A Funeral Director "Exposes" the Funeral Industry

    August 21, 2013 4 Comments


A Funeral Director Exposes Funeral Industry

Funeral directors are supposed to help families through the most painful experiences of their lives. One funeral director says the industry takes advantage of their vulnerability instead.

We know that the funeral industry has some major issues, namely those associated with its lack of transparency, high costs, and complicating jargon. And because we’ve experienced just how terribly difficult it is to plan a funeral with virtually no information on-hand, we’ve made it our mission to give families the information they need to make informed funeral decisions. But one funeral director, who posted a rant on Reddit that claims to expose the funeral industry, identified a number of other issues in the funeral industry. He/she also provided some weighty words of advice:

1. Embalming isn’t what you think it is, so think twice before purchasing this service

The funeral director says on Reddit in very explicit language (so I will just quote a part of it), “There is nothing dignified about having one’s mouth wired shut, eyelids forced closed by spiked plastic contact lenses, and ramming a trocar into the abdomen to puncture organs so that they can be suctioned out. ”

So why do so many families opt for embalming? According to this funeral director, embalming is a “cash cow,” and therefore funeral homes push families to get it. How do they push? Perhaps they don’t explain to families that “in most states, the law only requires embalming if you are transporting a body across state lines or are not planning to inter for more than 72 hours and/or having a public viewing.” Additionally, he/she points to the environmental concerns associated with embalming: embalming “creates a sanitation problem if the cemetery you use is anywhere near a municipal water line, which most ‘commercial’ cemeteries are.”

2. Sign a funeral home contract at your own risk

This is true in any industry, but according to the funeral director writing the Reddit post, most of the contracts used by funeral homes are “super vague, so we can charge you for just about anything and justify it by pointing to your signature on the dotted line.” And while the FTC does regulate the funeral industry to protect against such deceptive businesses practices, this funeral director says explicitly, “we count on your ignorance and vulnerability.”

3. Funeral directors take advantage of the vulnerability of grieving families

This is truly shameful if/when it’s true – the funeral director writing the Reddit post says funeral directors specifically look for “which family members are taking it the hardest and will therefore be the easiest prey.”

4. A piece of advice: READ THE FUNERAL RULE

Whether this funeral director is right or wrong in posting this rant, he/she absolutely hit the nail on the head here. Everyone must read the Funeral Rule and learn their rights, as declared by the federal government. Here’s just one example of what could happen if you don’t: “Did you know the casket I’m selling you for $5000 is really just a nicely decorated plywood box? If you were smarter, you’d know you don’t have to buy that from me …  Costco and Wal-Mart sell very reasonably priced nice caskets on their websites.”

5. Funeral directors are sales people often using “smoke and mirrors” to convince you to make another purchase

Another absolutely terrible point that the Reddit funeral ranter makes, if/when it’s true, is that funeral directors “try to shame you into going along with the exorbitant cost, implying you didn’t really love grandma enough if you spend less than five figures with me. You should know, by the way, that everything you buy from me – a guestbook, prayer cards, even the damn obituary notices – is marked up at least 200%.”

6. The merger of the two biggest players in the industry will create a monopoly

The FTC is currently reviewing the merger of Service Corporation International, the multi-billion dollar conglomerate that operates thousands of funeral homes and cemeteries across the nation, and Stewart Enterprises, another large, publicly traded funeral conglomerate.  According to this funeral director, the merger ”will create a mega-Decepticon-conglomerate that will control at least 40% of all funeral service business transactions in this country – and that, my friends, is what antitrust regulations refer to as a monopoly.”

7. Final words of advice: “EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US is going to have to conduct business with the death care industry eventually — be an informed consumer and know who you’re really giving your money to.”

No matter the reason behind this Reddit post or it’s level of validity, one thing is very, very clear: families should make funeral purchases just as they would any other major purchase. That means doing research, learning the jargon, identifying funeral consumer rights, finding out the itemized funeral service and product prices, comparing options, looking for ratings and reviews, and asking for help from those you trust. I know it’s terribly difficult to do all of those things at a time of crisis, which is exactly why eFuneral has tried to aggregate all that information for you in one place (at eFuneral.com).

If you have any questions on this post or on your specific funeral arrangements, please do not hesitate to contact the eFuneral team at info@efuneral.com or 855-338-6372. We’re here to guide you every step of the way to ensure you can plan with confidence.

Leah Yomtovian Roush is the Senior Manager of Strategic Development for Cleveland, Ohio-based eFuneral, a comprehensive and free online resource that enables those thinking about end-of-life to research, plan, and arrange a wide variety of funeral-related services. Leah is the editor of eFuneral's Online Resource Center, and she manages the company's marketing efforts and develops strategies for company growth. Leah also serves on the Boards of multiple non-profit organizations, helping them expand their reaches and increase their impacts.

  • Jeannine Stacy

    When my mother died, she did not want to be cremated, and she wasn’t. However, it was listed as one of the expenses for her interment. My sister and my brother were co-executors, and I had no say. However, I did attend the meeting with the funeral director there in Blanchester, Ohio, and I spoke up and said, but she is not being embalmed. The director just said, yes, and did not elaborate. This obviously did not register with my brother or sister, and we were charged several hundred dollars for a service they did not perform.

    • 57939names

      Jeannine, my sympathy for the loss of your Mother. I, too, have lost my Mother and I know the pain you are going through. I would suggest that you take the invoice for your Mothers’ funeral back to the facility, show them the incorrect charge, and ask them to write you a refund check. If they decline, simply tell them you are sorry they are refusing and advise them you will have to proceed with another avenue of collections. Then, go to small claims court in your county and file a charge against them. This will not require an attorney and they will be forced to respond and defend their action.

  • Cynthia

    I’d like to add either a correction or a request for further research – your article says that there are laws that require embalming for public viewing, but I know of NO State that has this as a law. My understanding is that funerals make this rule on an individual case-by-case basis. Could you please cite the source of that information? I’d really appreciate it if citations were always included when you state that something’s a law – since there’s no science-based reason that this SHOULD be a law that I can find, it’s important for my work that I connect to whatever State has this law (or any other law that doesn’t appear supported by the facts) and then learn the facts it’s based upon. Thanks for paying attention to this sort of detail in your writings. It helps!

    • eFuneral

      Cynthia, thank you for your feedback! I believe you are referring to a section in which we quote the funeral director. And you are correct: Embalming is only required when crossing state lines from Alabama, Alaska, and New Jersey. Additionally, California, Idaho, Kansas, and Minnesota require embalming when a body is shipped by common carrier. All of those rules and regulations can by found in the FTC’s Funeral Rule along with individual state codes.

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