The Good Funeral Guide Blog

The bargain bites back

Thursday, 28 August 2008

It took just a couple of playful chomps for the bull terrier to sever the puppy’s retractable lead, rendering it a total loss. Fruitless to pelt him with acrimony: when a bull terrier does a bad thing the accompanying expression of comical delinquency disarms all rage.

Expensive things, these retractable leads. Sharon found a replacement on ebay. Buy it now, just £1 plus £2.95 p & p. “Bargain!” she cried.

It arrived a few days later. She pulled it from its padded envelope and we cursorily inspected it. I stepped on the pedal of the bin and she dropped it in, no word spoken. By way of consolation I revealed the German model I had bought from Pets R 4 Xmas just in case. £8.95. Best buy.

There will always be those who seek a cheap funeral.

There are the puritans, hair-shirted, often green, left-leaning types for whom even sackcloth and ashes are luxury lifestyle accessories. They resist the solicitous intervention of undertakers. The cardboard coffin is emblematic of their often joyless rejection of the follies of frippery.

You could generalise and say that it’s the educated middle class which inclines towards palaver-free, cheap funerals, and it’s the working class which likes to put on a bit of a show. This would be a mistake. It’s social confidence that empowers people to ignore what the neighbours think and say no, if that’s how they feel, to posh coffins and long black limousines.

To the puritans and the socially confident you can add the skint. All these will be attracted to a cheaper funeral. They may or may not suppose that funeral directors make more money than they ought.

None of us wants to pay more than we need. When a dead cheap funeral suddenly pops up, we all sit up and take notice.

Direct Funeral Services will do you a funeral for just £960 plus disbursements. Bargain!

How do they do it? I rang to find out. The helpful but clueless receptionist couldn’t tell me, so she put me through to the office. After a period of silence, the phone went dead.

If Sherlock Holmes were alive today he’d never get out of Google.

Go to Nominet. Type the domain name into WHOIS. Done.

Registrant: Richard Sage.

Pause for audible gasp.

Can this be the same Richard Sage who has been pursued for almost 15 years by BBC Radio 4’s John Waite for “ripping off staff, customers and National Health hospitals to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds”? The same Richard Sage who has been sentenced to a total 12 years in prison for fraud? The same Richard Sage of whom one of his previous employees said this: “It got to the point of going down to the crematorium or the local graveyard and collecting other people’s flowers – wreaths and bouquets – off another funeral, which wasn’t even to do with our company. Taking them back to the office, re-spraying them with water to make them look fresh. And placing them on the coffins – was our jobs”?

Even if this is a different Richard Sage, beware.

It’s a fact: margins in the funeral business are already very tight. Funerals are pretty good value. And, if money is tight, or you want a stripped down affair, almost every funeral director will offer you a basic funeral package as prescribed by the National Association of Funeral Directors, the price of which varies nationally.

You can negotiate a cheaper funeral than this by unpacking the package and buying fewer services. Do you, for example, need the funeral director’s staff to carry the coffin? Are you happy for the body to be left in the hospital mortuary until the day of the funeral and brought to the crematorium or cemetery in an estate car rather than a hearse? Many funeral directors will resist this sort of whittling; the best will happily collude.

There are very few crooks out there, but funeral directors are unregulated; there’s no way of keeping crooks out. So, if a funeral director is not a member of the NAFD or SAIF, tread carefully.

One comment on “The bargain bites back

  1. Saturday 6th August 2011 at 12:02 am

    Its the nature of Bull Terriers, but l love them

  2. Thursday 22nd July 2010 at 7:04 pm

    […] also slightly disturbed by the similarity of trading style to that of the saintly Mr Sage. I think this is something they need to address. What a dreadful fate, to be compared to […]

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