Watching Out for the Consumer

When Negotiations Get Tough, Help is Available

All too often, customers of cemeteries find themselves frustrated and looking for help to resolve a dispute. Unfortunately, though, they sometimes seek this help too late. The bottom line is that watching out for the consumer is, ultimately, the consumer’s job.

There are many ways that consumers of memorial products can watch out for unsavory businesses

One group known as the Funeral Consumers Alliance has non-profit chapters across America, and the active members of these chapters often report their disappointment at not being able to help consumers who contact them after a sale. Many of these members, in fact, joined the group after an unresolved negative experience with a cemetery, and they vowed to help others avoid similar problems. When they find they cannot be of service, disappointment and frustration set in.

The FCA and other similar groups (FCA is the largest, but there are a number of other regional and national consumer activist groups) all stress that resolving problems with cemeteries starts before a consumer steps into a cemetery office.

Companies the death care industry are notorious for taking advantage of customers who, in their grief over losing a loved one, are not tough negotiators. With the shock of a family member’s death, even the most prudent of consumers can be convinced that spending $6,000 – $10,000 for a funeral and then another $4,000 – $6,000 for burial is both reasonable and necessary.

But, such prices are not necessarily reasonable and they certainly are not necessary. And the only way to avoid the numerous traps that cemeteries and funeral homes have for unsuspecting customers is planning and preparation – with the help of FCA and groups like it.

The FTC Funeral Rule was meant to protect consumers of the memorial industry

Customers who have done enough research to know, for example, that embalming is optional will not fall victim to suggestions from cemeteries and funeral home staff members that it a legal requirement. (And, if the funeral home asks the exact same price for “refrigeration” of unenbalmed remains as it does for an embalming service, well, the informed customer knows that his best deal is probably at a competitor’s establishment.)  Likewise, those who have done their research will know that grave markers, urns, caskets and other memorial products are usually available from third party vendors at dramatically lower prices than those offered by cemeteries and funeral homes.

The memorial industry is filled with traps for the unwary consumer who believes that the funeral home or cemetery staff has his or her best interest at heart. And about the only way to avoid those traps is to be aware of them ahead of time. Joining a groups such as the FCA and reading books such as Jessica Mitford’s classic best seller, “The American Way of Death Revisited” are a couple of great ways to be prepared enough so that, when the time comes for you to arrange a funeral service and a burial for a family member, you will not get caught in the trap of believing that you must spend thousands of dollars more than you need (or want) in order to have a dignified service.

One option you always have is to visit a large memorial retailer on the internet which is trying to keep cost very low, that way the prices can be keept low as well. of course they are trying to make a profit as well (maybe not as much though).