Caskets and funeral homes are a big part of the many choices a family has to make and all to often there is little help available, outside of that offered by a funeral director, for grieving families who have to make quick decisions about these two topics. This article aims to help that by giving you some helpful tips for making sure you get exactly what you want or need for the lowest price possible.
The first, and probably most important, thing to consider about and funeral homes and caskets is that they do not necessarily go hand in hand. In other words, in today’s competitive environment, there is no reason that any family must purchase a casket from the funeral home they choose to work with. It is still true that the vast majority of funeral homes still offer a wide selection of caskets – many of which are on permanent display in a showroom on the funeral home’s property – but it is also true that the caskets offered by funeral homes are often priced higher than similar funeral caskets sold in other retail outlets.
Many families have been stunned to discover after their relative’s memorial service has passed and the bills are long since paid, that the casket they purchased was available at another retail outlet at a fraction of what they paid. For this reason, it is important for anyone planning a relative’s memorial ceremony to be sure to comparison shop the prices they are offered by their funeral home with a number of other competitors, both locally and on-line. Many families, in the midst of their grief, feel intimidated by a funeral home’s initial offer and will choose it without checking elsewhere. It it very important for these families to remember that there are almost always other options, and, in fact, many consumer advocate experts advise that a grieving family find (or even hire) an impartial adviser to negotiate all funeral arrangements, including the casket – which will be a significant part of the entire cost of the memorial service. (A family member or friend who has some good business savvy but is not necessarily as emotionally attached to the deceased as immediate family might be is a great choice for this.) Regardless of who negotiates, the most important thing to remember is that the discussions with a funeral home about plans for a funeral are, in fact, a negotiation.
Some funeral homes secretly develop strategies that are designed to maximize their sales of caskets by playing on emotions of grieving family members who do not want to be thought of as offering anything less than the best for their loved one’s memory. Just as most grocery stores today put a great deal of behind-the-scenes study and thought into arranging their shelves so as to maximize their sales, funeral homes often have procedures aimed at selling their caskets most profitably. One such example often noted by consumer advocates is to simply not offer their least expensive caskets on display in their showroom. Often the simple, inexpensive models are only pictured in catalogs, and even those books are often not prominently on display in the showroom. The implied message in this marketing strategy is that most customers don’t even consider buying those inexpensive caskets, so there is no real need to display them or even, necessarily, to put them out to customers. Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission has rules specifically for funeral homes that prohibit them from entirely by-passing the least expensive caskets when funeral directors give tours of their showrooms. But the least expensive caskets do not have to be highlighted, nevertheless. So it’s often up to the customer to ask to pause at the least expensive caskets to pursue what’s available and inquire about the differences between the least expensive pieces and their high dollar counter parts. Consumer advocates note that the differences are often mostly irrelevant, given that the casket will be buried shortly after the funeral.
Another very important consideration is that even the least expensive caskets offered by a funeral home may often be far more expensive than similar caskets sold elsewhere. Customers should not be led to believe that ordering a casket from a funeral home’s casket is somehow in violation of the funeral home’s rules or otherwise impossible for some reason. A big consideration is often delivery. It should be noted that most caskets ordered from non-funeral home retailers can be delivered within two or three days even by retailers based only on the internet. Customer should not be concerned that their casket will not arrive in time for a funeral service simply because it has to be shipped from another location. A great bonus with memorial websites is that they usually offer a great deal of information on both the casket, and casket ordering process. Additionally, reputable companies will always be happy to assist with any questions or concerns before the casket is actually ordered.
The bottom line is that funeral homes and caskets are, indeed, complimentary. But that does not mean that they must be purchased from the same spot (any more than milk has to be purchased from the same place one buys meat). It is true that purchasing a casket directly from a funeral home can be a convenience that is much needed for a family upon a loved one’s death. But that convenience always does come with a price (sometimes a hidden price), and buyer’s remorse is never a pleasant thing, especially in relation to a loved one’s memory. It is a wise family that takes very careful attention its duty for good financial stewardship, even in the time of great emotional need and pain, so it’s always wise to check multiple places, and consult numerous sources before signing a contract to buy a casket from a funeral home. Chances are very strong that the family can find a better deal – often on the very same casket – by simply looking around. And, a final thing to consider: no reputable funeral home will openly discourage a family to explore their options.
We hope this article has proven helpful in your family’s quest to be wise about the decisions it has to make upon the unfortunate loss of a loved one.