6 Easy Ways to Trick Funeral Planners into Paying More
It’s not hard to deceive a grieving funeral planner, which is why you need to be on the lookout!
The funeral industry is unique in a number of ways. To start, unlike most purchases, funeral services and products are purchased during a time of crisis. Additionally, there are severe time constraints on funeral purchases – in most cases, a maximum of three days. And, unlike any other industry, funeral consumers have little access to such information as prices, ratings, and reviews. Mix these ingredients all together, and you have the perfect recipe for deception.
To be clear, my goal in writing this post is NOT to help funeral directors deceive grieving families. Nor is it to accuse all funeral directors of egregious business practices. Rather, I’ve listed the easiest ways funeral directors can trick funeral planners so that consumers will know exactly what to watch out for when making funeral arrangements.
1. Don’t share your pricing information with consumers until they’ve visited your funeral home
Even though federal regulations dictate that funeral directors share their pricing with anyone who asks, the consequences for not doing so are minimal. Consider the fact that the FTC, which regulates the industry, is understaffed and probably doesn’t have the time to check up on each and every one of the 20,000+ funeral homes nationwide. And, even when funeral directors do get caught violating the rules, the penalty is a mere three-year training course and a voluntary payment to the U.S. Treasury. Plus, you don’t even have to worry about a tarnished reputation because funeral home violations are kept secret from the public! So why share your prices over the phone and risk funeral planners comparing you to the just-as-good funeral home down the street?
2. When you do share pricing information, bury your itemized prices in a pile of documents … or better yet, just share your package prices
FTC regulations dictate that funeral homes must share itemized prices with funeral planners, but for the same reasons as listed above, there’s little incentive to sharing those. After all, if you can sell one of your premium packages to grieving Nancy by convincing her to hold a viewing for her husband Bob who died suddenly last night (hint: tell her the price already includes the cost of embalming), why wouldn’t you?
3. When funeral planners ask about caskets and urns, make sure they know they “have to” purchase those products from you
Again, this is a big FTC no-no, but why not convince funeral planners that they have to purchase from you? You can easily markup that nicely decorated plywood box that you bought for $1,500 and sell it to these guys for at least $5,000. And when they ask about Costco or Walmart caskets, just tell them that those are made in China and yours are made in America. If they keep pushing, lie and tell them it would be much easier to use your own products and not worry about the others shipping and arriving in time. Or just let them buy those third-party caskets, and then tack on a hefty “receiving” fee.
4. Tell funeral planners that embalming and outer burial containers are required and that more premium casket and vault options will keep the body protected from the elements
Once you’ve convinced crying Nancy to purchase a premium package, why not throw in the top-of-the-line casket that will keep water and other elements at bay? And even if the outer burial container isn’t required at the cemetery where Bob is being buried, well, just lie and say it is. Then, convince Nancy that the metal vaults will add another layer of protection so Bob will never face the terrible process of decay.
5. When the grieving family is shocked by the bill, just tell them that the $14,000 will be spent honoring their lost loved one
The average cost of a funeral is about $8,500 but most funeral planners don’t know that. What they do know is, they want to honor their loved one as they say their final farewells. So when Nancy is shocked at the price of the funeral service you’ve arranged with her, just make sure she knows that Bob can feel her love and respect for him. Such a funeral only demonstrates how much she cares about him, right?
6. For those pre-planning a funeral, make sure they sign at the dotted line before walking out
When someone comes to you wanting to plan a funeral service so that they can leave their loved ones with one less burden, don’t just let them hypothetically pick funeral service and product options. Make sure they pay for it in advance! Tell Harry that if he really wants to do Pam a favor, he should not just make the plans, he should also pay for the service. Convince him that paying now will lock in the funeral prices so when they inevitably go up, Pam won’t be stuck with a higher bill. And by all means, when you have Harry sign at the dotted line, make sure the contract is vague enough so that in the future you can tack on additional costs for “non-covered” items.
Did I scare you enough? Well I hope so because even though most funeral directors are truly wonderful and do want to help families through their time of need, funeral purchases are different than others: they are so much more important and often more expensive. Families making funeral arrangements typically do so under duress with limited time. This makes them more vulnerable to deceptive and unethical business practices.
My hope is that with these scenarios in mind, funeral planners will brush up on their consumer rights and take the time to research funeral homes in their area. If you need any help at all with that process, please don’t hesitate to contact any eFuneral team member. Each of us is here to guide you every step of the way. And in case you’re wondering, all of our services are free. We will never ask you for a penny!
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.