Thursday, May 28, 2009

Why Offer Yourself As A Victim?

The idea of self sacrifice for the financial advancement of individuals or businesses that you do not know or are unaffiliated with seems unconscionable to the average person...I would suspect even to those below average. Hence, I am continually perplexed as to why consumers continue to offer their hard earned savings, or the savings of their family members, as sacrificial lambs to funeral homes by purchasing pre-need funeral contracts or funeral insurance. It just does not make or common...

I speculate that consumers want to believe that they can trust a funeral home...I mean, they're there for you in your time of need to hold your hand, walk you through mounds of paperwork and take care of decisions you don't want to deal with. They're also right there to offer you inflated prices, emotionally nudge you towards goods or services that you neither want nor need, and you can be sure that there is no hesitation to cash your check or run your credit card. A funeral home is a business...and like all businesses the primary focus is making money. This is easy to lose sight of when you've just lost a loved one and the amount of decisions, arrangements, contacts and paperwork seem overwhelming. DO NOT FORGET THAT YOU ARE A CUSTOMER...THEY ARE IN SALES TO SELL YOU FUNERAL GOODS AND SERVICES TO MAKE A PROFIT.

I mean, come on, you wouldn't allow the Wal-Mart employee to use emotional selling tactics to inflate your shopping trip from $50 to $ why let a funeral home take advantage of you? It looks like this...Wal-Mart employee to you: "you look tired, so just tell me what you're here for and I'll shop for you. Brown shoes, size 10? I'll take care of that and make other decisions for you, pay with your money and be right back". Later, you glance at the receipt and realize that yes, you got brown, size 10 shoes, but not for the $20 price paid $150 for them! could have picked out those shoes and paid $20...but instead, you willingly chose to pay the employee his unstated mark-up and commission. And by the refunds.

Just makes no sense. think ahead and make a list and give it to the employee, along with the money...except that he tells you it's not enough money because he takes 10%, 15%...even up to 25% in some states, as an up-front charge for his work, which you could have easily done yourself. But, since you have already asked him and he has the money, he will not only keep his up-front charge, but he will also charge you, let's say 10%, to transfer the assignment to another employee at a different store, who will likely also charge you an up-front fee to do your shopping and make your decisions.

Or better yet, as headlines scream everyday...not only do you not get your don't get your money back either! You see, he "misappropriated" it...plain speak translation: stole it...

But, you're no instead of delegating your decisions out and unwittingly paying the inflated prices, you want to see the merchandise before paying. But, the Wal-Mart employee is no dummy either...he does this for a living, and a nice one it is. He obligingly gives you the 30 page price list of all the brown, size 10 shoes offered, with lots of examples of "deals" and "packages" you can take advantage of when brown, size 10 shoes are combined with other merchandise, some of which you would never want or need, lots of pictures of beautiful brown, size 10 shoes, poems about brown, size 10 shoes, charts and tables. This is for your reference to look over later, but now, he would rather personally walk you through the selection. Although you have indicated the $20 brown, size 10 shoes...he begins by showing you the "beautiful" and "respectful" high end shoes, which would really show "love" and "importance". I suppose you could go ahead and by those cheaper, disrespectful yet equally dependable and comfortable brown, size 10 shoes, but the $150 option truly demonstrates to everybody just how loved and important you really are. Sold...$150 brown, size 10 shoes...

It's very simple...

It happens everyday in every way. How many times have you been, or seen others, just be guilted into making a decision they know they can't afford on things they know they don't need by a crafty salesperson. Big means you love them more! Higher price means you respect them more! Fancy means importance!

It's real's little Billy's 1st birthday and you need a cake! At 1 year of age, little Billy doesn't care what the cake looks like, how big it is, how fancy the decorating, how rich and creamy the frosting is or how much it cost. Little Billy wants to take handfuls of that frosted cake and shove them in his mouth, in your mouth, in his hair, on his clothes, over his face and wherever else he can fling or smear that cake. You see, he'll never see that cake again, you'll never see that cake again, nor will anybody else. In fact, nobody will likely even notice the cake because they will be celebrating little Billy's 1st year, sharing stories of how much he's grown, things he's learned, tasks he's mastered, and lots of other silly or funny things that Billy has done. Many of them won't eat one bite of that very important cake and the only time that they will even notice that there is a birthday cake present is when he smashes that first little fist into the frosting and proceeds to make the most glorious mess. But this is confusing, because this party is really about the cake...the baker said so.

The helpful and caring professional baker told countless heartwarming stories of how this particular cake, albeit more expensive and elaborate, is what is needed to make little Billy's 1st birthday special. He assured that family and friends will all notice the beautiful decorating and the creaminess of the frosting down to every last detail and equate the cake with how much little Billy's parents love him. The baker also showed the most delicate candles, sold only in packs of 25, that were essential to have to truly show how much he is loved, and although they are sold separate, it is incomplete without them. He also helped to make other decisions, like guidance on selecting a beautiful, hand painted, porcelain cake platter, which was not in the original plan, but if absent might imply a lack of love for him. But, like the candles, it is incomplete without them and sold separately. He also subtly insinuated that without high-end plates and napkins, those attending might get the impression that little Billy is not as cherished as they thought. And... he knows this business. The baker does this for a living, he is trustworthy and would not lead us astray for profit. He confidently shared that in his experience, there is but one way to truly celebrate little Billy's first year, to make it honorable and memorable for you and others and to show how much he is loved. To achieve those things, this is really the cake you need, but does not truly convey the depth of love without the additional items recommended. He bakes and sells cakes for a living, he has a lot of experience with these types circumstances, and he has guided many families to celebrate their child's 1st birthday with this cake...and in his experience, it is the cake that people remember...not the child or the party.

Sound crazy...not so fast. This is the emotional persuasion used everyday to increase sales...plain speak translation: pushing price-inflated caskets, arrangements and other goods and services on emotionally raw and vulnerable consumers making funeral arrangements on an at-need basis. Lines such as "this casket really shows how much he/she was loved or respected", implying that the equally durable casket within your price range somehow implies disrespect. And, of course, there is the up-sale of gasketed caskets, which provide no measure of protection to preserve the body, charging consumers for a bugler for a U.S. veteran, when the bugler actually volunteers his time and receives no compensation, or offering to oversee such tedious decisions as what the deceased will wear, in turn charging, for instance, $80 for a plain white button down shirt and $40 for underwear, which nobody really knows if the deceased was buried wearing underwear or went onto the great unknown commando. This may not always be the case...but unfortunately, you don't know which type you are dealing with until after it is too refunds.

Everyday I come across stories that remind me of when I was a child and my much more experienced and trustworthy father would playfully trade me a "big, bright, shiny red penny" for that "dingy, small dime". Trusting child that I was, I eagerly traded my small dime for that big, bright, shiny red penny, which my easily influenced, inexperienced and emotional mind equated as more valuable and felt gratitude to my father making this trade. Silly as it sounds, that anecdote pretty clearly demonstrates the degree of disadvantage that consumers experience when making at-need funeral decisions and arrangements. Looking to "experts" for guidance and comfort, like a child seeking parental guidance and comfort, except in this case, it does not come. Rather, the "experts" gently open the conversation with questions such as "does the deceased have life or funeral insurance" or "what kind work did the deceased do" in order to pre-calculate the so-called budget of the funeral and the degree of up-sale potential. The trusted "experts", from whom comfort and guidance were sought, have now turned predatory. In emotional turmoil, with their reality crumbling, a "to-do" list pages long and a limited time frame in which to make and enact decisions...somewhere along the line just seeking a time to cry and grieve... consumers follow this guidance like a sheep to slaughter. But, unlike an emotionally and inexperienced child, the bereaved are forced to be cautious and skeptical and the price is high...both emotional and financial. The hunt for profit is on, and the prey is in sight.

Dealing with funeral decisions when someone close to you dies is overwhelming and heartbreaking...between 100 - 200 questions and arrangements to be made, required documentation, not to mention calling or writing innumerable people, many which you don't even know of until you read about it on a credit report when it's too late. And the funeral home doesn't help with anything that they do not make money on. You're on your own, Toots, if there is no money to be made.

You don't have to be prey. Take control of your funeral and burial decisions and arrangements in advance. An independent funeral planner, like, walks you through the maze of questions and decisions that must be made...and let's face it, somebody eventually has to make them...except at that time their world will be crashing and they will willingly allow the shopping to be done by the store employee and not even glance at the receipt until it's too refunds.

copyright 2009 Funeral Planners Inc.

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