The Funeral Business

How come it’s so wrong for a funeral home to demand to be paid compared to any other business?  What’s the difference? We supply a service you ask for. In return we expect to be paid. It’s that simple. But somehow, it’s become wrong for us to ask for payment. I’m really not sure why ANYONE would assume that they wouldn’t HAVE to pay! It isn’t like no one knows that eventually they or a loved one is going to pass away and, well, need to be buried/cremated.  I get the whole ‘no one likes to talk about death’ bullshit…but really.

There was an article on-line from Reader’s Digest, and I am sorry but I do not have the link to it. I am sure you can just type into your search engine the article title, which is, 13 things your funeral director will not tell you. I was just bewildered at the article and the writer for writing such bullshit! Take a look at the article if you want. I am going to say this…. When you prepay your funeral, your money goes into a trust. The funeral home does NOT keep that money. It is also guaranteed and if you change your mind later on and decide that you do not want to use the funeral home you preplanned with, you may go elsewhere or your family may choose to take you elsewhere. There are “those” funeral homes (that have been on the news) that took people’s money…yes, there are those funeral homes out there that are not honest and have done this illegally! Those funeral homes that do this, WILL eventually get caught! no doubt about it! But the majority of funeral homes will NOT do this! When you pre-pay you are also locked into todays prices. ONLY if you add to that pre-pan at time of death will you incur extra charges. If the funeral home goes out of business you should call the funeral directors association in that State or contact another funeral home of your choice and let them know what the situation is. When you pre-pay you should receive paperwork that the funeral home fills out. The funeral home keeps a copy, the family gets a copy and the trust gets a copy. Once the funeral home mails in the copy to the trust, the trust in turn will mail the family a letter stating that they have received the funds. That letter has the amount paid to the pre-plan and an account number. KEEP ALL THOSE PAPERS!

Also in the article it mentions that embalming is not necessary. Simply not true. Each individual State has their own laws when it comes to embalming. My State’s law states that a body must be embalmed within 48 hours from the time that death occurs if there is to be a public visitation. Meaning if ANYONE wants to view the body, then it must be embalmed before it is viewed if it is not possible to be viewed within 48 hours. A body that is going to be cremated, no visitation, will not be embalmed. We simply pick the body up from the place of death and transport it directly to the crematory. We are not trying to scam anyone into paying more than they want or can. If someone comes in and says that they are only able to afford a certain amount, than we will do everything we can to keep the costs to a minimum. Yes, cremation is typically less expensive, however, if you want cremation, but you also want a visitation and a service then it is going to run almost as much as a burial. We do not try to sell you a casket that is thousands of dollars. First off, if you tell us that you do not have alot of money, why on earth would we try to sell you more than you can afford…we want to get paid and if we try to talk you into spending more than you have, well, chances are we aren’t going to get paid….makes sense, right…  As far as caskets go, if you prefer to purchase your casket elsewhere, we have no problem with that, the only issue we have is that it is delivered to the funeral home on time and that if there is any damage to the casket, the funeral home is not responsible. We will not replace the casket or pay for any damages. I have had a few families order caskets elsewhere, one was scratched, but not bad at all, you couldn’t even really tell, and the others were fine.  If the deceased was a veteran, yes, there are veteran’s benefits. For a marker, there is no charge. Opening and closing fees are waived, IF burial takes place in a Government cemetery. There are also other benefits available, and most funeral homes will gladly obtain the necessary paperwork for the families and even fill the paperwork out and explain to the family what they need to do. I fill out all the veteran paperwork and have the next of kin sign where necessary and let them know what needs to accompany the paperwork. Usually a certified copy of the death certificate, copy of the funeral bill,  and the veterans discharge (DD-214) papers. We will even mail all the paperwork for the family, BUT, they (the Government) requires that the bill be paid in full! So, no use trying to get any other benefits if the funeral bill is not paid. This is not a funeral home rule, this is the veteran’s benefits rules.

As far as removing any gold teeth. First off, most “gold teeth” are simply not gold teeth…they are gold fillings!! Unless you have a solid gold tooth in your mouth, then the gold in the fillings are really not worth much value. Second, we will NOT remove any teeth or fillings. Period. We are NOT Dentists. If you feel it necessary to have any gold, fillings or not, removed from your loved one, then you must obtain a Dentist to come into the funeral home and have them removed. I have had this happen not too long ago. The husband could have cared less, but the children all wanted the “gold” removed from their mother mouth. I explained we would not do it and if he preferred he could contact  his Dentist and he was more than welcome to come, but first they have to contact him asap, so we do not start any other process, such as sewing/glueing the mouth closed. He said that he was very good friends with their Dentist and have been going to him for years and years….well, even the Dentist told him he would not do it. Also, told him that the “gold” in his wifes mouth, are only fillings and not worth much…so, they did not have the gold taken out.

Also in the article, it mentions the fact that instead of being called a Mortician, we go by Funeral Director because it has a “nicer ring” to it….well…uhhhh, yeeeeeeah! Why wouldn’t you/we? I really don’t even see the wrong doing here? Mortician does sound creepy as opposed to Funeral Director.

It also mentions that we may ask for a photo of your loved one and that we mean a recent photo not an older photo. Not sure why this is a big deal either…We ask for a photo so we know how that person styled their hair, facial hair, makeup…but we explain this to our families anyway so they know to bring a photo that is recent enough. Altho there has been the time or two when a family has brought in an older photo and we have to explain that we need something more recent.

I believe they mention a vault as well. No, you do not need an expensive vault and we never claim that you do. Again, maybe there are those funeral homes that try to push the more expensive items, but MOST of your funeral homes will NOT! The least expensive vault is a concrete rough box. And it is just that. A concrete box, the lid sits on top. If you want something that seals, then you have to upgrade to another vault and those are more expensive. Plain and simple. Most cemeteries require a vault. So, we are not trying to sell you something you don’t need. 

Just to add my two cents… As far as trying to save money, if you do not want to use a Hearse, if the funeral home offers a service vehicle, such as a van, you can do that and it is less expensive. Death certificates, we do not charge for the death certificates. We only charge what the city/county clerk charges. We don’t add-on extra. Each clerk and county has different pricing. One city/county may charge $15 for the first death cert. and $5 for each additional whereas the next city or county may charge $20 for the first and $7 for each additional. Also, as far as the death certificates go, we pay that as a cash advance. We front that money before you even pay us, most of the time. Death certificates must be done in a timely manner, so we cannot wait to do those. So be sure of how many you need. Other cash advanced items would be any death notices/obituaries. Our local papers do not have a set price. They charge by the line. So we have no idea of how much it will cost until after we submit the notice. Again, we do not charge extra for this either. We only charge what the paper charges. Cremation fees and Medical Examiner’s cremation permit are also items that are cash advance items. And again we do not charge extra, only what the crematory charges and the M.E. Medical Examiners also have different fees depending on the county. One may charge $30 and another may charge $75 and another may not charge at all. It just depends.

As far as a funeral homes General Price List goes…we are required to give you a price list if you come in and ask for one. We have no problems giving you a price list. Take as many as you like. We are not, however required to fax you one and we aren’t even required to give you pricing over the phone (this may vary by State, but I am not sure), but we will give your pricing over the phone because you called us and we of course want your business.

We also offer Limited Services. These are services we offer to those who cannot afford much at all. In my experience I have come to realize that most families do not even want to hear about them, but we offer them and we have a separate price list just for those options and again, we are more than happy to give you one. We also offer lower end caskets and if a family wants to see one, than they may do so. We do not hide them or keep them in the basement. There are times when we do not have one on the floor but that goes for any of the caskets we display.

So, again, it is on-line, Reader’s Digest, 13 Things a Funeral Director will not tell you.


6 Responses to “The Funeral Business”

  1. You really need to think about publishing a book.
    I have been interested in getting my feet wet in the funeral industry for a few years now, and your blog really lays it on the line.
    Great reading! Funny and informative, and REAL. I dig it!
    Any tips on how to get a start working at a local parlor?

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      HI! thank you so much!! Glad you enjoy reading the blog. I really do have so much more I could write about but feel that if I put too much information (on certain things at my place of work) that if someone I know or work with happens to read my blog, they may figure out who I am…that wouldn’t be good. I have thought about writing a book then thought about not writing a book….LOL Maybe one day, I’m not sure I have enough stories yet…However, the thought is always in the back of my mind, I will let everyone know when and if I ever decide to tackle the book writing thing.
      As far as getting into the business, are you looking to go to school to get your license or you are just interested in doing any kind of work at a funeral home? My suggestions is always this, find all the local funeral homes in your area. Call them and ask if they are hiring for ‘anything’, even if they aren’t send your resume anyway, send your resume to all the funeral homes. Scan your local want ad’s…that is how I originally got into the business. I needed a job, saw an ad for a part time postion answering phones and light office work at a local funeral home. I called, got an interview and got the job. First and foremost, know computers! and that you can type! Dress appropriately. You can work day AND night if they want you to. Even if they are only hiring for a Greeter, jump on it, it may lead to other things. Most funeral homes want to hire people they can trust to leave alone. Someone who can do things that allow them to take a break, leave the office for a few and not have to worry that they are going to get a phone call every 15 minutes. GOOD LUCK!!! and keep reading, I appreciate every single person who visits my blog!!

  2. Or the ones who instead of contacting the funeral homes personally and discussing any grievances with the Director in private, they go straight to the media instead and bleat their case about being “ripped off”. Seriously, we’re only human and make mistakes too like anyone else. Recently had a case here of a cemetery accidentally overcharging a woman to bury her husband by a mere $55. The woman goes straight to the media, it’s on the evening news, that she was informed by the cemetery staff that the extra charge was for a new energy tax that has recently been passed here. Well, the cemetery couldn’t find any evidence that extra $55 had been printed on her bill, but they, to keep her and the media quiet, waived the $640 excavation fee. Who’s the winner there?! Of course the media made out that ALL funeral homes are doing this to their clients when all it might have been was a simple paperwork error which could have easily been corrected and fixed with an appointment of the cemetery staff.

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      Exactly Amanda, I have made mistakes on bills before and even though before giving it to the family I look it over again and my boss looks it over again or the person who just happens to be there when the family is making payment looks it over, sometimes, it just gets overlooked. Same thing with death certificates, sometimes there is a spelling error and D/C’s are ALWAYS double checked, even triple checked and there is that instance where that one error gets by all of us! Even if people don’t contact the media, but call up and just start bitching right off the bat…OR…it could even be the family who is not reading the bill correctly..i have had that happen more than once! and they are bitching at me all the while i am TRYING to explain to them … We have cash advance items. Those items are things that have to be paid NOW, before the family ever pays us a dime. For example we have to write checks immediatley for, cremation permit, death cert. charges, crematory, cemetery fees (if those are added to the bill), clergy, anyone outside printing, flowers (if ordered thru us), Veteran’s services, death notices/obits, etc…. I don’t know why, but when some people see those charges listed under the ‘Cash Advance’ colum, they flip out.

  3. Admin Asst Says:

    It does seem like fact checking in the media has all but disappeared. I’ve seen so many articles on numerous topics that have so many factual errors, it makes my fillings hurt (pun totally intended LOL).

    I guess Readers Digest didn’t mention anything about “Full Disclosure” meaning everything, every line item needs to be explained to the families. The probably also didn’t mention that it is federal law about the general price list. Anyone can have the general price list, a person off the street, another funeral home etc…Anyone who asks to see it, we have to provide it to them.

    In our state, vaults are required for all burials. Also, if there is a public viewing, state law requires the body has be embalmed. If the family wants to save on costs, they can always go with a closed casket to avoid the cost of embalming.

    You are right about getting paid. When we go to the dr. they want to be paid, when we go to the grocery store, they expect us to pay too. It’s no different at a funeral home. What I think the general public, and clearly the media, does not realize is that it takes money to maintain the funeral home (taxes, utilities etc..), to maintain and fuel the vehicles for the funeral home, staff salaries and so on.

    What frustrates me is when you contact a family about their overdue balance and they don’t call back. We are reasonable. We will work with people who are financially strapped. Don’t blow us off. If you blow us off, the account will end up with a collection agency and we are a lot nicer than collection agency.

    Also, another thing, not recognized, the amount of time and effort staff puts into a funeral home as a whole. The go out in the middle of the night to do removals, whether it’s winter, summer, snowing or raining, on holidays and on weekends. Where I work, they are also on call 24/7. So if someone calls at 3am with a question, the director has to get out of bed and respond.

    The irony is, most people who get into the funeral business are not in it to make money. They truly believe in what they are doing. Why else would they put up with the lousy schedules, stress and strain for so many years?

    • thefuneralbizz Says:

      “your fillings hurt”….LOLOLOL!! i liked that!

      There is the misconception that funeral directors make a lot of money. They do not. Most funeral homes are privately/family owned. So, there aren’t that many employees, however you have to pay everything/everyone else before you pay yourself! So after making payroll, taxes, insurance, electric, gas, water, telephone, internet, upkeep (cleaning, lawn care, building repairs, etc), then on top of all of that, you have the bills that come in from the suppliers. The suppliers being, casket companies, vaults companies, urn companies, office supplies, prep room (embalming room) supplies, removal company, fuel for funeral home vehicles, etc…. I could go on and on. Without payment for our services, these things cannot be paid. We have a few families who refuse to answer their phones for us when we call and also when we send out extremely nice letters to them regarding their past due balance and to please just give us a call to let us know that you do intend to pay us when you can. Even if sending $5 a month is all you can afford, than at least we know you are making an effort! We are more than lenient and when we send out notices we include that in our letters. But yet we get no return letter or call…oh well…

      you are right, people do not realize that we are on call 24 hours a day 365 days a year. death doesn’t take holidays or vacations. I only wish that some people would realize that just because we are a funeral home does not mean that we are not entitled to ask for payment for services rendered!

      just a side note…had a family last week that wanted to make sure we had adequate room for their food and their………booze!! WTF! uhh, no actually we do not have ‘room for your booze’…actually it is technically against the law for you to be serving it in our building. we do NOT carry a liquor license! not do we carry a food license, which is why it bothers me so much when people bring in ass loads of food! Think people, THINK!

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