Life at a funeral home – If you need something…


If you need something from us, say like a work/school excuse or you want us to print you some extra prayer cards or you want us to take care of the life insurance policies that we are NOT taking an assignment on, one would think that most people would ask nicely,  right? Nope.
I received a call the other day from a family member of the deceased and they wanted/needed the f.h. to write a letter for something. It is something that I have done before and does not take that long to do. I really didnt mind doing it. But when this person called and i answered the phone they were very rude about it. I thought afterwards that maybe i just thought they were being that way, maybe I took it the wrong way…but anyway.. the conversation went something like this Me “(F.H name), Good afternoon, this is (my name). Them “…yeah, i need a letter for ______ and ______ to get them _______ for Thursday when my _____ will be at your f.h., so, i need that asap and will be by within a half hour”. Me “ok, thats no problem, but i do not know if i will have them done within a half hour, I have a family here right now so it may take me alittle more than a half hour”. Them “…ughhhh, really? Because i have to get these because i have to take them to ______ in person and i need to do it now! This isnt something i can put off any longer because if i dont get there soon then they will not let us!!”. So..the conversation doesnt sound too bad, but add in disgust and irritation to this person’s voice and it does sound a little bad. First of all, they knew that this was going to come up..IF they chose to do so.. (i know its hard to explain when i am not saying what it was for but i would rather not say). And, this was late in the afternoon as well. This wasn’t 12pm it was more like 4pm and you are asking someone to do a favor for you and do it quick, you would think you would be nicer about it! ! I told them i would do the best i could, that it really wouldnt take me long to type it for them, it was just a matter of tending to the family i was dealing with at that time. You all know the saying ‘First come, First serve’. Well that is what i was trying to explain to this person..without actually coming out and saying it! And…i could have very well charged them a fee for what they wanted, but we typically do not do that. So, i said that i would do my best to have it done within a half hour. They said, “….we will be there in a half hour”. ‘CLICK’. No thank you, no we appreciate it, no, we understand it may take a few minutes longer because there is another family you are with that ALSO lost a loved one and needs and deserves your attention just as much as we appreciated your undivided attention when we lost our loved one…..!!!!
So i hurried up and typed these letters for them and had them done, but it did take me about 45 minutes from the time they had called. But, they were not there in half hour anyway! And they did not come an hour later either! I left work at 5:30pm that day and still they had not come!! When i arrived the following day I noticed they were gone and asked when they came to pick them up. My boss said they came in around 7:30pm!! REALLY!! Do you have any idea how irritated that made me!! After all that bullshit and how important this was for them to have those stinkin letters in a half hour and they come 3 1/2 hours LATER!! errrghhhhhhhh! If in fact they would have been more appreciative about asking for these letters, i may not have been so pissed..but when you ask someone for a favor, you should really ask nicely!!

I get asked often by those who do not usually see me at work, what do i have to wear to work. Well, a black suit. I can get away with brown, navy blue and gray as well. I do try to wear different colored blouses or shirts to liven things up a bit..but if we have a funeral, i try to stick with a white shirt and black suit. I usually always wear pants even tho alot of women who work at funeral homes wear skirts. Only reason i dont wear skirts alot is because i feel more comfortable in pants when i know i am going to be busy carrying flowers, lifting caskets, etc. I also hate panty hose!! There are some funeral homes that will require women to skirts..i think thats bullshit, but whatever. If you are going for an interview at a funeral home, i would probably say, yes, wear a skirt, i would or a nice dress with a jacket. But i feel it should be up to the individual in what they feel comfortable in.

And yes. . Another little note about death certificates. We cannot file a death certificate unless we have the required information on that death certificate! If the family does not know the deceaseds date of birth, address, social security #, then we cant file it! Some info we can put ‘unknown’ but for some things we cannot! This is not something WE are doing on purpose….this is required info that the state requires. So if in fact the funeral home has told you that they need info for the death certificate, then by all means get that info for them asap! When we are unable to file a death certificate we are unable to file it and get the certified copies that you need. Also, if it is missing certain info, say date of birth, correct spelling of names and your loved one is going to be cremated, we are unable to forward a signed death certificate to the medical examiner for a cremation permit. The medical examiner will overlook some info missing, but not important info….this will delay cremation. I have experienced in the past where families will delay giving us the social security number because they think they may be able to continue to collect on that person’s social security income. But what they dont realize is that once we do receive that social security number, we report it to social security and that form we send contains the date of death. So anything that was paid after that date will be taken back by social security administration. Now understand that the funeral home does not have ANY contact with social security except for the form we fill out and fax to them…thats it, nothing more. I think i posted about this a few weeks ago, but this seems to be a recurring problem lately. I have had several families call to ask when they are going to get the death benefit from social security. For one i dont even know why anyone would consider calling the funeral home regarding social security! Odd. Like i have said before, same with life insurance. If we are not taking an assignment on a life insurance policy to pay funeral charges…then we have no idea when you are going to receive payment when in fact you are the one who contacted the life insurance company! Another thing that has been happening is that when a family comes in for arrangements and we ask if there is a life insurance policy they want to use to pay for funeral expenses and the family says No. But then day of service the family has failed to pay us and either they say they are waiting for the life insurance check to come or we were unable to approach them and a couple weeks go by and no payment so we call them and they say they havent received the life insurance payment!!! We do NOT wait for YOU to receive life insurance payment!! If you are not assigning a policy to us then it is your responsibility to pay us day of service and you wait for the check from the life insurance! ! I have one family who had paid a few thousand dollars and then nothing….we sent bills and late notices and we would receive a couple hundred dollars. Then one day we received a note along with a bill we sent saying ‘i do not know when i will be able to pay the balance because i have still not received life insurance payment!’ Well, again, not our problem. We did not take an assignment on a policy nor did we have any knowledge of a policy and you signed a contract stating you would pay by date of service….
There are very few times when we will work with a family in making payments. If we do they have to sign an agreement stating they will pay so much on certain date of every month. We have not done this in quite a while because the last few times we did do it….we got nothing or very little! People do not understand that is the reason why we will not accept payments. Every family who sits in front of us insists that they are not ‘one of those families’ and promise they will pay.. but again, those who did sign an agreement and promise to pay did and said the same thing. So it’s true, one bad apple ruins it for the rest!

A note in ship ins. If you call a funeral home and want pricing on a funeral then ship your loved one out of state, we cannot give you an exact amount. We must wait until the airline gives us a cost. We can give you a close estimate but not exact. Too many people assume that there is some exact price. It depends on where you want to ship to. What airline. Then adding in additional transfer fees. Same for obits. We cannot give you an amount of a death notice until the newspaper calls us with an amount AFTER we have submitted the obit to them. Yes, there are some papers that charge a flat fee but those are usually smaller towns, in larger areas i have found that they go by the line, so each number of words in a line is how they charge, then if you want a photo and if you want a black and white photo or color photo. Speaking of obits, i know i have said this before but, there are deadlines!! For instance, you come in on a Tuesday aftetnoon and then want us to place an obit in the local paper for the following day, its not gonna happen. Our deadline is early Tuesday for a Wednesday obit. No exceptions. Not our rules, it is the papers rules! Back to ship in’s/outs…. when a loved one passes out of state usually a funeral home in that area will pick up the body and do the embalming and then transfer to airline or there are shipping companies who specifically work with funeral homes and arrange for the body to be picked up from place of death, taken to a funeral home for embalming and transfer to airport. That company will inform the funeral home in which the body will ultimately end up at. They give us the details, what air line and what the arrival time. Typicallt whatever air line it is will contact us to let us know that the body has arrived and we may come pick it up. We will NOT schedule any visitation or services until we have confirmation with flight info. And even then we have to explain ti family that you never know what can happen with delays and weather. We recently had a family that was going to be having visitation in another state (clear across the country) and they wanted visitation at our place the very next day! Impossible. There are no direct flights from there, they are in a different time zone, we have to wait for clearance from airline to pick up body and then once we get body to our funeral home we have to check body and make sure they are in good condition. If perhaps the body was in same area of the country and only a couple hour flight…well, then possibly. We did have a young woman who passed a few months ago and only a few states away. The family did not have any visitation in other state but they wanted a specific day at our place for viewing. As much as we tried to explain that we could not guarantee that day until we received confirmation they were adamant about the day they wanted and in top of that, they insisted that they wanted to see her AS SOON as we picked her up. Again, she was only embalmed in other state so she was not dressed and only in an air tray, no casket. We did tell them they could see her ahead of time once she was dressed and in the casket but they would have to wait for us to do that. Once we received confirmation of flight and told family but alsi explained that even tho the flight was arriving at 4pm that we still had to wait for clearance and that could be an hour and a half. So we probably would not have her back at funeral home until 6:30-7:00p. They said they would be at funeral home at 7pm then!! For one, unless we have visitation, we are not open then, and we did not have visitation that evening. Also, again, we explained that we needed clothing and cosmetize her and even before that we would have to check for ‘other’  things and then she would need to be placed in casket. Nope..they INSISTED that they see her asap! They didnt want her cosmetized or dressed!! So, we were able to get the body fairly quick and embalmer checked everything and placed her on a stretcher and covered her with a blanket and placed her one of our chapels. We called the family (it was aftet hours) and let the family know they could come that we were waiting for them. They said “….oh, ok, ummm we will be there within a couple hours”. WHAT!?! NO! Either you come NOW or you dont come at all! And that is exactly what the Director told them. After being bitched at for two days and them being set on coming asap, they tell us a couple hours! Again, we are NOT sitting around all day and night doing nothing! We usually do alot of bending over backward for families. Staying late, opening early, going out of our way to please them, it is our job to do all those things, but certain things are just not tolerated. Especially when we have people yelling at us that we ARE GOING TO DO THIS OR DO THAT! Being nice goes a long way!
Just the other day i had a man call because he wanted to come in to make pre arrangements for his father who was near death. He called and said he wanted to come in that same day. So i asked him if he could come at 2pm. He said,  ‘i can come now, i made arrangements with someone to be here with my father NOW!’ Hmmmm, maybe he should have contacted US FIRST! 

4 Responses to “Life at a funeral home – If you need something…”

  1. AdminAsst Says:

    Sorry I meant to reply sooner. Life has been crazy. I know so much of what you write about. That is why I like this blog, it’s like a support group for funeral home employees LOL.
    I can relate to your story about those people wanting the letters, but in my case it has to do with obituaries. We have people call and say they want to come in right away to make the arrangements and get the obit in the paper (who are they trying to kid, they only care about the obit nowadays). But we’ve had families come in at 3:30pm and want the obit in the paper. The deadline is 4pm. Talk about pressure. And since no one else where I work knows how to work that black box that makes ringing sounds (because I apparently am the only employee who knows how to answer a phone) So not only am I trying to get the obit typed, reviewed and sent off to the paper before the deadline but I’m fielding phone calls as well. Ugh.
    Ship ins are always okay at our place, but I’ve wondered how much trade work do you do? I HATE trade calls. Why? Because every single trade call we’ve ever done for out of state funeral homes, they 1. Never put the date or place of disposition 2. they always give us the wrong information so we usually end up having to order a replacement set of certifieds once they make the correction on the death record with vital records (I finally learned to make the funeral home we did the trade call for make the changes) But we still get stuck making 2 trips to the clerk’s office for certifieds. This happens with every single trade call. I’m not exaggerating, it happens every single solitary time, they either get an initial wrong, the SS # wrong, the mother’s maiden name wrong etc…

    • Yeah..tell me about noone able to answer phone even tho they know and see you runnin around like a crazy person! Typically it is me tryi.g to typw an obit while everyone else is walking around aimlessly because somehow they feel as if they do not have to help out where help is needed! We don’t do much trade work, maybe a couple per year, but yes, usually something is wrong. The whole getting a dc corrected is nothing but a pain in the rear! If we are lucky and the dc is still at the clerks office, we will call their and always we get attitude from the clerks office, like it is somehow our fault no matter if the family gave us wrong info, spelled name wrong, etc! I am glad you enjoy my blog and see it as therapeutic, it is most definitely therapeutic to be able to blog/vent about work!!

      • AdminAsst Says:

        I am so glad I found this blog, it really helps to know that I’m not the only one who goes through these trials and tribulations. People can be so difficult (both families and co-workers LOL). I have seen so much change since I started working at a funeral home 10 years ago, and it’s not for the better.
        Oh this is something you could probably related to (if I already mentioned it just ignore this who paragraph). We had a call from a woman whose husband passed away 4 1/2 years ago. She said she just discovered that the obit was wrong in the newspaper. It was published 4 1/2 years ago!! She wanted it fixed on our website (it’s no longer on our website because so much time has passed). Really? 4 1/2 years later you want the obituary corrected? And you only just discovered the newspaper’s (it was the newspaper that made the errors)mistake now? She initially wanted the obit to re-run in the paper until they told her there would be a charge for it. Then she decided to have it changed online (no charge).
        You should start a group on FB called Funeralbizz LOL. I’d join it.

      • I am so glad that you guys can relate (sometimes i think i am the only one who gets so frustrated with people, considering the line of work we do. I tend to think that most other people see us as those who are never frustrated with ‘them’ or couldn’t have a men bone in our body and only want to help those in their time of need. Dont get me wrong, i do love helping those in their time of need and want nothing more than to make this whole process as painlesd as possible…but, to those who appreciate it!). But yes, i can understand your frustration with people (the woman) who found the error in a 4 1/2 yr old obit! It never amazes me what people will say/ask/do anymore!! I get people who call or email us quite often asking us to look up old records and obits for them because they are doing a family tree. No big deal really, except usually they are asking for records from the 30’s-40’s, sometimes earlier. I dont know about you guys but our older records contain very little info, they just didnt keep alot back then if any! I dont so much mind trying to locate older records but doing so is not first on my list of things to do. I try to explain to them that it may take me sometime to get to it because i cannot very well drop my current work to stop and look for old records. Most of the time people are understanding, other times not so much! In an effort to forego having to sift thru old records, i let them know if they know where that person passed they can always go get a death certificate which would have more info than i probably have (death certificates are public record here). Then comes the…”well cant you go get it for me?”. Ugh! Sure…but we are gonna charge you for going..plus charge the cost of the d/c, when all they have to do is ho themselves, call the clerk themselves, or simply go online and order one! The thought of starting a FB page has crossed my mind but not sure it is something i want to do…yet..lol. maybe in the future…i know there is a blogger who has a fb page as well, but his isnt really about venting. He also has a website (confessionsofafuneraldirector.com) , it is a pretty interesting blog.

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