Life working at a funeral home – Mistakes happen


Yes…people make mistakes, it’s true. They are usually not on purpose…I really never heard of anyone saying “Yep, I made that mistake, but I meant to”! Mistakes can happen because we are in a rush, something interrupts us while doing something, a spelling error (which my blog is full of, but blogging from my phone blows and the proofreader for some reason wont work correctly on my phone, my computer is still not fixed, which hopefully will be fixed this weekend…fingers crossed!) Anyway, typically when I come across an error that someone has made at work, I will correct it and not say anything. Especially if its something simple. If however, I see that the same person keeps making those same mistakes over and over again, then I will say something. Now when a mistake happens that will effect a family we are working with, well thats just not good at all! And you cant just say to the family “oh, well I didnt do that, so and so did”, they dont care who made the error they just want it fixed and usually an explanation if one is there to give. There have been times tho when a mistake happens that typically would not be considered a big deal that some people make a big deal…which in turn irritates the crap outta me!! We recently had a woman whose father passed away and had the funeral and then he was to be cremated. So when his cremated remains came back to the funeral home, we called the daughter to let her know and that she could come pick them up. The death certificates were also available, so we set the envelope with the D/C’s next to the cremated remains along wirh the statement of funeral charges. It was a paid in full bill so she could have it for her records. Well, the mistake was the name on the envelope that the statement was in. Her name was very similar to that of a woman who had passed around the same time that the envelope was typed. I’ll just say her name was Carol and the deceased’s name we had was also Carol, but different last names. So on the envelope that the statement was in had the deceaseds last name instead of the daughter of the deceased who was cremated. So…when she came to pick up her fathers ashes, death certs and funeral statement, she saw that it was not her last name on the envelope and said “uhhh…this is NOT mine!! This is NOT my last name…you people gave me the wrong persons statement”!! Well, the Director opened the envelope and looked at statement and explained “this is your statement, just the last name on the envelope is wrong, I apologize, we have another family with a Carol as well and her last name was mistakenly typed on the envelope, I will go get a new envelope for you”. So the Director came and got a new envelope and took it to her and put the statement inside. Well, the Director did not type any name on the new envelope or write one…just gave it to her blank. I mean, at this point she knew it was her envelope, right !?! Apparently that was not good enough for her and so she said “my name is NOT on here! Are you afraid that you will again type someone elses name on here again”!?! The Director says “No ma’am, didnt think it was necessary to type it because i am handing it directly to you. Would you like me to go type your name on it for you? Or I can write it for you”? The woman said “No, I dont have time to wait”. So the Director was explaining that the cremated remains are in the box and that the other large envelope is the D/C’s. So the woman says “are you sure they are correct”? She pulled them out and looked them over and then said “good, no mistakes on these at least, are you sure thats my fathers ashes in the urn…I dont want another mistake and find out I have someone elses ashes”!! The Director assured her it was her father.. But REALLY lady…to take it THAT far because the last name on envelope was wrong!! Why be such a BITCH because of that!?! She was fine during the funeral a few days before… but, geee, that envelope really set her off! Also another mistake that happens is with obits. We will not accept a handwrote obit from a family without us typing it out and having the family approve it. If a family types one out and gives to us, we scan it, copy and paste it and send to paper. We WILL NOT make ANY corrections to it. If a family emails it again, we copy and paste it and send it to paper as is. About 2-3 weeks ago we had a family that just had too many people involved in the decsion making…they had been asked several times if they wanted an obit in local paper…no one could make up their minds! They had been told that we have strict deadlines and if we did not hear from them there would be no notice prior to the visitation day however we would put a short obit on our website. So the evening before their visitation and the evening before our morning deadline, a family member dropped off a HANDWRITTEN obit…but said that is what they wanted on our website. Nothing about the paper. That following morning I came in to see the handwritten obit and a note saying the family dropped it off for the website. Nothing about the paper! I went ahead and called the son who was listed as contact and asked if he wanted this in paper or not because if he did i only have a half an hour before deadline!! He said YES! I told him we normally will not use a handwritten obit unapproved so i read the notice and he said fine. I told him we are NOT responsible for any spelling errors! He said he understood. So i submitted it to the paper before deadline. So later that afternoon they had their visitation & the next day as well. The third day was the funeral serv. Well…the following day some members of the family came to the f.h. to pick up the flowers and some other items. AND…of course one of the daughters started complaining that there were ‘several’ errors in the obit! Go freakin figure! So i had kept the handwritten obit & pulled it from their file and compared it to the one from paper. I said to her that i do not see any errors… now in the one they had wrote they did not list the deceaseds mothers name but the son asked me on the phone to add it, he spelled it for me and i wrote it down. I even spelled it back to him. The daughter said that the first letter is an “I” not an “E” … then she proceeded to say that one name had an “M” and it was suppose to be an “N” and the other misspelling was an “R” that was suppose to be an “N”. Now on the paper those letters looked like the letters i typed. Whoever wrote the obit did not print but used cursive and that is what the letters looked like and as she was pointing them out she did admit herself that “well, i guess thats my fault”. So all in all the ONLY error they continued to bitch about was the “E” in the deceaseds mothers name (now keep in mind, the deceased was in his late 70’s, so it listed his ‘late’ parents. Not that they are any less important but typically most people dont list the late parents of someone who is older themselves). So in the end…OF course we ended up sucking up that notice & paying for it…i was not happy about it! We ran another notice for them but told them they had to pay for that one & we were not submitting it until they proof read and approved with signature on it. They were snooty about it..and ‘sighed’ when we told them that but also explained…again…that we did the first one as a favor only for them and we explained that before we submitted it in the first place!
Another thing thats been irritating me is when people call the funeral home and ask to speak with the owner, but asking for him by name. I answer and say “name of f.h. this is do & so”. They ask for “insert bosses name” (we’ll call him Mike). If mike isnt available, i will say something like “im sorry mike is with another family / on a funeral / at lunch / right now, may i take a message for him or is there anything i may be able to help you with”? I HATE when people give me attitude…just today for instance, the woman says “well this is so & so and i need to talk to him about my mothers life insurance! I called the ins. co & they said you people need to send in the claim for the assignment!” I said “yes ma’am, we have already done that, but it was only 2 weeks ago. It does take a while for the process but i in fact know that they rec’d it because i rec’d the certified mail recpt back on friday. I can have Mike call you tho when he comes back, he shouldnt be too long”. She said…”well how long is not too long!?! I am waiting for my daughter to come get me because I have some errands i need to do”! I said “i dont know how long exactly! Mike ALSO had some errands to run!! But why dont you just go run your errands when you have planned to do so & if you did not hear from mike prior to you leaving, call back when you get back home and mike should be here. He does have an arrangement with a family at 4:30pm tho”. She sighed loudly in my ear and said “ok..you make sure he calls me”! ….i should be the one sighing! People need to realize that we are NOT always available the second you want us! We eat lunch! There are OTHER families! What do you think a Funeral Director does, when there is a funeral, the director is with that family on that funeral! Then some lady called yesterday for mike, i did not answer the phone but the other guy who works at the f.h. answered but i was sitting right there and he answered as i stated above, the woman asked for mike & he said “no im sorry he is not available right n..o…”CLICK”!!!! she freakin just hangs up on him without him even finishing! So today, she called again! I didnt know it was her tho, that is until i got cut off by a “CLICK”!! I used some choice words as i slammed the phone down wishing i had caller i.d. at the f.h!!!! I cant believe we dont have caller i.d! Its not that we “dont” have it, but its the actual phones…no display for it. But anyway…why BE SO RUDE!! also getting fed up with people who call us and question us as to why the obit is not listed on our website…its their tone and most sound accusatory, they will say “i was calling for info on so and so because i cannt locate the info on your website, do you NOT list the obits on your website”? Now obviously they looked at our website because they just said they did…and our obits are on the front page! There are only two reasons why an obit would not be listed. One, the arrangements have not been finalized yet and two, because the family did not want it listed on the website. Yes, some families do not want it listed. Why? I really have no idea, i dont ask. I / we let them know we will list it on our website free of charge if they want us to. Surprisingly, quite abit of them say No. So when someone calls and starts with..why isnt it on your website? I have to explain that the family requested us not to list it… this isnt always a satisfactory answer, seems more than not that people cannot comprehend this explanation…and i really dont have the time to argue with them about it…its shit like that, that just bums me out! They do the same thing when its not listed in the local papers. I find that more and more i get people who cannot accept that maybe a family isnt having any visitation or maybe only a few hours. The responses i get are priceless…one man said “only today from 5pm – 9pm? Nothing tomorrow? Well, i cant come then…do they realize i wont be ablevto make it because i have to work!?!” Uhhh…probably not but i dont think they really care either!

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6 Responses to “Life working at a funeral home – Mistakes happen”

  1. I saw an interesting funeral notice in the paper recently which made me raise an eyebrow (and keep it there, lol)…usual mention of family members, then ‘..will be deeply missed by the family pets”. I thought, my God, even Fido, Sylvester, Tweetie and Yogi Bear have to be mentioned in obits now! I feel sorry for the funeral staff member who drew the short straw and had to type that one up.

  2. *patting-your-shoulder* There you go…let it all out…hope it’ll make you feel better….there…there…. 🙂 If it is any consolation, the world is full of idiots. I am sure every industry will have such ill-informed, disrespectful, arrogant b*tches and bast*rds. I’m just thinking if creating some form of checklist or FAQs to future customers might ease the number of such unpleasant encounters.

    • … we have a checklist we give the families when they come in for arrangements. It explains everything from why you need a death certificate and how many you may need to social security benefits, etc. I agree with you that no matter the profession, if you deal with the public its hard! I also feel tho, that in the funeral business some think that we have to be nice no matter what. No matter how we are treated ..and that brings me to mistakes made by the family. More times that not, i have heard… “but we werent thinking clearly, you should know that”! But thats the way things go…just need to vent about it every now and again.

      • Excuse my ignorance but isn’t this why you get the assistance of a funeral home…because you can’t think straight after the death of your loved ones? Oh well…you can’t win….as long as you’re a service provider, you cannot win 😦

  3. Admin Asst Says:

    Yes, mistakes. Love it when mistakes and made, whether minor or major and the families get upset. That’s fun….not.

    Obituaries are the bane of my existance! No matter how many times they are reviewed, they are never right. And the hand written ones are the worst. We had a family recently, who came in and I typed up the obit for them. The funeral director went back and forth with what I typed about 6 or 7 times. They added things, took things out, changed punctuation ect…. So finally they were satisfied and left. I sent it off to the paper. The next day, they called to complain that a deceased family member was not inculded in the obit. The director explained that they had reviewed the obit and made changes (for an hour). They still felt that he should have asked if there was anyone else they wanted to include in the obit. Reasonable, huh?

    Another problem we’ve been running into is when families send us the obit, they send it as a pdf document. We don’t have software to convert it to a word document (which is the way the newspapers want it). If we copy and paste it, it gets all screwed up in the process. The obit ends up with weird symbols where letters should be, odd spacing ect…So essentially we have to re-type it anyway. Ugh.

    What I love (not) is when families call to yell at us about the obit on the newspaper’s website. Our local paper,has a few times, posted the wrong picture on the obit online. So the family calls us to yell at us about it. We’ve explained to them over and over again, that once the obituary leaves our email and goes to the paper, we have no control over what happens to it. The newspaper reserves the right to edit the obituary due to space issues and according to their format. And sometimes the newspaper makes mistakes on the obit when they edit it. But it’s still our fault.

    • Dont ya just love people….when they ‘think’ they are always right! Its funny you say that about the pdf thing….altho our local paper will accept a pdf if the family sends an obit by email to us in pdf format, but if/when we want to open it in word it…was doing the same thing! But recently we got the software to open the pdf files! I also hate when a family comes in later in the day for an arrangement and they say they want a death notice and we say we are past deadline for the following day and they get get pissy with US! when we tell them it can go in the day after but it will be the day of vis or serv they answer, “well whats the point! You’re gonna charge me for it anyway right”? It doesnt matter how many times you explain it to them that WE dont charge anything, the paper does and if they would rather do it themselves then they can!
      And how were you or your director suppose to know that they forgot a family member! I think that any obit that lists anyone else except spouse, children, siblings and depending on how many grandchildren & great grandchildren, if there are several grandchildren & great grandchildren just list the number not all their names. But to list anymore names than that is stupid. If it was a person whose parents are still living then list them. But to list nieces & nephews (unless thats all they have) and all of the great great grandkids is too much. It creates errors. Not on our part eithet. Most families, in my experience cant even remember all of those names and end up forgetting people! Also, no need to write a story about the deceased either. It is really a waste of money. The newspapers just charge so much! Just for a typical obit, it runs well over $150 for our local paper and for our major city paper it will run well over $200! Then…we get those families that want everyones last name listed regardless if its the same as the deceased! Dont you hate when the director gives you the file for death notice and you type it up and you know its right then the famy wants changes, like you sere talking about. So you retype it, give to director and again…more changes…makes you feel like you screwed up even tho you know you didnt! Lol

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