Funeral & Cemetery Industry Secrets
EXPOSED on Good Morning Texas
Dollars & $ense Advice from Benjamin Dover
Monday, March 9, 1998
Funeral/Cemetery Horror Story Factoids
a-Did you know that in some cemeteries you don't ever really "buy a
plot of land"?... but you're simply buying the rights to have them
buried in that cemetery. Make sure that you're getting an actual deed
to that specific plot of land before you agree to anything!
b-Believe it or not, mock funerals are held with greater regularity
than you can imagine. A "mock funeral" is when a service is held at an
open grave for the family/friends, and then after everyone's gone, they
bury the body where they want to bury the body. Then the family gets to
play hide-and-seek the next time they visit the cemetery, writing off
confusion about the actual location of the grave to the trauma of the
c-Don't be so trusting of your minister! No, I'm not bible-bashing,
but there is evidence of wide-spread collusion between pastors of
churches and specific funeral parlors/ cemeteries...the pastors kick
business the right way, they get pay offs under the table or generous
donations to the church above the table, from the funeral parlors. Hey,
this is America! Death is a big business.
d-Funeral parlor salesmen routinely prey on the emotional instability
of the grieving... selling services that are completely unnecessary!
Like the funeral parlor that sold the woman a casket for her dearly,
recently departed husband, who was eventually cremated!
e-Public misconception #1: Embalming is a part of the process and
required by law. False! Embalming is only necessary when a public
viewing of the body is desired. Otherwise, refrigeration meets ALL
state requirements regarding the keeping of a body prior to burial.
f-Poor widows are easy marks, but everyone's a sucker for the deceptive
death industry: Okay, so you're not going to get the body embalmed (to
the tune of $500-600 average)? Fine, then we'll just have to charge you
our standard refrigeration cost of $500-600. Hmmmm, coincidence?
Hardly...refrigeration from honest (don't confuse upstanding with honest
folks) funeral parlors should go for around $20 a day.
g-The funeral industry is federally regulated...sort of. The Federal
Trade Commission is empowered with enforcement of laws that many times,
are unknown to the masses. But there are specific guidelines that the
funeral industry's supposed to follow that regulate the way they deal
with the consumer...like did you know that just recently, consumers
became eligible to buy caskets from their own suppliers instead of being
forced to buy from the funeral home?
h-Cremation sounds good, but beware. A box of ashes is even easier to
abuse than a body, as recent headlines indicate. Don't be so willing to
buy into the hype from organizations like "The Neptune Society" and
others that have been caught and fined by public agencies for their
8 Street-Wise Tips
TO HELP YOU GET THROUGH AN EMOTIONALLY
(AND FINANCIALLY) DIFFICULT TIME OF YOUR LIFE
Plan for the inevitable! Pre-arranged funerals can greatly reduce the
cost of your emotions when the time finally comes to handle the death of
a friend or loved one. But be smart about what you're buying
up-front...don't let salesmen get the best of you because--after
all--their job is to sell you services. And read the fine print
carefully: In many cases you might only receive as much as 90% of the
plan value refunded (you don't think the salesman will be around to give
back his/her commission, do you?). And if you move to another city you
might be out of luck if you try to transfer the policy to another
funeral home/cemetery. Beware and read closely the paperwork first.
Instead of buying a "pre-need" funeral policy, consider going to your
banks and opening what's called a Totten Trust (also known as a "pay
upon death" or "in trust for" account. It's not really a trust, but a
special bank account payable at the time of death to whomever you
designate. Upon death, that person withdraws the funds for funeral
Don't get suckered in to services you really don't need! Open casket
"viewing" is another way for the cemetery industry to get into your
pocketbook. Embalming is one of the most misunderstood and unnecessary
services rendered by the industry, as are expensive caskets. (Don't
waste your money on an expensive casket...if anything consider buying a
"low-end" model and then if you're really determined to "preserve" the
body, place the casket inside of a vault for burial. Remember,
embalming and the use of sealed caskets/vaults only slow down the
decomposition process, they don't eliminate it.)
Never deal with a funeral or cemetery representative by yourself!
ALWAYS have someone else there with you, preferably a friend...someone
that's not as emotionally attached as you/your family may be.
- Consider providing your own casket! The Federal Trade Commission
recently passed rules that make it possible for families to provide the
casket to the funeral parlor/cemetery instead of forcing the consumer to
purchase it from the funeral home or cemetery. And since the average
mark-up on a casket can run anywhere from 300% - 500%...this is a
tremendous money saving opportunity for consumers.
Place the obituary yourself! Really...many funeral homes will charge
you as much as 3 times that actual cost of placing an obituary.
Ask the funeral home for a price list! It's an FTC rule that every
home provide you with a price list upon request; be sure compare pricing
of funeral homes owned by separate companies...with the number of homes
being purchased by major corporations, it's important to get fair price
Don't turn the funeral home loose with your loved one's "burial"
insurance policy! Many consumers have funeral or burial insurance
policies. Many of these policies come in $5,000 and $10,000 face values
and some folks have made the mistake of turning the proceeds over to the
funeral home to spend. Don't worry, they'll spend it alright...they'll
spend all of it! Come on...use your head. You make an auto mechanic
give you a written estimate before they start working on your car. Make
the funeral home just as accountable...and don't tell them how much
insurance (of any kind) that you have, or they just might try to help
you spend all of it.
Think about spending more on the headstone/grave marker than on the
casket. Let's face it, the casket goes underground or in a mausoleum,
but the marker will be visible forever.
Attention Texas and Oklahoma residents: There's a great resource right
in our own backyard; contact the Memorial Society of North Texas (toll
free inside TX or OK): (800) 371-2221 or direct (214) 528-6006.
Terrific information and insights from this non-profit consumer
information group, but if you decide to join any memorial society, you
still need to do your own homework and comparison pricing. Don't rely
solely on the information provided by these societies. For residents
outside of Texas and Oklahoma needing a referral to a memorial society
in their community, call the national headquarters for Funeral and
Memorial Societies of America (FAMSA): (800) 765-0107.
If you have on-line computer access, try one of the following for more
information about the funeral and cemetery industries:
WANT TO AVOID BURYING THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS? Use you head, not your
heart when a loved one passes away. Consider taking advantage of the
new regulations concerning funeral homes passed recently by the Federal
Trade Commission. Instead of getting hammered by the huge mark-ups at
the retail funeral home level, consider providing your own casket.
You'll save as much as 75% off of what they'll try to charge
you...here's some local (Texas) contact numbers:
If you feel like you have been taken advantage of by the funeral or
cemetery industry, contact one of the top consumer-advocates in the
nation: Ms. Cuffie Joslin at (916) 363-4003.
If you have any horror stories you'd like to contribute to an
upcoming book that I'm in the middle of researching, please contact me
directly via e-mail: email@example.com or send your letter to Benjamin
Dover, PO Box 9822, Fort Worth, TX 76147-2822.
Nationally, consider contacting:
O M E,
O N T H E A I R,
O O K S, S
C A M S, A
S K B E N, S
M A R T L I N K S
© 1998 by Benjamin F. Dover and Equitable Media Services
All Rights Reserved