Recently on the WSJ.com site, there was an article posted basically stating the absurdity of actually believing that funeral homes would knowingly and intentionally participate in nationwide price fixing and collusion with a casket manufacturer, and that anybody who doubted or questioned the integrity of funeral homes was callous. I beg to differ...
With the average cost of a traditional funeral in excess of $6,500, it is every consumers right, and frankly duty, to question why funerals cost so much today... especially in light of the fact that a casket is typically the most expensive cost. The article indicates that Funeral Consumers Alliance initiated a class action antitrust lawsuit, stating that three national funeral homes engaged in price fixing with a casket manufacturer. According to the article, "as a result of the conspiracy, unsuspecting casket buyers are forced to pay perhaps twice as much as they would if there were true competition in the market."
Reality check...caskets sold by funeral homes are typically MORE THAN DOUBLE!
Just a quick check of my casket file gave me some facts that I would like to share. Here is a simple comparison of what a casket sells for if purchased from a funeral home and what it costs if purchased directly from the manufacturer, many times with free overnight shipping:
18G Steel Casket
Funeral Home Price: $2,895
Manufacturer Price: $ 995
Difference: $1,900, or 67% mark-up
Solid Oak Casket
Funeral Home Price: $4,495
Manufacturer Price: $1,485
Difference: $3,010, or 67% mark-up
Solid Mahogany Casket
Funeral Home Price: $5,695
Manufacturer Price: $1,795
Difference: $3,900, or 69% mark-up
Funeral Home Price: $5,595
Manufacturer Price: $2,195
Difference: $3,400, or 61% mark-up
These are not small, insignificant numbers. We are talking THOUSANDS of dollars of mark-ups that are being trust onto consumers, who have been led to believe that funeral homes are trustworthy and it would be distasteful to challenge their prices. In fact, the emotional state that most people are in when planning funeral arrangements is the perfect environment for manipulation to flourish. Particularly with encouraged sales techniques such as "this casket truly honors the memory of your husband"...what kind of cold-hearted wife would say no to that?
The fact is that the casket is going to be buried and nobody will ever see it again. It will eventually decompose, regardless of whatever kind of "gaskets" or liners that you are either required or manipulated to buy. Does it really honor the person who died to deplete their children's college fund to pay for their funeral? I think not.
But, the mocking tone and frivolous attitude of the author just goes to show the general pervasive attitude of the funeral and burial industry. The "people need us, so we can do what we want, when we want and to whom we want, because we have an unlimited number of potential clients because everybody dies" outlook. I disagree.
A pre-need funeral plan, developed with a thoughtful and clear mind, taking the quality and costs of various funeral related goods and services into consideration before making decisions is the only way to protect yourself and your loved ones. As I wrote yesterday, the FTC is responsible for regulatory oversight of funeral homes. During their 2008 undercover investigation of funeral homes nationwide, they managed to investigate 104. In 2006, the most recent year for "official" census studies, there were over 29,000 funeral homes in the US. Is 104 really a reasonable sample? I think not. And does it matter...of the 104, over 62% operated in violation of the Funeral Rule.
In short, there is really no disincentive for funeral homes to operate with the best interest of the consumer in mind. There is very little oversight, and if one dares to question their integrity and business principles (gasp), they must be some kind of cold, uncaring individual, subject to mock and ridicule.
That is wrong. Every consumer in this country deserves to be treated fairly. But, by about the time you are old enough to speak, you realize that is not always the case. You can and should protect yourself.
A pre-need funeral plan is a necessary and important step in financial and future planning. Please educate yourself, defend yourself from being victimized and learn how at www.FuneralPlannersInc.com. We help individuals and families everyday to make emotionally appropriate and financially responsible decisions about their funeral, burial, cremation and memorial options. Please learn more...it DOES make a difference and you DO have a voice and a choice.