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 funeral/burial day.

        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 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 misconduct.

8 Street-Wise Tips

  1. 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 expenses.
  2. 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.)
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Place the obituary yourself! Really...many funeral homes will charge you as much as 3 times that actual cost of placing an obituary.
  6. 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 comparisons.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:

  • 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: or send your letter to Benjamin Dover, PO Box 9822, Fort Worth, TX 76147-2822.

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's some local (Texas) contact numbers:
Budget Casket Superstore-Fort Worth (817) 654-9438
Budget Casket Superstore-Bedford/Mid-Cities (817) 267-5590
Budget Casket & Monuments-Houston (713) 465-6688

Nationally, consider contacting:

Direct Casket (800) 732-2753

H O M E,   O N  T H E  A I R,   B 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