Life working in a funeral home . Things you aren’t told


I  have read a couple articles about ‘Things a funeral director will not tell you’ . To be honest, they have irritated me. They lead the family/consumer to thing that funeral directors are lying. When/ if writing an article about ‘things funeral directors don’t tell you’, the article should contain explanations behind those “facts” that are wrote!! So I am going to post those “things funeral directors won’t tell you” but I am going to add my 2 cents, of course! I am not going to quote word for word from the article I read, although there are several if them on line. Here goes…

Think twice before prepaying your funeral. You risk losing your money if the funeral home goes out of business:

You will not lose your money. If a funeral home goes out of business your pre-need will be transferred to another funeral home. If you do not like that funeral home, you can go to any funeral home you like, as long as it is in the same State. And if you do not like that either, you can cancel your pre-need and get your money back. You may not get all of it back, but in my State you will receive %90 of your money back.

You can purchase your casket online, Costco, Walmart, etc for thousands less than what the funeral home charges.

Yes, you can purchase your casket from anywhere you like. I’m not sure about them being thousands less, maybe hundreds less, I don’t know because I have never checked those placed for casket prices. And in my experience most people only pay approximately $1000-2500 for a casket… I imagine the costs vary depending on where you live. But if you do choose to purchase your own casket, most funeral homes will not schedule visitation or funeral services or anything until that casket is delivered to the funeral home and will require the family to come in and inspect the casket once it has been delivered for damages or mistakes. If in fact there are damages or if it is not the casket that was ordered, the funeral home is not responsible and will not replace it! If the family want to purchase one from us at that point, that is fine.

Funeral homes do not offer refrigeration because they want you to pay for embalming. Most bodies can be viewed within a few days of death without embalming.

Refrigeration is not required by law in my State however in 22 States temp reduction and or cooling is.  And yes, embalming is not required by law. You can avoid embalming by choosing Direct Cremation or Immediate Burial. But, be aware that you have ONLY 2 days to hold a public viewing and funeral service if you do not want embalming, a non embalmed body must reach its final disposition within 48 hours from time of death. That is how the law (in my State) reads. It is commonly referred to the 48 hour rule. So, if you plan on having a visitation then funeral services and it will not be held immediately, embalming is required. There is no reason to embalm someone who will be immediately cremated or buried immediately. And while embalming is costly, it helps to preserve the body.

Veterans can receive free burial, vault, opening and closing.

Yes this is true, ONLY if buried in a National Cemetery!! If a vet is not buried in a National  cemetery then opening and closing is still owed and a vault must be purchased however, a vet can still apply and receive a veterans marker. A veteran is also entitled to a military service. While there is no ‘charge’  there is usually a ‘donation’ required, if you can call it that….and another point I would like to bring up is that in order to be interred at a National Cemetery the family must present a DD-214 (Discharge) and it must be an Honorable Discharge.

Vaults or liners are not required by law and is a ploy to get you to spend more unnecessary money.

Correct, they are not required by law however they are required by most cemeteries! The funeral home has no say or any authority over what the cemetery requirements are and vise versa…. And if we know if a cemetery does not require one, we let our families know right away, why pay for it if you don’t need it…!?! Also, cemeteries also sell vaults, so if you would rather purchase your vault from them you may do so.

Funeral Homes are required by law to present a General Price List and a casket price list upon request.

Yes we are and will gladly give one to anyone who wants one. We are also required to give pricing over the phone and do so everyday.

If on a budget or having viewing before cremation, ask about a rental casket.

Certainly! IF the funeral home offers a rental casket…. also, there are very nice caskets available for less money than it will cost to rent one, depending on the funeral home of course.

You do not need a casket with a seal, they actually trap the gasses in the casket.

No, you do not need a casket that seals and I have nor have I ever witnessed a director ‘pushing’ a family to purchase one. Actually it is usually the other way around and the family requests a sealable casket.

Ask that the crematory return the cremated remains in the temporary urn without the crematory sticker on it, it is just a ploy to get you to purchase an expensive urn.

You may request that the sticker not be placed on the temp container, but it is not a ploy to get you to buy an urn. The sticker contains the name of the deceased and a number which is assigned to the deceased from the minute they arrive at the crematory. Also, depending on the cemetery, if you plan to inter the cremated remains, will allow that temp container to be buried. So you are actually saving money. If you want to keep the cremains at your home and on a mantel or the like, I don’t think most people would want a plastic box…..and we do not ever tell a family they must purchase an urn, they ask if we carry them. Also you can purchase urns online or a store that sells them, you do not need to buy one from a funeral home!

If there is no low cost casket on display, ask to see one anyway, some funeral homes hide them, in the basement or someplace else.

We don’t hide our low cost caskets. Also, I believe ‘low cost’ has different meaning for different people. I have found that even our cheapest casket we can get, on display or not, is still too expensive for some.

Get pricing, shop around at other funeral homes. Pricing varies from funeral home to funeral home. A direct cremation at one place may be $700 and $4000 at another!

Of course you should get pricing from other places, especially if money is an issue…. and yes, pricing varies. However if you are getting pricing from funeral homes within the same area, expected them to be just a few dollars more or less. If you find a funeral home that will do a direct cremation for much much less than another….ASK why!! There are some  ‘cremation’ places that claim they will do a direct cremation for $500 when the typical charge is around $1195 to $1500 (in my area). What they do not tell you is that there are other charges. When we give pricing we include everything in that charge. Charges that are in a dir cremation are, the funeral home charge, the crematory fee and the medical examiner permit fee. The funeral home charge includes the removal fee and transfer fee to crematory. If the family wants anything beyond that, then there are extra charges.

Funeral homes remove pacemakers because they damage the crematories.

Yes, we do and yes, they can damage the retort. We do not hide this fact from our families tho…

Funeral packages claim to save you money but get n itemized price list anyway, there are services in those packages that you probably do not need.

All funeral homes are different, but I can only speak for myself when telling you that if a family wants a certain package and there are things within that package they do not need, we deduct it from their charges or put something in place of that item that they do need. But we really don’t have a lot of packages anyway. What we do offer are limited service options for those who cannot afford a lot but want certain things. For instance, a family still wants visitation then burial at cemetery but having a whole day of visitation and the funeral the next day is too expensive, so they can choose to have a few hours of visitation then to cemetery all in the same day.

Technically I am a Mortician or Undertaker, but Funeral Director sounds much better doesn’t it?

Uhhhhmmmm….. Yeah. No hiding that. I really don’t even see the big deal with this one. I actually believe most people would prefer to say Funeral Director. We do get the occasional person say Mortician but I also feel as if Mortician and Undertaker are outdated words.

You can scatter cremate remains but now days you can also have them crushed into diamonds, made part of a form reef or sent to space.

Yes. Yes. And yes…. however it is not that simple and VERY rarely do any of these options ever come up. We have had people ask about making them into diamonds because of articles they have read or seen on the internet. It is not an easy process to make a diamond out of ashes and it is extremely expensive. I have yet to meet a family who has asks about sending cremains to space!

It is typically less expensive if the body is not present for the funeral:

Well, a body must be present for the  “funeral”, what I mean is, if there will be a burial, then you have to bury a body, right? If by what they mean when stating this is it will be less expensive to not have a body present at the funeral home for visitation , well, yes, because for one, you won’t be paying for embalming. Two, if you choose not to have a casket, then no need to pay for a casket. So, to be honest I really don’t even understand the above statement…. I have never had a family want visitation if there won’t be a body or cremated remains present.

If the deceased clothes are a size too big or small, bring in anyway, part of the job is making  clothes fit perfect.

Uhhhh….no. And yes. We are not magicians. The statement “making clothes fit perfectly” is not correct, as much as we aren’t magicians nor are we tailors. It is not the easiest task, getting a body dressed, so having clothes that are too small can prove challenging. We will do our very best, but to say “perfect” is not true. If you bring in a shirt for grandpa and his neck is a size 14 but you bring in a 12, it will be difficult to button that shirt. Or if the opposite and you bring in too big, well….we do our best, but again, to say it our job to “make perfect” is not true and never would we tell you, “oh, don’t worry about the size’ we will make it look perfect”!!!

If the director asks for a photo to help prepare the body, they do not mean an old photo.

Ye, correct. And when we do tell families we need a photo, we tell them a recent photo. We use photos for hair styling, make up and for men, facial hair. Some people do bring in older photos for obits, which I recall never understood, but if that’s what they want, then that’s what they get.

The deceased may have goal teeth, but don’t an the funeral director to remove them for you

We will not remove gold teeth. Period. We are not dentist. If you want the goal teeth, you may contact a dentist and ask him/her to come to funeral home and remove them, but chances are they won’t either. The gold teeth are not really worth much anyway. They are not a solid gold tooth, they are caps/crowns or fillings.

Never trust a funeral director who makes the comment “this is the last thing you can do for your moved one”.

Never have I heard a director say that. Although I have heard family members say it to each other!!!

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a nice and meaningful service.

Pretty sure we may have covered a similar question already, but, yes, you do not have to spend a lot of money. It is strictly up to the family. If the statement means, having a luncheon, well, you all know how I feel about having luncheons….they are not important and not required!! People put way to much time, effort and money into luncheons! They also put too much into the food that is brought into the funeral home for visitation….some funeral homes don’t even allow food. But, the way I look at it, the family is bringing in all this food to the funeral home for those who are coming to pay their respects, why!?!?!? And then, the day of funeral the family is going to pay again for more food at a luncheon!

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8 Responses to “Life working in a funeral home . Things you aren’t told”

  1. Hi there Bizz!
    When will people realise that it is a profession. For the very small number of funeral businesses that have done something wrong they have made every f/d/mortician/undertaker have to justify their every action. They have made the public suspicious and so when the family should be grieving and letting the home provide the service they need, instead, they are wrapped up on every rumour in the media. There are good and bad no matter what. Ignorance is the problem though. People are scared of what they don’t understand. They feel it is a business shrouded in mystery and so this is deception. Emh, no! We are careful how we explain things/procedures, as it may really upset the bereaved.
    I also want to bring up a very upsetting matter to me. Since telling people my chosen career in the bizz, some acquaintances think it’s O.K to joke about necrophilia! I mean really!? Would they joke about a school teacher being a pedophile?
    Political correctness…You just got to laugh. What happened to common sense?!
    Take care guys and gals. X
    P.S Did you get my e-mail Bizz? X

    • Yep, you said it, what people don’t understand! And using ‘correct’ words when explaining things to a family… they ask the questions but don’t want the truthful answer. You also hit the nail on the head about one funeral homes mistakes affect other funeral homes. Not to long ago there was a funeral home who had stole millions in per need funds from those who pre paid their funerals with them. They ended up in jail and have to pay that money back but when that happened we received many calls about peoples per needs….wanting to make sure that they were OK. There are bad and good in every business just like you said…
      Yeah…I have all got the questions from friends or people who know I work in the funeral business…not really sure why that is something that people feel is OK to ask!?!?!?! We have the utmost respect for the deceased, there have been times when we may be working on the deceased and someone may swear and its always, “oh, sorry Mr. or Mrs. whoever”.
      I did get your email, sorry I have yet to respond. I did look at one of the links you sent but not the other yet.

  2. The media and journalists are all about selling a story and a scandal will sell more than the truth. All it takes is one funeral director, ahem! “event organiser of the after-life”(!) to screw up and the rest of the industry cops it with journalists slamming it as a ‘morbid money grabbing business’. We’ve had a few stories like that in our paper on previous occasions. One director was accused by a family of stealing a deceased woman’s jewellery she was to wear at a viewing. And if other funeral homes speak out in defence, well then, they’re put under the microscope as well. Such as, well if they’re defending that person…why?
    I got the LODM casket term from a comedy show we had years ago on tv where a funeral director does a home visit and shows his portfolio to the family of LODMs because ‘coffin’ is considered to be ‘less encouraging and undermining consumer usage.”….

    • I totally get why peopke feel as if when they are in their most vunerable state that they dont have a choice but to pay the high cost of a funeral…..BUT, this is not something new, no secret that funeral homes (and cemeteries) have been hiding. Also, as i have said before, it isnt only the funeral homes to blame for high costs, it is the suppliers funeral homes must purchase their goods from. If their costs were lower so would the funeral homes…

  3. AdminAsst. Says:

    Every thing you stated here is true in our state as well. Isn’t it funny how the media loves to twist things around? I’m surprised the article you referenced didn’t really do their homework by stating the Funeral Rule from the Federal Trade Comission stating what is required and not required regarding the funeral industry. That is where they should have started before writing a misleading article.

  4. Technically I am a Mortician or Undertaker, but Funeral Director sounds much better doesn’t it?
    I saw recently from an ad for a funeral home in the paper with, under the director’s name, the job title “event organiser”. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be politically correct term these days but I guess in some ways they are preparing an event or they use that term more given how some families react when it comes to visiting a funeral home or talking to an “event organiser for a loved one’s celebration”.
    If the deceased clothes are a size too big or small, bring in anyway, part of the job is making clothes fit perfect.
    Reminds me of an episode on Six Feet Under when the deceased had lost a foot and to get the shoe fitting correctly for a full viewing the mortuary assistant and director used a frozen lamb roast from the fridge wedged into the shoe or in another episode a busted silicon breast implant causing a saggy boob was propped by a can of beans placed underneath.
    Still on the subject of political correctness as to not freak people out, new term for casket or coffin: LODM – Loved One Departure Module.

    • I think the whole event organizer is the ‘new’ term younger funeral directors or those who want to change the way people view funeral use. I love the term you came up with for casket!! I mean, really, I think everyone has their own idea of how a funeral should be or how they want their own funeral to body and if they want more of a celebration, than good to them…if they want the ‘traditional’ funeral…again, good fairy them. I just find it irritating how the media or writers make funeral homes out to be the bad guy.

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