FUNERALS and RIPOFFS (Doc. 9B - TV Reports, Part 1)

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To go to the next section: Document 9C - TV Investigative Reports, Part 2, go to the List at the bottom of the Topic List page (above).

These reports/graphics by other U.S. media will help them investigate your local mortuaries.

Document 9B - TV Investigations, Part 1 (NOTE: Contains many small color photos which take awhile to load on some browsers.)

Document 9B

TV Reports, with Color Photos, Part 1


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Photo 1. Phil Archer, the consumer reporter, tells about the price survey in his hands and the investigation which the station conducted.

Photo 2. TV chart shows one mortuary's $1,795 price for a casket -- a markup of six times the wholesale cost -- meaning a profit of $1,495 on a casket for which the mortician paid only $300 wholesale.
One mortician says that he marks up his caskets two to three times wholesale -- but that markups of SIX OR SEVEN TIMES WHOLESALE are common, and may go as high as TEN TIMES wholesale.

Photo 3. Chart shows the GREAT DIFFERENCE in price
(more than $8,400 higher) for the SAME
minimum "traditional" funeral services
and the lowest-priced metal casket* at two mortuaries.

Photo. TV chart shows the high prices of several mortuaries for
their lowest-priced funeral and metal casket*. Several are SCI mortuaries.

The program offers a packet of ADVICE and the PRICE SURVEY of all Houston mortuaries
to those who send a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to the IFIC in Phoenix.

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Photo 1. Hosts Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters state: "What goes into the price of a funeral? Most people don't know."
We decided to take our hidden cameras where you can't ordinarily go. Behind the closed doors of the funeral industry. What John Stossel found there is astonishing. You'll see things you've never seen before."

Photo 2. "Unscrupulous funeral directors ready to make a big profit off your loss."
"The funeral industry, say critics, is a business that victimizes people when they're weak -- often $6,000 for a funeral. Often people pay so much because they don't know they have a choice."

Photo 3. The hosts say: "After all, when a loved one dies, you
don't have the time or the heart to shop around. and that gives the funeral director
the perfect opportunity to manipulate you."

Photo 1. "Thirty-two years ago Jessica Mitford wrote a scathing best seller (The American Way of Death) that said that American funeral directors BULLY GRIEVING FAMILIES into paying too much.

Photo 2. Mrs. Mitford says: "The abuse of the consumer in the funeral industry is absolutely vast. It's extraordinary."
Photo 3. In 1995-6, she was writing a new version of her book on the funeral industry. (Regretably, Ms. Mitford died on July 23, 1996. Her book is being completed by her husband. An article from it, "DEATH, INCORPORATED," appears in the March 1997 Vanity Fair magazine.)

Photo 1. Karen Leonard, Mitford's chief researcher and Director of the Redwood (Calif.) Funeral Consumer Alliance, says: "Because the consumer doesn't know what is going onthey can get away with whatever they want to.
"They are constantly selling 'PROTECTIVE SEAL' caskets (with a neoprene seal) -- to 'protect' your loved one. This is outrageous."
Photo 2. (at left, a hand tilts up the edge of the narrow strip of black neoprene rubber "protective" seal lying on the top edge of one side of the casket.)
Ms. Leonard says: "In a 'protective' casket or a 'protective' vault -- instead of the natural process of decomposition -- drying out and becoming a skeleton,
" ... you get a SLIMY, MOLDY, much slower process, and it's MUCH MORE GRUESOME. If anybody could see the outcome of such an event, they would never choose that. But, they're not telling you that."

Photo 3. Mortician's convention with displays of caskets, hearses, etc.

Sales Tactics
Photo 1. Morticians used false and disparaging statements to sell higher priced caskets.
This mortician claims that President Nixon was buried in this type of casket.

Photo 2. This mortician compares metal (probably meaning steel) caskets to coffee cans to coax families to buy expensive hardwood, copper or bronze caskets.
Photo 3. This mortician badmouths inexpensive wood caskets by saying that they are just slapped together with wood from the local lumber yard.

Photo 4. A mortician holds his hand over his heart, points at a casket, and says: "That's all you need ... basic, decent, and that's it. TRUST ME. Keep it (the price) down, and this is where I would keep it. One (casket) is just like the other. ... (pointing at another casket) this oak, you're talking $2,000 -- for what? You don't have to do that."
Photo 5. The mortician says there's no reason to spend $2,000 for a casket, but then charges $2,385 for the "basic, decent" one he has been recommending. .
He says that you don't have to spend a lot of money. However, his total bill is $7,208.

(Additional summary will be added shortly.)

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Photo 1. Mr. Harman shows the van which he uses to pick up a body from a home or hospital. It is similar to the vans many mortuaries use, except that in it he also carries a color catalog of caskets which families can look through if they wish when he first visits them. He offers to return to their home at their convenience to make arrangements for funeral services.

Photo 2. He offers complete "traditional" funerals and the same services offered by other mortuaries, and a hearse and other vehicles that families might desire for transportation to church, cemetery or crematory.
He explains that caskets he buys at wholesale for $1,000, he'll sell for $1,250, while other mortuaries might charge $3,000. He charges $555 for direct cremation; others in the area charge up to $1,900.

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Photo 1. Consumer reporter shows some of the hundreds of
court lawsuit documents and complaints
that the station obtained.

(Additional summary and photos will be added here shortly.).

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(Our IFIC assisted the producers.)


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To go to the next section: Document 9C - TV Reports, Part 2, see below.
Reports and photos from more TV investigations.

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Click here to return to the 2009 List of Topics of the Opening Home Page.

To go to any of these Documents, click: 2009 Opening Home Page and (at the bottom) click on:
A) Overview of the Industry and these 17 Documents (Very long. Being updated) | 1) Introduction, Exposes |
Planning a Funeral, Embalming | 3) Caskets, Photos, "Protective Seal" Casket Fraud | 3A) 2009 Casket Prices |
Mortuary Prices
(Being updated) | 5) Industry "Profit System" | 6) Abuse Nationwide | 7A) Rip-off Categories, A |
More Rip-off Categories, B | 8) Advice to Media | 9A) Significant Resources | 9B TV Investigative Reports, 1 |
TV Reports, 2 | 10) Letters, Comments | 11A) Prepay Plan Contracts,Fraud | 11B) Refunds, Lawsuits |
(Summary of these Documents) | 13) Short Version of these Documents