call the funeral home.
 
So there you have it, Things to consider about cremation. Remember, once again, if a funeral home gives you the impression that they are doing you a favor, then move on. That's just not good business. If it just doesn't "FEEL RIGHT" find another, or if you are being mislead in every direction except the one you want to go in, get out of there....

The Conversation

I have an employee that worked for another independently owned funeral home the next town over, the topic of cremation price came up between himself and the owner as to why that facility charged so much for such a simple service, (they were charging 4 times as much as my facility at the time) The owners response was "Why work so hard for such a little amount of money when you can charge 4 times as much doing nothing at all and getting them to believe it's worth it?" That my friends, is the corporate attitude that is trying to keep the death care industry out of reach for most of you. In fact, those individuals just don't want to work hard for very lavish lifestyles providing mediocre, uncompassionate poor service all the time trying to get you to believe that this is what the services actually are worth, they are not. I do not now, nor will I ever put a price on compassion, death is hard, not only for the dying, but those they leave behind.

13 Years
 
Funeral homes, most anyway, in my 13 years in the industry, don't really care for direct cremation, in the corporate world, there are no bonuses for it, there are no reward points and there is so little profit in the funeral service owners eyes that most can care less if you come or go. You will probably get this impression when you call around and find out how cold they are on the phone or how quick they want to get you off of that phone. Remember, you being there for a simple little direct cremation in the owners eyes doesn't even gain him enough to make..........
 
His corvette payment.....

I would like to believe that when someone passes away in my family that I will be paying for their cremation with dignity, not someones joyride or ego that I have to climb over to get into the funeral home...


Sunday, September 9, 2012

FTC KEEPS FUNERAL RULE LAPSES BURIED:




FTC keeps Funeral Rule lapses buried: Plain Dealing
Sheryl Harris, The Plain Dealer
 
Posted: 09/08/2012 12:00 PM
 
                                                                                                     
The Federal Trade Commission knows what its undercover investigators found in sweeps of Cleveland-area funeral homes conducted last year. The funeral homes rapped for alleged violations know what the FTC found. But you, as a member of the public, aren't allowed to know – even though the Funeral Rule was created to protect you. The agency recently denied a Freedom of Information Act appeal for more information about the sweeps and the violations.
 
Who did what? Only your funeral director knows for sure. The Funeral Rule protects grieving consumers. The rule is built around the requirement that funeral homes quickly provide consumers with price lists and allow people to choose ala carte from the list, so they can buy only the things they want. The chief problem with the rule is the secrecy with which the FTC enforces it. The FTC conducts enforcement sweeps in secret. It fines violators in secret. It even issues press releases congratulating itself on uncovering wrongdoing in the funeral industry without naming any names.

In response to a Freedom of Information Act request, the FTC agreed to release the names of 12 funeral homes it fined or sent warning letters to, but it rejected The Plain Dealer's appeal for the name of a remaining funeral home that faces a fine. The Plain Dealer also appealed the heavy-handed redaction of the warning letters the FTC sent to nine of the 16 funeral homes inspected. The agency rejected the paper's arguments that the contents of the letters should rightfully be made public.

Under a deal the FTC struck with the National Funeral Directors Association in the mid-1990s, the commission gives funeral homes accused of significant violations this choice: (a) Make a sizable "voluntarily" payment to the U.S. Treasury and pay to enter a three-year education program run by the funeral directors' association or (b) be sued by the FTC and face penalties of up to $16,000 per violation.
 
The FTC assures funeral homes that if they take the "voluntary" route, the agency won't publicly release their names. The fine print, however, notes that funeral home names may be obtained through a Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, request. Fine print can be so tricky. Here are the few details the FTC agreed to exhume in response to FOIA requests:
 
• Three funeral homes agreed to pay fines to avoid being sued for what the FTC said were "significant violations" in two separate visits by FTC investigators posing as customers. As previously reported in this column, the FTC accused Ripepi Funeral Home in Parma, F.J. Corrigan Funeral Services in Chagrin Falls, and Mallchok Funeral Home in Parma of failing to provide FTC shoppers with price lists.
 
• A fourth funeral home also was accused of two significant violations, but the FTC won't reveal the name of that home – not even in response to a FOIA request – because the owner hasn't decided whether to pay the fine or be sued. There apparently is no deadline by which it needs to decide.
• Nine funeral homes received warning letters for what the FTC described in its letters to the homes as "serious violations of the Rule" but described in its public announcement of the sweeps as "minor compliance deficiencies."
 
The homes that received warning letters are Carey Funeral Home in Cleveland, DeJohn Funeral Home & Crematory in South Euclid, Ferfolia Funeral Homes Inc. in Maple Heights, The Gaines Funeral Home Inc. in Cleveland, Golubski Funeral Home Inc. in Parma, Humenik Funeral Chapel in Brook Park, Mandley-Vetrovsky Funeral Home in Fairview Park, Joseph C. Schulte & Mahon-Murphy Funeral Homes in Lyndhurst and Schuster-Straker-O'Connor Funeral Home in Parma.
 
The FTC has at times sent these warning letters if, for example, a price list doesn't carry a required disclosure or contains a fee the rule doesn't allow, but the letters the FTC made public in response to a FOIA request were so heavily redacted it's impossible to know what prompted the letters.  
 
It's worth noting that three area funeral homes sailed through the sweeps without any problems.
 
The FTC denied The Plain Dealer's appeal challenging the redaction of the warning letters. The agency says it withheld details because revealing that information could "disclose guidelines for law enforcement investigations."
 
Note the FTC didn't mind sharing that with the funeral homes. Its problem is sharing that information with you and me, the funeral-buying public.  THIS THEY DO NOT!
 
This is galling.
 
The FTC is a hardworking agency with a huge mission. It protects consumers from almost anything that some other agency doesn't have jurisdiction over. Just in the past couple weeks, it's mailed consumers refunds it won by pursuing robocallers that charged people's credit cards, stores that overstated price savings, marketers that overhyped their supplements, and scammers who tricked consumers into paying for leads on federal jobs.
 
In the same period, the agency sued a company that promised its videos could to teach babies to read, got a get-rich-quick infomercial yanked from the airwaves and won a settlement from marketers who exercise equipment. Under its current administration, this agency been more energetic than it has been in years.  But its dusty, furtive approach to the Funeral Rule doesn't serve anyone well. Not the agency. Not the funeral industry. And certainly not the public. Details about violations shouldn't be sealed in some crypt until the end of time. Compliance might be higher if funeral homes knew their names would be made public if the FTC found violations.
 
As it is, announcing that four unnamed homes in a city paid fines to avoid a government lawsuit casts a pall over every funeral home in a city. By making the findings more transparent, funeral directors and the public could be assured that the FTC enforces the rule fairly -- something that no one can determine with this much secrecy.
 
Certainly, the public would know whether to be more careful when doing business with certain homes. And describing real encounters that trigger warning letters and fines would give everyone a better understanding of what the rule means and what constitutes a violation.
 
 The FTC needs to breathe some life – and sunlight -- back into its enforcement of the Funeral Rule, if for no other reason, for the sake of consumers forced to make the one purchase everyone dreads.

That's the group the Funeral Rule is supposed to protect.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

THE UGLY PINK CASKET, THE VETERAN AND THE NATIONAL CATHEDRAL

Copyright © Funeral Consumer Information Society of Connecticut. This first appeared in the fall newsletter, 1998. Reprinted with permission.

 HOW (CHEAP) Can You Go? (as cheap as you want...)

My father, Hugo L Black, died in 1971. At that time he was 85 years old and the second longest sitting Associate Justice in the history of the United States Supreme Court, having sat on the Court for nearly 35 years. An avid tennis player, he served on his two beloved courts—the Supreme Court and the tennis court— until a few months before his death. He gave up both reluctantly, but died at peace with his life and his death.

 He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, not as a Supreme Court Justice but as a Captain in the Cavalry during the First World War. His grave is next to my mother, Josephine, who died in 1951 and had been a Yeomanette in the Navy during the same war. Their grave markers are standard government issue, and they note only the dates of birth, death, and service in the armed forces.

A funeral service was held for my father at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Over 1,000 people attended, including the President of the United States, the Supreme Court, judges, and many Congressmen and Senators. The Bishop of the Cathedral, Dean Francis Sayre, oversaw the arrangements and delivered a eulogy.

In making the funeral arrangements, we had only three directives from my father:

  •  Simple
  •  Cheap
  •  No open casket
These were not last minute orders. Our family had heard my father's views about funerals for many years. Appalled by the high costs, he felt that "funeral merchants" often took advantage of grieving families when they were at their most vulnerable. Coming from a humble background, he had seen families spend themselves into debt. He was equally appalled by any person who wished an elaborate and expensive funeral, seeing this as evidence that the person was "puffed up about his own importance in the scheme of things."

The Arrangments

With my father's directives firmly in mind, we planned our trip to the funeral parlor to pick out a coffin. We had chosen Gawler's Funeral Home in Washington, D.C., recommended as a place used by many government officials [now owned by SCI, the DIGNITY guys]. Our group included three family members—my brother, my step-brother, and myself—and two Supreme Court Justices—Byron White and William Brennan.

The Casket Room

The casket room was elegantly appointed. The carpeting, wall paneling and piped in music set a tone for coffin shopping in undisputed good taste. On entering, one's eye was immediately drawn to the extreme left wall where a superbly crafted dark wood coffin, softly spot-lighted to show the fine wood grain, was perched high on a velvet-draped dais. It looked like a throne coffin. However, we were steered counter clockwise, starting our search at the right. The caskets were arranged head to toe in a semi-circle leading up to the throne coffin, and it was obvious that we were going from least to most expensive.

The "Throne Casket"

The first coffin we came to—the cheeeeaaaap-est—was covered with pink organza, pink satin bows, with a pink ruffled skirt around the bottom. Tasteless and frilly, it seemed totally out of place. The next ones were also cloth-covered, but the cloth looked increasingly more expensive. Our salesman was surprised that we even glanced at these, let alone asked their prices, and indirectly dismissed these as a final resting-place for a man of importance. He began to hurry us on until we came to the throne coffin.

The Sales Pitch

We stood in front of this masterpiece of craftsmanship with heads slightly bowed reverently. "This," the coffin salesman said, "is the worthy resting place for a Justice of the United States Supreme Court." When we asked the cost of the throne coffin, he did not immediately give a dollar amount. He noted that while it was the most expensive, he knew that the price was not our main concern when burying a man of my father's stature. Cost considerations would be unworthy. This response was a big mistake and backfired immediately.
 
The Plain Pine Box 

Suddenly, almost simultaneously, we looked at each other, smiling as my father's directive hit us full force—cheap. We moved to another emotional dimension—common at wakes—going from a deep grieving sadness to an almost playful mood. Right there, in that elegant room, we knew that together we could do one last thing for my father. No one was going to talk us out of cheap! When pressed, the coffin salesman allowed that the throne coffin cost thousands of dollars. That settled that.

We dispersed, zigzagging around the room, separately appraising the caskets and asking prices down to the penny. All of the polished wood caskets were soon dismissed as too expensive. It had to be a cloth-covered one. To the salesman's horror, Justice White began to scrutinize the first pink organza coffin and then asked what was under the frills. The salesman said it was just a plain, unfinished pine box. Then someone asked about the most expensive cloth-covered casket. That, too, was a plain pine box. When asked the difference between the boxes, the salesman—now completely befuddled—whispered that the more expensive had a "better shape." We looked and thought the shapes were identical.

AND The Decision

Huddling for a final conference, some-one asked, "Shall we get the pink, the cheapest?" and we all gave a resounding "YES." We said we would buy the pink for $165 with the cloth stripped off. The salesman said that was impossible, it would look terrible. We, however, wanted to see for ourselves since this was our coffin of choice. First one of us pulled away a little cloth to take a peek, then another ripped more forcefully, and finally we all started ripping off the fabric with careless abandon. Off came the bows, the coffin skirt, and all but a few patches of stubbornly glued pink organza. There stood a perfectly fine plain pine box. The debris littered the elegant carpet, but we were practically euphoric. We had followed my father's directive almost to a tee, with added bonus of deflating pretensions in this very pretentious room (though my father would have felt some compassion for the poor coffin salesman).

When we went into the office to settle the bill, the funeral home director, now understanding our zeal for cheap, asked timidly about filling in the nail holes and sanding down the glue spots. With a closed casket visitation at the funeral home and a display at the cathedral, they felt their reputation was at stake. We agreed, if nothing was added to the bill, and were assured nothing would be.

Dean Sayre of the National Cathedral made a final request in the spirit of my father's wishes. He asked that at the funeral we have the casket displayed without the American flag or flowers on top of it.

If it is good enough for this place and a
 judge, You get the picture...
You See!, He, as my father, had long been concerned about the excessive cost of burying the dead and the financial burden this put on living loved ones. He wanted people to see that the cost of a coffin did not symbolize the abiding love of the living for the dead, nor did it reflect the stature of a man.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

FUNERAL HOME SALES PEOPLE OR SERVICE PEOPLE, YOU DECIDE.

NOTE - To all those ethical and moral funeral representatives, I commend you for standing by your personal oath to help and serve. If this post does not pertain to your business practices, then enjoy it and I think you will definitely understand exactly the type of people I am referring to.  On the other hand, if this refers to you and your way of doing business........ To bad.


Hello!

Today we celebrate going over 1,000 friends on facebook, please feel free to view our facebook page and friend us. Thank you all for doing so already and enjoying the posts we place to keep all up to date.

Hiya, Hiya, Hiya, Do I got a funeral
USED CAR PACKAGE FOR YOU!

I know my "Special Friend" has missed me a great deal, yes very, very much...

Well here I am again and I know it has been a very long time since my last BLOG. Yes a very long time.  We have experianced a very large request for cremation services in the valley as of lately. Not because more people are passing, but because we are offering cremation at a very affordable price that has spread to the community and the word of mouth on this affordable service is getting out to the people. The community has grown tired of the deceit and lies.

PREYING ON THE ELDERLY
Families are calling and are becoming aware that direct cremation no longer is worth the price that so many corporate and independent locations are charging. One corporate funeral provider in Sun City AZ just increased the price of Direct Cremation from $2,300 up to $3,200. The sad part about this is that a good 80% to 90% of the population in Sun City AZ are elderly retired who are on in years and are not able to make quick decisions or are a little lacking in guidance. Many Pre-Need funeral insurance counselors actually prey on Sun City and sell two or three policies for the same service over and over to the same elderly, all the time the senior not being  aware that they will never use all and the counselor will clean up on a fat commission. How unethical and unscrupulous is that.

JUST WHAT DO THEY DO?


Come visit us
So what is a funeral service representative? What do they do? are they a counselor? are they a minister? are they qualified in sales? are they business managers? are they anatomy specialists? are they designers? publication specialists? administrators?  coordinators? crowd control specialists? etc. etc. etc?

Well, to be honest, they are a little bit of all of those things, but if you notice, one thing it does not say they are a cheap used car salesman, furniture salesman, or anything salesman for that matter.

So why is it that a vast majority of those people that seek me out for something so simple as a direct cremation, come in so much on the defensive and keep reminding me over and over and over that "all we want is a direct cremation" or "don't try to sell or push anything on me like the guy down the street" or "we don't need a fancy wooden casket" or "were gonna scatter the ashes so we don't need an urn" or on and on and on.

HOW IT SHOULD NOT BE...

…The people at the funeral home were an oily bunch who made a sales pitch like carnival hucksters.  Within thirty minutes of her funeral and just a before she was to be buried, the funeral director says he wants to "secure payment", but he acted like a goon working for a loan shark.  I told him she had burial insurance and I thought that they worked with the insurance company like the doctors do.  He told me no and what I should have been doing all along.  I apologized and explained that I didn't know what the procedure was since this was the first time I had buried a member of my family, but I like most people couldn't just write a check a check for over $6000.  (Never once did they explain anything to me about the option of Insurance Assignment) I paid him the next day and he was late with the death certificate by about a month.   I finally had to call the state on him for being out of compliance with mandated timeliness.  THEN he finally sent me the certificate (BTW it is best not to give those guys full payment until you get the certificate since otherwise you won't have access to the funds that you need to settle business of the estate).  It is awful, but it seems that when you are sick with grief, sleep deprived, not eating, and you are so punchy you can't even drive, and there are people who take advantage of you.  I guess I am in the anger stage of grief, but I don't think that my response is irrational….  

WOW! I feel so bad because some poor people come in so spun up from the nightmare they just went through at "the other place". I usually tell a family at this point, because it's important to try to put a little calm into this poor families emotions,

"OK, I am not a salesman, I am a serviceman, I am here to serve you, not to sell you. There are no cars in my parking lot nor is this wall mart. I want you to do only what you want and purchase ONLY what you ask for."

At the end of the conference, I tell them exactly what comes with the simple direct cremation and then I ask,

"Is there anything else you might need or wish to inquire about?"

For $7,000 I'll walk you to the grave
Ladies and gentleman, I am not a salesman! We may make more revenue from selling a great big nice fancy expensive service (not as much as the other guys I'm sure), but if this is not what you want, why would it be In my best interest to make a family squirm by pushing something on them they just don't want or maybe even feel more uncomfortable because maybe they would like it but cant afford it, so now they are feeling bad because the counselor is making them feel bad. Do you think they will return to this location? NO THEY WILL NOT!

THE MAHOGANY BEAUTY

Now, if the guy down the street wants to take a collage course on high pressure sales so he can make that Mercedes payment by making you feel bad enough to purchase that Mahogany casket for a cremation for $10,000. So be it (we sell a solid Mahogany casket for $2,875), of course he's not gonna tell you that about $8,000 of that casket is pure profit. AND THEN! they charge you more to cremate the casket.

I guess I'm just gonna have to settle for a direct cremation sale. I'm not greedy.

So remember, the next time you go to a funeral home for a simple direct cremation, be weary of a few things;

1. Sitting you in the arrangement room and leaving so you can look at all the "stuff"
2. Leaving the "Casket Book" on the table so you can look through the caskets
3. Telling you the cremains will be returned in a "plain Cardboard Box"
4. Giving you the "Cardboard Box" without placing it in a dignified pouch at least.
5. If you inquire, opening the Urn book to the middle. (Ask to see most affordable first)
6. Telling you "now lets look at urns" when you did not ask
7. Telling you "now lets look at a cremation casket" when all you want is a direct cremation
8. If you select an Urn, charging you to transfer the cremains into it
9. Selling you a cremation box for $95+ when they only pay $10 for it

can be used for a visitation to.
Number seven is probably the worst one, because families don't know they have the option of the simple cardboard box that costs the funeral home $10 or less. Most facilities charge $100 or more for this stupid cardboard box.

So now the family thinks that the cremation container has to be a casket, so they select one, even if its an affordable one, the funeral home is still selling you something that you have been convinced you need, when you don't. NEXT they ask you if you want the deceased dressed for the casket, you assume that the body needs to be dressed and if you inquire like most will:

"Is that what people usually do?"  you ask...

 "Well yes, most people ask us to dress when we put them in a casket"

You just paid for that when it is not needed. up to $150 at some locations. Lets not forget the disinfecting charge of $150 for the staff to handle the deceased to dress, (why?) were they infected with something? Do all bodies automatically start to get infected with "ANYTHING" at the time of death? No, they do not. Also, how about the cosmetics you will be convinced to have done so the deceased looks more "NATURAL", yup, another $150, I mean, you will be talked into this because you chose not to embalm. OH YES!, we have to place the deceased in the casket, Casketing = $150, AND! Lets not forget the ONE TIME refrigeration charge of $350 (Corporate Funeral Homes charge up to $695) because you now chose to have a I.D. viewing (that's what they call it) without embalming. OOPS! how about the use of the Chapel or a visitation room now! YUP! $410. As you can see, it all starts to add up.

$1000 Direct Cremation
$100   Casket Cremation Extra (to burn the casket as well)
$700+ Cremation Casket
$150   Dressing
$150   Disinfecting
$150   Cosmetics
$150   Casketing
$350   Refrigeration
$410   Visitation room charge (I.D. View)
$3160 Total before TAX

Guess what? All this started out with dressing because you "THOUGHT" you needed a cremation casket, or you were conned into believing you needed one OR (this is the worst one) You are asked if you want to see your "MOM" one more time?. Remember, The $10 cremation box is good enough. Even for an I.D. Viewing.

The sad thing is, you went in there thinking you were going to pay a few dollars for a direct cremation. You are tired, hungry and sad. You are vulnerable to unscrupulous people that make a living doing this to people.

REMEMBER! most caskets are only sold for viewings or that if their was to be a formal visitation you could have it in the cremation box or even a rental casket. As the conversation and the arrangement conference continue, you find yourself getting farther and farther away from the cardboard cremation container and the direct cremation to a formal viewing/visitation that not only did YOU not want, the deceased didn't want, you cant afford and it appears the only person that WANT'S it is the funeral used car salesman.
Do you know how many times I hear a family member tell me something like:

"I Don't know what happened, we started out at $1,000 on the phone for a cremation then after we got there it got all out of control after $3,000 and I just wanted to get out of there", so I just signed the papers and left.

As sad as it sounds, this happens all the time, more so then not.
I take it my Funeral Used Car Salesman
treated you well and I got what I wanted?
(Uhhhh..... I mean what you wanted?)

So please remember, you know what you want, if you don't, DO NOT go into a funeral home saying "I don't know were to start or what we want" That is a green light to go after you for every single emotional pull that the prestigious "Licenced Funeral Director" can. And most will, someone has to help him pay for his next overnight to his cabin in pine top or road trip to wherever, don't be that guy.



Sunday, June 10, 2012

THE DEATH OF THE DEATHCARE INDUSTRY

STILL HANGING IN THERE...





We have been open now going on one year and 9 months. In all this time I can honestly tell you that there are those out there that do not like me one bit. I have been threatened, cursed at, yelled at, hung up on, had my suppliers threatened with boycott if they continue to serve me, My hearse and my removal van have been vandalised, Someone dumped a can of garbage in my fountain, I have had my personal life at my worship facility brought to the attention of the church with no merit. I have had my community told my facility is unlicensed, that I have hidden pricing, I have been accused of cremating horses with bodies by the "OWNER" of  one  local funeral facility (we use the same crematory). I have been referred to as serving "Those People" in "That Part" of town..." (who are "those people"?, where is "That Part" of town?), Called a second class funeral home serving second class people in a second class neighborhood with second class pricing, Accused of having a "meltdown" as of late at a local cemetery (I have not been to this local cemetery in quite a long time, not sure of what a meltdown is).  Probably the proudest thing I have heard is some fellow funeral homes were amazed and couldn't figure out how a Retired United States Marine, Drill Instructor was going to run a funeral home and have even been called "Marine Corps Boot Camp Funeral Home". (I'm proud of that one the most). These are just a few of about one BILLION things that my local professional funeral establishment competitors are doing to undermine my successful approach to the community that has been quite rewarding to them. We provide dignified and very affordable services that others can not come close to providing at our price.

Damn it I am very, very proud of that!

THE DEATH OF THIS INDUSTRY AS WE KNOW IT...

Ladies and gentleman, the funeral institution is dying. Long gone are the hay days of the 2 to 3 day wakes, flower cars, Copper Deposit caskets, Carnation wearing funeral director in a "Parlor" with thick Felt and velvet drapes hanging from the ceiling. Long gone are the "Greek" Columns of yesteryear that ensured you the atmosphere you paid for is well displayed and worthy of the second mortgage your Mom was swindled into taking out on the house to put your Dad away the "Right" way. Believe it or not, this was a very common practice used by the local "Funeral Director" back when all this funeral nonsense was being rehashed over and over, you know, "Back In The Day".


The sad thing about the death of this industry is that so many of those that are hanging on till the bitter end are doing this at your expense. Prices are spiking, you may go into the giant behemoth outdated facility down the street and even though they swore off price comparisons against the more affordable location down the street, the first thing out of their mouth is "How much is that other place charging, I'll match it and beat it by 10%. My question - Why couldn't they just do right by the consumer in the first place and do that from the beginning?


 Now it appears, the funeral industry is an "investment". Most, if not all are doing the "save and spend" cycle of business. Save it then just spend it in Vegas or on that uncontrollable gambling debt or something like that. Nothing or very very little goes back into the business. This includes bills.

There was a time when people wanted to help you, they wanted to serve and they wanted to help you carry your grief. Now its all about sitting with the family, taking your money and then passing "the case" on to some junior assistant so they can push the service to the end, most of the time not knowing what was going on. Doesn't matter, they got the cash, off to Hawaii.

Ya know what? Not everyone is like that, I have served for some very fine funeral home owners. They care, but today it appears those individuals are far and few between.

You can rest assured that every negative comment I have received on these blogs are from a disgruntled funeral home owner who doesn't like the idea of me telling you that the $7,500 funeral service you just paid for cost him or her or them about $1,000.

Lot's of secrets, lots and Lot's. I just turned 50 years old, I sleep well at night, and I also know that as long as people keep trying to reveal everything they can about my business practices, which I might add are above par, I will be letting more and more out.


DID YOU KNOW! that your funeral provider can purchase a customized hearse made by GM, CHRYSLER  or FORD? Just like that new customized Cadillac that they purchased for $45,000. only for half the price, thus bringing the price down on the service. Also did you know that there is no reason at all to replace the funeral hearse every three years other than to satisfy the owners ego of having a "NEW" hearse, Hearses are some of the most pampered cars in any industry, why would you need to replace a car with 10,000 pampered miles on it?


Did you know it costs LESS to lease or purchase a pre-existing building and convert it into a funeral home than it does to have one built? Funeral homes are facilities that pretty much exist to satisfy the ego of the owner. You pay for this.

I'm Sorry about your loss, lets talk about
 cremation..

Corporate funeral in America, and some private can not at all find a way to justify the outrageous, outlandish and engorged prices for their prices. It really quite comical as you sit there and they throw this price at you for over $7,000 for a funeral and they cant understand why you get this twisted lost look on your face.  It's like the white elephant in the room, It just sits there. There's an uncomfortable moment, not for the counselor, the poor counselor, either make the sale or hit the bricks.

I have seen families go in for a direct cremation into a corporate facility, ask for a direct cremation, get told "around $3,200" Oh no, I don't want a service, just a cremation. Then the long pause as the counselor responds with............. I KNOW! (Funland Mortuary, Diginty Memorial Guys, Sun City Arizona)
AND THEN the industry came up with something new that they could sell to you instead of burial or cremation, LIQUEFACTION! (no kidding) Oh come on, enough is enough now......

So there you go, the funeral institution is dying, It is, the hold outs are holding on, hoping, hoping, hoping that you will forget everything you have learned since this whole funeral fiasco stated to unwind some 15 years ago, people just got fed up, you got fed up, you walked out of the Dino-mortuary, got on your "Smart Phone" googled "Low Cost Cremation" and BAM! you were guided around the block.
 

The Old School funeral home fails to realize that unlike them, you keep up with modern technology, you understand modern communication and you realized about 10 years ago that like other countries in this world, much can be said about bargaining. If they choose not to bargain, YOU can walk out!

And you did. Be proud of yourself, bury your dead with what you define as "Dignity", not what they define it as................... or trade mark it as.