In my years as a pastor, I became very cynical and negative about the funeral home "industry". I saw far too many grieving families, particularly older bereaved partners, conned into spending far more money than necessary on funeral arrangements. The funeral home directors and employees were experts at playing on emotions, tugging at heartstrings, and using the natural grief and lack of concentration of the bereaved to persuade them to buy unnecessarily elaborate coffins, flower arrangements and other impedimenta, pay for unnecessary funeral home and graveside services, and generally open their wallets to being outrageously abused.
To my fury, I even found that certain ministers of religion would cooperate with funeral homes to "up-sell" funeral arrangements, in return for a fee or a percentage of the profits. I was actually approached to do this by two funeral homes, early in my ministerial career in this country. I was very rude to them, and they went away with several fleas in their ear. I couldn't get over their act of injured innocence. "It's just business!" "That's the way we do things over here!" Yeah, right! If "just business" is ripping off those already mourning and grieving, I want no part of it, thank you very much! I took care to steer my flock away from those funeral homes whenever possible.
I was therefore very glad to read that two Web sites are upsetting the funeral homes' applecarts.
Funeralocity.com and Parting.com are two startups that enable the bereaved to shop for caskets, embalming and cremation services — and search for the cheapest option, as they can when booking an airplane flight, a car or a hotel.
. . .
The funeral home business is notoriously murky when it comes to pricing. Some critics claim undertakers can take advantage of clients who are of no mind to bargain when grieving their loved ones, sources said.
“Prices tend to stay higher when there is no transparency, and that describes the funeral industry,” said Josh Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance told The Post. “There is no other retail sector that routinely hides its prices to get people to come into the sales office” so it can sell them a pricey package, Slocum said.
Currently, just 25 percent of the 20,000 funeral homes in the US provide pricing information on their sites, according to FCA, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group.
“This is an industry that is 40 to 50 years out of date technologically and culturally,” Slocum added.
When reached by The Post, undertakers said they didn’t want their prices online for a whole host of reasons, ranging from fears of being undercut by the competition to causing customer confusion.
. . .
Funeralocity launched in April after testing its technology in Atlanta for two years and setting up call centers to collect its information on funeral homes. It allows grieving consumers to look at a detailed menu of prices along with photos of funeral homes and customer reviews.
Both websites offer their listings for free to consumers and don’t charge funeral homes. They make money by promoting businesses that agree to pay a fee and meet certain qualifications to be listed as a top provider.
There's more at the link.
I note that neither Web site shows the prices of funeral homes in my area, but then we're a long way away from their normal stamping-grounds. I daresay those in larger cities, particularly in states that legally require funeral homes to publish their rates, will be better served.
I hope we get more such Web sites and services soon, offering more widespread coverage of funeral homes. This is one racket that needs to be laid open to public inspection, and the sooner the better.
(I've already told Miss D. and my close friends that, when my time comes, they're not to spend a lot of money on a big, expensive funeral. Just cremate me and put me away without worrying too much about ceremony. Instead, use the money for a good party to celebrate my life, have a lot of fun, and give thanks for all we shared and did together. If it's given to me to know what's going on, I'll be there, flicking ghostly ice cubes at the guests and enjoying the squeaks!)