Saturday, March 2, 2013

CREMATION AND DEEP DOUBTS ABOUT "NEPTUNA" SOCIETY.

NOTE - Due to the cease and desist letter I received from a specific corporation, all names are to be considered fictitious, but then again, I did not write the article.

I found this article on the "Funeral Consumer Alliance" website, it is a good article. "Naptune Society" sells cremation in the Greater Phoenix area. Use caution. The purpose for this blog is to instill "guilt through association and Corporate responsibility.

C.S.I. or Corporation Service International Is a corporate funeral provider owned by investors, the largest in North America, if not the world. They are the Parent Corporation of : 
  • Neptuna Society
  • Tredent Society
  • Dingity Memorial
  • Funeraria de Loss Angel
  • Advantageous Cremation and Burial
  • National Creamation Society
Dated 22 February 2013 
 
by Lamar Hankins, past president of Funeral Consumers Alliance (credentials speak for themselves)
 
Selling Cremation Door-To-Door

I just had the opportunity to be a “secret shopper” – from the convenience of my dining room table. Over the years, I have occasionally received solicitations from funeral homes or cremation services to encourage me to “pre-arrange” funerals or cremations. In recent months, I received two such solicitations from the Naptune Society. I responded to the last one, sending back their card and checking the box that indicated I wanted to receive more information.

 That information came through a phone call a couple of weeks ago asking if one of their representatives could visit me in my home. I said “yes” and a nice fellow showed up. His card identified him as an “Austin Area Counselor,” for Naptune Society, “America’s Most Trusted Cremation Services.” I was treated to a sales pitch full of misleading or outright false claims, all to get me to pay more than double the cost for a simple cremation in the Austin area.
 
(This is not an uncommon practice with most C.S.I. firms, the counselors and sales people are under great pressure to make quota and beat last months numbers. I know, I worked for them.)
 
It was obvious that he knew nothing about me, or he probably would not have made the 45-minute drive to my home from his Austin location. I have spent the last twenty years as a volunteer advocate for funeral consumers with the Austin Memorial & Burial Information Society (AMBIS), as well as 18 years working as a volunteer with the national organization with which AMBIS is an affiliate, Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA).
 
The counselor and I spent an hour and a half discussing pre-arrangement options that Neptune offers. The best one, from Neptune’s perspective, is being offered right now at a $150 discount, so the cost to me would be only $2,255.
 
Leading up to my request to know the price of the service was about an hour of information about the plan, and information he had gathered about what a few other funeral homes in the Austin area charge. The counselor had no way of knowing that just four days earlier, Nancy Walker (President of the AMBIS board) and I had finished surveying the prices of funerals and cremations for the 51 funeral services located in the Austin area.
 
  Corporation Service International, Who are they?

CSI is the parent owner corporation of:

  • Naptuna Society
  • Tredent Society
  • Dingity Memorial
  • Funeraria de Los Angel
  • Advantageous Cremation and Burial
  • National Creamation Society

  • C.S.I. sells stock on the New York Stock exchange and is currently valued at $15.52 a share. It has a  trade volume of 1,659,908 shares, those shares are what need to be kept happy. THEY ARE CALLED INVESTORS. The investors "need" your money to be happy, more money than they needed last month to be happy, If they become unhappy, they will pull their investment or sell off their shares and the price falls on the stock thus making the corporation worthless. Get it?
     
    It is noteworthy that the counselor mentioned that Naptune is owned by CSI the largest funeral provider in the world. Based on his inflection and the look on his face, I think I was supposed to be impressed by this. But I have written about CSI many times over the last twenty years, discussed legal problems with CSI’s legal staff, and had my own battles with them on behalf of my family over cemetery plots. Their world-wide activity and reputation was not news to me.
     
    It surprised me that Naptune uses the outrageous charges at CSI facilities to show how much better its prices are – its counselor cited rates at several CSI locations  that were much higher than Neptune’s. But it wasn’t a fair comparison; in most cases, what the counselor showed me were prices for elaborate cremation and related services, not Direct Cremation prices. Direct Cremation is universally defined as a simple cremation without a viewing or ceremony.
     
    When the counselor did show me a price from other providers for Direct Cremation, he pointed out that there were many hidden costs not covered by their price (e.g., refrigeration, crematory fee). But all of his examples were for prices higher than Neptune’s.

     For a few people, the best part of Neptune’s plan is that it includes – for $474 – a “Transportation and Relocation Plan.” This is worthwhile if you are traveling overseas and die on the trip, but the contract for transportation services is not with Naptune. Instead Naptune is a third-party seller for the Medical Air Services Association (MASA). Based on the contract, it appears that MASA will transport the body to the nearest licensed crematory and will return the cremated remains as per the Naptune agreement.  
    

    The counselor tried to convince me that the transport agreement was also very useful in the event I died while on a trip to the Texas coast (about a three and a half hour drive). He explained that a funeral home at the coast would have to take custody of my body and be paid for shipping it back to Austin for cremation. He did not know that I knew this was complete nonsense.
     
    If I die down at the coast, my chosen cremation provider in the Austin area could merely arrange for a funeral home, mortuary service, or crematory in the area where I died to handle the cremation for a low wholesale trade price – probably about $400 – and send the cremated remains to the Austin area funeral service. My family would pay my chosen provider’s cost for direct cremation and receive my cremated remains. I’ve had personal experience with this. When my brother died twelve years ago, an Austin funeral home arranged his cremation in the county of his death, and my parents, who lived in that county, picked up his cremated remains directly from the local funeral provider where he died, paying the Austin funeral home for the entire cost. 
    

    Next, the counselor tried to shock me by saying that funeral prices double every seven to ten years. I happen to have funeral cost surveys that AMBIS has done for many years, so I compared the costs from 2000 with those in 2012. Direct cremation averaged $1,468 in our 2000 survey. In 2012, the average cost was $1,899 – a 29% increase, not twice the cost from twelve years earlier. Of course, a lot of those increased costs can be attributed to CSICI funeral homes. Their cremation costs rose about 62% during this same period.
     
    In addition, the counselor told me that cremation in central Texas averages $2,700+, which is just not true. The 2013 AMBIS annual survey just published and available on-line at fcaambis.org.  It shows the average cost of cremation for the 51 funeral providers in the Austin Texas area priced is $2,053, nearly $650 less than the counselor claimed. 
    

    Of course, the counselor also did not tell me that I do not have to pay the average price. I can get Direct Cremation for as little as $695 from two providers, and for $775 or less from three others. This compares favorably with 2000 prices, which were $725 from two providers and $740 from another. So competition has made the lowest-cost Direct Cremation less in 2013 than in it was in 2000.
     
    But those were not the only misleading statistics the Counselor gave me. He told me that most funeral homes have two price increases yearly. Because we do an annual survey, we know that this is not true for most funeral homes. A handful have annual price increases, but many go two or three years without increases. In my experience, the number of increases has more to do with the general economy and the popularity of cremation, which takes business away from funeral services, than with any other factors. However, one funeral director told me recently that CSI was the best thing that ever happened to him. Because of CSI’s high prices, he can charge more and still offer a better deal than CSI funeral homes. Most of the Cook-Walden chain, which is owned by CSI, charges $2,740 for Direct Cremation at four of its five locations.
     
    I was a bit startled when the counselor told me that Clark Howard, the radio consumer advisor, recommends the Naptune Society. For many years, Howard was a member of the Honorary Advisory Board of the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), for which I spent about eight years serving as a member of its board of directors, including four as President. To my knowledge, Howard has never endorsed pre-paying for funerals or cremation. A search of his website turned up no mention of the Naptune Society.

    23 comments:

    1. Thank you for this great information on cremation services. What is the best company to go with?

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    2. Hello, Selection of a cremation facility is a very personal choice. I honestly encourage you to shop arround first.It would be unethical for me to direct you to one facility over another, even as a buisness owner.But I do encourge you to look and see what the facilities in your area have to offer. As an individual, I have worked for SCI, and I would not use them for funeral or cremation services. Maybe for cemetery, but thats all. I wish you well and please shop around. - Miguel Legaspi

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    3. This was an eye opener! I worked at Neptune until recently. What the counselor told Mr. Hankins is in contradiction as to how I was "trained". I too was given the same sales tactics, telling prospects Neptune was the ONLY one to trust. I was lied to in the interest of making the sale. The actual cost of their direct cremation is around $800. That amount goes into an interest bearing trust account. But who collects the interest? At over 260,000,000 living Neptune pre-need members today well,that's over 200 trillion dollars in trust accounts. Plus they make a huge profit on the pre-need kits that are manditorily included. Anyone want to buy SCI stock?

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    4. So there you go! another satisfied employee. As you can see little is in the interest of the family or the deceased, it apears that it is mainly in the interest of the "Interest" bearing stock, or the corporation, or Service Corporation International, to be exact and their stock holders. Thank you "Anonymous" for this insightfull information. - Miguel

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    5. You're welcome. They told me 260 million members....but there's only 311 million total USA population! Really? 83%? Unbelievable that I took them at their word.

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    6. Unfortunately so did my parents, my father dying right now and I read about this companys practises having already taken my parents hard earned money, preying on thses seniors who believe that their wishes will be fulfilled, I will be watching you Neptune and your employees...just know you will not get another cent from my family and you better honor your contract!

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    7. Respectfully - A fellow funeral directorOctober 11, 2013 at 11:04 AM

      I think it's great that you want to inform the consumer of their options...however, if you are going to talk about a company, please get their name right. It's not CSI (that's a tv show), it's SCI...Service Corporation International. It's not Neptuna or Naptuna Society...it's Neptune Society. It's not Tredent, it's Trident, nor is it Dingnity, Advantageous, Funeraria de Los Angel or
      National Creamation Society ...it is Dignity, Advantage, Funeraria Del Angel, and National CREMATION Society. Sorry to be picking at you, but if you are going to give the full and complete "facts" about a company, at least have the courtesy to call them by their proper name. Don't get me wrong....there are several things here that I think you are spot on about.....but next time you decide to share research with the world....just get the company's name right.

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      1. Dear Funeral Director, Thank you for your input. Unfortunately, If I was referring to the above named businesses and corporation you are referring to, There is a very good chance they would probably send me a "cease and desist letter". And seeing how this specific corporation has "FOUR FLOORS" of legal department in their corporate offices, it is best that they remain the ficticious individuals stated above. Thanks! - Miguel

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      2. sometimes it is best to let the REST OF IT be open to ones interpretation...

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    8. is it true that service corp. international loaned its cremation business , national cremation society to the neptune society for 5 years ? after 5 years they , meaning the neptune society, has to give it back to s.c.i.?

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      Replies
      1. Marcia, I do not know of any dealings of S.I.C. and Neptuna Society. I do know that if you review SIC's website it states that Neptuna is a included in the business it controls or is invested in. S.I.C. has acquired 70% of Neptuna as a considered strategic move on their behalf, now that they (S.I.C.) are starting to accept the fact that cremation is not going to go away. Other than what I find on the internet, I have know knowledge of S.I.C.'s inter marketing/acquisition techniques or why they do what they do.

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    9. There is something to be said about being able to make arrangements ahead of time and save your family that burden. I am 48 with terminal cancer and even know I an aware this is not the cheapest way I chose Neptune because if the Dr's are correct I would rather they not have to deal with the details and if they are wrong and I live another few decades..its handled. I set up all the arrangement's already have a online sight I set up with pictures and I can add to it for as long as I live. Having saved my family the time and money of trying to do what they think I would have wanted is worth any "extra" money it cost... it may have been a couple hundred but my family may have gone overboard and payed even more or even had me buried due to disagreements among them and that's even more. Just saying sometimes, for some people its a good choice.

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    10. Imatreke, first and foremost, "I am to" That being said, in the community I live in and I serve, that couple of hundred bucks is a weeks worth of groceries or 3/4 of a weeks pay. If some can afford the services fees they charge, that's ok. This is America, we pay for what we choose. The decision on your behalf to pre-arrange to save your family the difficulties at the time of your death is a fine thing. I commend you on your decision to do this. Take care! - Miguel

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    11. Anyone else find it odd that someone from a funeral home is writing this blog telling everyone how pre-planning is a big mistake. Yet when they get you on there they tell you a simple creamtion is $795, oh but the URN in $500 and the box to creamte them in is $500. You aren't getting out of anything in the death industry for less than $2000 and that is a fact jack.

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      1. $585.00 Direct Cremation, cremation container and Temporary black plastic box for cremated remains, suitable for burial. Urns start at $95. Not everyone is a scoundrel.

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      2. I would imagine that you actual cost is above $585.00 when you add in all of the associated business costs: insurance, maintenance, vehicles, taxes, interest, salaries, advertising, depreciation etc. You may not be a "scoundrel" your words, but the business is a business and in order to stay in business you must make a profit!

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    12. CSI??? You wrote about them many times??? You spent 20 years as a member of AMBIS and 18 with FCS? AND YOU STILL WROTE CSI? NOT SCI? Service Corp International is the company. They have such a huge presence in the industry, how on Earth could you write their name wrong? Either you wanted free press in a google search or you didnt want SCI to sue you for libel. Or both!

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    13. Notice how the author will NOT type SCI? CSI, SIC, etc. HAHAHAHA

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    14. This is a joke. Read the article in Time Magazine June 24, 2013 to understand how funeral homes are able to continuing to operate with the surge of cremation decisions... 50% of the U.S. in 2017 (projected). "The Rise of Cremation" is the name of the article. Please explain how that the average cost of a cremation as explained in the above noted article is now $2570.00 (compared to the $585.00 of Miguel's company) and most of the cremations in the U.S. are performed by funeral homes. By-the-way that cost is directly obtained from the Cremation Association of North America. The average cost of a funeral, sans cemetery costs, is $7755.00 and Mr. Miguel what kind of a mark-up is attached to the "merchandise" such as caskets, services, transportation, after-hours pick-up, services, embalming etc?
      Preneed planning is a blessing! Most everyone that I have spoken with that has had a death in their family and who had to go into a funeral home was subject to "upselling." And that includes me. Those that I know who have used Neptune state that there was positively no "upselling" and there was no need for them to meet with a/the funeral director. Preneed planning eliminates the need, in the case of Neptune, to attend any additional meetings or to be given the opportunity to spend additional $$$. I would bet that at the retail cremation cost of $585.00 your company could not survive without the additional revenue provided by funerals, merchandise sales and services etc.. Oh, by the way what is the average "final" price of a cremation in your facility including all "additional" items. And why has not the issue of the real responsibility of the funeral director been addressed? That responsibility has not been mentioned or addressed. Neptune has a legion of individuals who have had experience with Neptune and a vast majority of those folks recommend Neptune to their family members and friends. And by the way...if one puts a preneed plan in place that is a "local" plan and if that one dies many miles from home the funeral homes or cremation organizations where the client died are under NO OBLIGATION to honor any other price than the one that they have in place at the time of death! So the cost can rise substantially.

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    15. And...The FCA has done a lot of good work but when a death occurs you are typically referred to a funeral home. All of the businesses in my local FCA area are funeral homes that perform cremations. In the "additional information" section of the FCA literature it outlines discounts that can be obtained for caskets, services, the purchase of property from listed "members" etc. typically of 15% which by the way anyone who has a bit of negotiating skill could obtain without FCA participation. And by the way Miguel "direct cremation" pricing is $785.00 which at least make a little more business sense than $585.00. FCA does not guarantee future pricing and insurance or trust funds may be forwarded to the servicing mortuary but no mention is made of "assignment fees."

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    16. I could not have found this article at a better time. My father-in-law just passed away and he wished to have his body cremated. I have never organized a cremation before so this article was very helpful. I think that we're going to have a good service now because of the things I learned here. Thanks for your help! http://www.cremationchicago.com/services.html

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