(To return to the 2009 List of Topics of the Opening Page)
(To go to the next section: Document 11A - Sample Pre-pay and other Contracts go to the Topic List above and then to this document title at the bottom.)
PHONE...YOUR LOCAL TV/RADIO STATIONS AND NEWSPAPERS ABOUT THESE PAGES.
These reports/graphics by other U.S. media will help them investigate your local mortuaries.
LETTERS AND COMMENTS.
We don't have room for all the letters and email we receive, but we'll try to give you some idea of the range of comments, ideas, information.
Mausoleums and sealed caskets: (See Document 2 - Planning.)
. . "In regard to caskets placed in mausoleums, of course you should not seal them and, if possible, prop the lid of the casket open in the crypt. Mausoleums use a method of preservation quite different from a sealed casket. The air in most crypts is constantly being changed, on average every 10-15 minutes. This change is called "air swipe". Air swipe dessicates and dries dead tissue, or basically mummifies it. Sealing a casket inside a mausoleum would be bad practice, because of the great temperature extremes most mausoleums undergo."
D.T., AOL (mortician)
From D.M., Iowa: MORE INFO!
. . YOUR WWW INFO IS REVEALING!
. . I have encountered so many people who have been abused by the "professionals" in the mortuary business. A man I recently encountered spent $9,000 for a cremation, and to add even more he purchased the casket.
. . I work with seniors in the area of Medicare sign-up and need some information which I can get to them regarding the rip-off! Do you have any brochures, small articles which are available to purchase and hand out to these people.
. . I also work with over 50 churches in just my county, and think the idea of getting the info to the public through the clergy and churches is great. A small seminar format to inform them would be excellent. Do you have any resources along these lines?
. . I have seen my own father taken advantage of 3 times by these professionals and I think it's time that some one does a PROFESSIONAL job in getting out the TRUTH.
. . Thanks. D.M. (with consulting firm that assists Seniors)
Cemeteries? (F.F., mortician)
. . I am one of those small (approx. 100 per year) funeral homes that you seem to think you're going to put out of business. Each of us could, without a doubt, swamp you with our cards and letters of appreciation from the families we've served.
(F&R comment: Many families (including some of our members) who trusted that morticians were treating them fairly and honestly with their high prices and neoprene seals, and perhaps sent cards of thanks, have learned about markups, realize how badly they were taken advantage of, and now warn others away from the same firms.)
. . I am sending this note after reading your trash only to ask why you seem to have overlooked the cemeterians in your zealous quest to expose. I'm writing this at the end of yet another 18 hour day serving grieving families.
(F&R comment: Our members include professional family counselors, social workers, doctors, clergy, members of senior citizen groups, accountants, etc. We are acquainted with mortuaries which have two to three funerals a day on average. We and others have used them for funerals of family members and have been well satisfied with their concern and services. They offer "traditional" funerals with beautiful metal caskets for less than $2,000 total. They have made their accounting books available to our accountants.
. . Today I served a family that chose to purchase a "companion crypt" (means 2 spaces) mausoleum space directly from a local cemetery for a whopping $27,000. This same cemetery chain sells single grave spaces for $1500 and up, and something called ground crypts for $3000 per space and up. Why don't you spread some of your poison in their direction?
We don't understand what you do during your 18-hour days, with only two funerals a week. Morticians with so few funerals should have a second business to help support the mortuary, family, etc., instead of putting all the expenses of a mostly unoccupied week and an unused, unneeded chapel (most people have churches and don't need mortuary chapels) and other facilities on the backs of two families. That is what a dentist, counselor or anyone in any other business with only a couple of clients a week would have to do. On the other hand, it is interesting to read classified ads in YB News, etc., which say: "Good business for sale, 30 cases (bodies) a year. Lots of golf, boating and fishing nearby.")
. . In disgust, F.F., (mortician)
From A.R., NY (mortician):
. . Embalmed bodies don't explode.
(F&R commment: Bodies and organs do burst. Read the body deterioration chart and other information from embalming books in Document 2 - Planning.)
. . You want to drive prices down, hold up (name of a large chain of mortuaries) with their deceptive tactics, clustering, pennypinching, and high pressure tactics.
. . -- Deceptive as far as changing the model number of a particular casket so the consumers can't compare it to other firms.
. . -- Clustering so that should a family walk out of one (chain) chapel they'll probably walk right into another. Money still goes to (chain's headquarters city).
. . -- Pennypinching through what they call interchangeability. One director works for many firms. Did you know that they store bodies in other chapels without the families' knowledge? Did you know that more often than not they only have one working embalming room in an area? Did you know they own EVERY Jewish funeral home in (large Eastern city). Every one of them. There was an interesting article in the Post you might want to read.
. . They now have a "leave no money on the table" program going on. (F&R: This probably means that the salesperson should take all the money that he possibly can from a family.) And they're offering commissions to the best salespeople in a particular location. PA's they're called. All they have to do is sell a percentage over what (chain) projects and they get a piece of it.
. . Why is it (chain) firms don't identify themselves?
. . You can make this page good, just provide information which educates. Lots of potential.
. . Good luck. -- A.R. (mortician)
Funeral Costs (J.C., e-mail):
. . I am in the insurance business. I know that the information you are providing is factual. Do you have this information available in printed form that could be given to my clients? Do you have a Video presentation.
. . Thanks. J.C.
From D.H., NC:
. . I just read your web information and found it to be correct in most cases. I worked in the funeral industry for 5 years. I sold monuments, funeral plans, gravesites, and vaults. I compared funeral prices in Salt Lake City and offered the breakdown to my customers. You are correct in saying that:
. ** Sealed caskets don't work -- I've seen them "pop" even before we closed the vault.
. ** Most funeral homes attack the situation of the family and sell them items they do not need.
. ** There is a wide discrepancy in prices for similar items and services.
. . I was recruited by (name of a large chain of mortuaries) to sell in (city), NC. Upon buying the cemetery, (the chain) immediately doubled all the prices. The response from the (chain) people was that the families will pay it anyway.
. . Nonetheless, you cannot determine which is a fair markup by simply looking at the wholesale price. Funeral homes have high overhead. Some more than others. A funeral home may mark up a casket 100% and still not make money on the P&L.
(F&R comment: In surveying every mortuary in Phoenix, Denver, Las Vegas and Houston we found only a handful with a markup as low as 100%. Most Markups were $300 to 700%; some as high as 900%+.)
. . Furthermore, I never saw that prices were hidden from the public. When I showed pricing to families, in advance of a service, they would still insist on paying higher prices for services because they had always used a particular home or because they just didn't care.
. . Overall, I think that the sales tactics should be exposed. However, it is still up to the customer to find the best deal.
. . If I can be of any help to your organization please let me know. D.H.
Funeral Prices (C.J., FL):
. . I enjoyed your research bibliography of funeral ripoffs. Had no idea that the industry had been exposed to such degree. As an attorney in Florida, I have heard first hand from clients of bogus sales practices, then come to discover that the charlatan is not rare and that pressure sales are the norm.
. . I'm writing a guide book for Florida Elder Law, for mass appeal. I would love to include your research and commentary. Do you market books or guides? Do you make info available to the public? Do you have a monograph I can copy?
. . Please reply, C.J. (Elder Law attorney)
Homepage Comments (E.R., PA):
. . I recently reviewed your homepage on the world wide web on FUNERALS AND RIPOFFS. I personally found this quite offensive and demoralizing of the funeral industry. I personally know numerous funeral directors PERSONALLY and know that they are not like this.
.. Also, the wholesale prices on some of the caskets you quoted were not even near wholesale at all. They may not be what they sell them for retail but they sure as hell aren't what you said they are sold at wholesale for. (F&R comment: The wholesale prices are correct, taken from distributors' wholesale lists.)
. . Your information page lacked one thing that all the investigative shows honestly report: THAT NOT ALL FUNERAL HOMES ARE IN FACT RIPOFFS.
. . E.R.
(F&R comment: We don't say that ALL morticians and plan salespersons are unfair. We only say that MOST are unfair because MOST use outrageous markups; subtle- or high-pressure; push fraudulent, 25-75 year warranted, harmful sealer caskets; and use deceptive tactics. Many investigators say that most mortuaries abuse families. See investigators' comments in Document 1 - Introduction; and elsewhere.)
In past years:
From Jessica Mitford, CA, to Dear Abby (1991): 'Beautiful memories' don't need gilding of expensive funerals. (Ms. Mitford was the famous author and investigator of funeral industry abuse.)
. . DEAR ABBY: Your correspondent UNFINISHED BUSINESS attended a friend's funeral and was "dismayed to learn that the family had decided to have a closed-coffin burial," thereby denying a visual farewell and the opportunity to cope better with reality. As you rightly pointed out, the next of kin have the final say.
. . A word of amplification: The open-casket funeral is unique to the United States and Canada. In no other country is the bizarre ritual of "viewing" the deceased a part of any funeral service.
. . In the 1920s, a public-relations spokesman for the funeral industry coined the phrase "beautiful memory picture" to describe the embalmed and prettified cadaver in a suitably costly casket.
. . The funeral industry long has tried to convince the public that "viewing" is essential to what they are pleased to call "grief therapy," swallowed whole by the likes of UNFINISHED BUSINESS.
. . Readers looking for a simple and inexpensive funeral should write to the Funeral and Memorial Societies of America (FAMSA), an educational non-profit organization with affiliates in most major cities. The organization can provide information on dignified low-cost funerals. The address is: (Phone 1-800-765-0107.)
Jessica Mitford (author of The American Way of Death)
FAMSA has changed its name to its current <>Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA).
. . DEAR JESSICA: How well I remember the bombshell your book created in 1963. The American Way of Death rode the best-seller list for a year. And in its wake (no pun intended) was spawned a new generation of Americans who would bury their loved ones with dignified low-cost funerals, without feelings of guilt or embarassment. Abby.
(F&R comment: Ms. Mitford's new book, The American Way of Death Revisited, was published in 1998. She dedicated the book to Fr. Henry Wasielewski of our IFIC, Lisa Carlson and Karen Leonard of FCA. Ms. Mitford died shortly before publication of her book.)
To go to the next section: Document 11A - Sample Pre-pay and other Contracts, see below.
Problems and what to look out for.
TODAY. Send any comments, personal experiences, information, suggestions and questions.
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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 |
2) Planning a Funeral, Embalming | 3) Caskets, Photos, "Protective Seal" Casket Fraud | 3A) 2009 Casket Prices |
4) Mortuary Prices (Being updated) | 5) Industry "Profit System" | 6) Abuse Nationwide | 7A) Rip-off Categories, A |
7B) More Rip-off Categories, B | 8) Advice to Media | 9A) Significant Resources | 9B TV Investigative Reports, 1 |
9C) TV Reports, 2 | 10) Letters, Comments | 11A) Prepay Plan Contracts,Fraud | 11B) Refunds, Lawsuits |
12) BASIC ADVICE (Summary of these Documents) | 13) Short Version of these Documents
(1/17/98 - 5/7/96)