Saturday, September 22, 2012



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.


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


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: 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.