The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Good Funeral Guide offers hope to funeral shoppers in wake of Dispatches Undercover Undertaker.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Channel 4’s Dispatches film Undercover Undertaker (Monday 25 June) has shocked viewers with its undercover revelations at Co-operative Funeralcare, the obvious and most deserving target of such treatment*. 

The production line nature of the ‘hub’ depicted in the programme is the corollary of consolidation and rationalisation in the funeral industry. Its acceptability to consumers has never been tested by market research, but it is a standard feature of consolidated businesses in the industry.  Many Funeralcare customers who now realise their loved one was taken to a hub will be devastated. Bereaved people can in future make sure this does not happen to them. There are plenty of boutique funeral directors who can meet their needs and wishes. 

What the film failed to offer viewers was a balanced survey of the industry as a whole. As a consequence, the good name of all funeral homes stands in jeopardy. This is unfair. Standards of practice in the funeral industry generally mirror those in any other industry. Co-operative Funeralcare offers a typical example of egregious corporate cynicism where the pursuit of profit has betrayed the trust of consumers and the hard work and decency of many of its employees. The majority of funeral homes in the UK are independent businesses ranging from the indifferent to the excellent and which care for their dead on their premises. Wickedness is rare, scandals few. The very best abide by standards which are as startlingly high as Funeralcare’s are low. 

In the UK it is illegal to operate an unlicensed cattery, so it is no surprise that there have been renewed calls for regulation. The codes of conduct and compliance regimes of the two industry bodies, the National Association of Funeral Directors (NAFD)  and the National Society of Allied and Independent Funeral Directors (SAIF), have, justly, been called into question. Co-operative Funeralcare is a member of the NAFD, a body which supports self-regulation. 

However, if the experience of children in care and the elderly in nursing homes is anything to go by, funeral consumers are mistaken if they suppose that licensing funeral directors and subjecting their funeral homes to an independent inspection regime will be a silver bullet. In the USA the professionalisation of funeral directors has driven up prices, while the inspection regime of the Federal Trade Commission has failed to root out malpractice. 

The best hope for funeral shoppers remains vigorous consumer scrutiny. We only buy an average of two funerals in a lifetime, so it’s no surprise we’re not very good at it. Worse, it’s a distress purchase – one we make when our mind is overcast by grief. But even at such a time it is possible to make an informed choice, and there is every incentive to do so. First, we owe it to the person who has died. Second, the experience of a good funeral can be transformative of grief. Third, everyone in Britain can find, within ten miles of their home, a decent, dedicated caring funeral director who will look after them well.

*Co-operative Funeralcare lays claim to ethical standards that set it apart from its commercial rivals, but it conducts itself like any corporate predator. Founded by the people for the people, Funeralcare is in dispute with the GMB union, which it has de-recognised, setting it in clear breach of its founding principles. Created in order to enable working people to buy what they would not otherwise be able to afford, Co-operative Funeralcare enjoys economies of scale which enable it to sell funerals at lower cost than its independent competitors. Funeralcare does not pass these benefits on to funeral shoppers but, instead, charges, on average, several hundred pounds more than most independent businesses [source: http://bit.ly/nCZGJT], rendering it commercially incoherent.

For all those who watched Undercover Undertaker and despaired, the Good Funeral Guide offers the following simple five-point guide to finding a good funeral director.

5 Things to know before you arrange a Funeral

If you saw the recent Dispatches programme on Channel 4 and are concerned about making the right choices when organising a funeral, we hope this information will empower you.

1. Take your time

Unless you have religious reasons for doing otherwise, take your time. If someone dies at home by all means call a funeral director and ask them to collect the body but know that you can have them transferred to another funeral director for a nominal charge before any paperwork is signed and this also applies if the person has already been collected because they died in a nursing home. If the person died in a hospital there may be no rush – they can stay in the mortuary until you’ve chosen a funeral director you’re happy with. If the hospital does not have a mortuary, a nominated funeral director will look after them until you arrange for a transfer. By all means call family and friends to tell them that death has occurred, but don’t feel that you need to tell them the place and time of the funeral in the same call. Unless the coroner is involved you must register the death within 5 days.

2. Ask a friend to help

The chances are you’ve never organised a funeral before. There’s lots to learn, just at a time when you may feel least able to cope, so enlist the help of a friend. Try to choose someone who is level-headed, organised, not afraid to ask questions of you, and the funeral director, and in whom you can confide about any financial constraints.

3. Know your options

The main choices are between burial and cremation – unless your religion prescribes one or the other. Cremation is almost always cheaper. You could can costs to a minimum by having no ceremony and opting for direct cremation, holding a funeral/memorial and/or ash scattering event a few days, weeks or months later at a place and time that’s right for you and the person who died.

4. Know and stick to your budget

Your budget should determine what sort of funeral you choose, not the other way around. Because we want to ‘do them proud’ it’s very easy to overspend. Remember that, ultimately, a good send-off is determined by what you say and do, not what you spend. Ask your friend to help you stick to your budget and think about how people can play their part in the preparations and ceremony. Remember that many funeral directors will ask for all of the 3rd-party fees up front (this could be up to £1000 for cremation in some parts of the country, even more for burial), with the balance to be paid soon after the funeral, so you will need to have the funds available. It’s perfectly OK to ask friends and family to help with the cost, and much more practical than buying flowers which will usually only be seen briefly. Finally, be sure to claim any benefit you might be entitled to.

5. Shop around

The cost of funerals varies hugely. Call and ask for quotes from all your local funeral directors. Evaluate how your request is dealt with and give each one stars out of five. Don’t worry about qualifications. Rather, go and interview three funeral directors and take your friend with you for support and to keep you on track. Consider asking to go behind the scenes so that you can see where the person who has died will stay. Finally, balance cost against quality of service and go with the nicest funeral director you can afford.

Note: this advice applies to those who wish to employ a funeral director. There is no law saying you have to. If you think you would like to care for your own at home, please click the link here

98 comments on “Good Funeral Guide offers hope to funeral shoppers in wake of Dispatches Undercover Undertaker.

  1. Sunday 9th September 2012 at 9:04 pm

    We don’t really have a reception area. No receptionist.
    I welcome Ken’s professional view as well, and I don’t begrudge you your hostility Ken, I am an outspoken critic of embalming, I don’t expect you to approve of me. Maybe this would be a good time for me to put up a post to clarify our position on embalming. I doubt it will get me on your Christmas card list. Angie, it was an embalmer who told me that. It was very early days of our business and we wanted to try and reverse the decay of a body but she said they were too far gone. Perhaps your professional opinion would have been different.

  2. Richard

    Thursday 6th September 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I for one find your professional view welcome, Ken, and hope you continue to contribute for the sake of challenging any consensus on this subject.

  3. Angie

    Tuesday 14th August 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Ru Callender said somewhere above that “Embalming needs to be done on an entirely fresh body, it cannot reverse the natural process any more efficiently than good refrigeration. ” – as an embalmer, I have no idea where he got that information from… it is not true. It is easier to embalm if someone hasn’t been dead for 10 days, but with skill and patience it is possible to achieve a lot, even if someone is compromised by time. What embalming does achieve – which refrigeration does not – is the ability to stabilise a deceased person so that they may remain at room temperature. While for some, having a body returned home with dry ice packs is a choice – I personally have been very happy to embalm my relatives (and many friends too for that matter) and to take them to a chapel of rest – or back home for the period between embalming and the funeral. No need to make appointments to visit – and no need to worry about a refrigerated and sweaty cold body. When I eventually take my turn and die, I hope no one puts me in a fridge for longer than it is necessary for me to be either in a hospital or public mortuary (should I die away from home)… Fridges are where I keep milk, I personally would not choose to be stored in one after death… as has been the heart of this thread, it is a matter of choice. When embalming is on the discussion list, I often find people commenting from an interestingly half informed position – it is so nice to read comments from fellow embalmers. Choice is wonderful, I have been happy over the years to serve familys who have lost relatives in accidents, who have been active in choosing my re-constructive skills. I have been happy over the years to embalm many folk who have died after battling with the most horrendous illness, who made the choice – pre death, to be embalmed – after quite lengthy discussion… Embalming is not simply an added extra that a FD throws in as a means of control or budget enhancement, it is a serious and often very helpful skill that I personally believe should be an option within the service of any serious funeral provider… even if the provider doesn’t opt for it very often. I am very pro choice, but I would like there to be full choice, not part choice. I love the personal touch of independence, but fear the over-use of fridgidity!

    • Ken Davis

      Thursday 6th September 2012 at 12:43 am

      Angie. well said. I have tried to articulate the same in previous contributions to this blog but have really been unable to find the words which you have used.
      I simply cannot understand why so many contributors to this thread seem to dismiss embalming as an enhancement to the service a funeral provider can offer. they all seem to believe that its just a money spinner for the big firms.
      Like you, I have been able to reconstruct peoples features where death has been traumatic or restore some stability to a body where the flora and fauna within the abdomen have done their work unhindered.
      I can only guess that some of the regular contributors to this thread, who doggedly maintain that embalming is an unnecessary service, have been fortunate enough never to encounter the reality of dealing with skin slip, tissue gas, extreme post mortem lividity etc.
      It may be as a result of operating in fluffy, affluent areas in the South where no death is suspicious, doctors always manage to recall that they saw the dead person 13 days ago and everyone agrees that the Coroners involvement is simply an irrelevant distraction. I would love to see how the “Ru’s” of this world would manage in parts of inner Manchester where I have worked for many years and regularly embalm people who have died as a result of severe trauma.
      Anyway, I should go as i promised myself that I would not contribute again because I dont wear Jute underwear or live in a house made of hazel twigs with my daughter Skye and my son Tarquin. Happy days !!

      • Thursday 6th September 2012 at 6:09 pm

        You don’t write for The Daily Mail Ken?

        • Ken Davis

          Thursday 6th September 2012 at 11:29 pm

          No I don’t write for the Daily Mail.

          Do you buy The Guardian to read or to put in your reception area ?

    • Monday 7th January 2013 at 11:48 am

      i really do not have aniyhtng material to give my dad, but i thought of doing this online greeting as a father’s day “gift” to let the world know how much i love my papa. here goes my message:pa,i know you’re very busy today, as everyday, working hard for the money you have to give me every month to be able to send me to school and provide me my wants and other needs. i’m glad you really do that for me, because not all dads care enough for their kids as much as you care for me.for 12 years, i really didn’t have the chance to have a dad by my side. we both know what happened to us before, but now it’s not really important anymore. i am thankful for we had forgiven each other and we already put our painful past to our repressed memories.i would have to say that i really did not expect that we will meet again. in fact, i already lost hope that we’ll still have that “reconciliation”. God was just so great because he did not let me live without a dad forever.thank you.these two words just can’t describe how grateful i am for you have returned in my life. though we do not often see each other, i assure you that i am always here for you no matter what, just what you are for me. happy father’s day pa. i love you this much! *arms wide open*hugs and kisses,unica hija karen

  4. Monday 13th August 2012 at 7:00 am

    […] other than they are. Did you read the comments on this blog written by EX CO OP EMPLOYEE? Read them here and here. What do you […]

  5. Davey Peters

    Monday 16th July 2012 at 8:55 pm

    Hi Charles,

    I can and do understand your point that the dead mean different things to different people.
    All people no matter what the situation, have differing views on what is acceptable. However, this being said, surely no matter what the views of the bereaved are, funeral directors, as with carer’s, nurses and doctors. Should act within an appropriate manner and provide adequate care facilities for people within their care, including proper storage facilites and fridges. If a care home was to have no heating then it would be deemed unfit for people to inhabit by the state ,no matter whether temporarily or permanently, , regardless of whether or not a potential residents son or daughter says they are ok with it.
    Why should funeral homes be exempt from such attitudes? Because the people are dead????…… Does this make them any less of a person than they were a matter of hours or days beforehand?

    I will wholeheartedly agree with anyone, that the actions of people within positions of trust lie solely on the individual and there is no way of policing or ensuring everyone acts with the integrity that would be expected of them by the majority of society. I am well aware that you cannot change the world and such people will always exist in all walks of life, thus rendering a bar, as far as care is concerned, a hard thing to achieve and never fully attainable by every single person or company. There will always be a few bad eggs.
    Does this render regulation completely worthless? I dont think so. Behaviour breeds behaviour and good working practices, no matter what the profession, lead to more good practice. The same as poor practice leads to laziness and ever poorer working practice.

    Yes, my idea of what is appropriate may be different to someone elses but I highly doubt that the majority would disagree with what I am saying, We, as society expect teachers and policeman to work within a ceratin manner, we expect doctors to work within a certain manner, we expect nurses and carers to work within a certain manner and they all must provide facilities suitable for their respective clients/residents/ inmates/pupils (regardless of whether or not they are funded by the state) These guys have to obey rules to uphold the credability of their respective professions. Why should people funeral directors be any different?

    .

  6. Davey Peters

    Sunday 15th July 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Charles, I’m afraid I can’t agree with your statement saying you wear your opinions lightly, I certainly do not and nor do I believe you do.

    I personally believe that money should not be a factor in how the deceased are looked after, surely each person should be given the same amount of dignity and respect as the next?

    Your statement regarding how hospital mortuary’s and private mortuarys are funded is a bit of a strange way to look at things. Surely the fact that a funeral director is paid directly by the consumer, thus taking direct profit, should mean that they should be using this money to provide facilities that match or exceed that of the NHS?
    If someone uses a budget funeral director should the deceased be cared for in a different manner to a firm that charges more for their services? surely not?
    The analogy of the cattery still very much stands. The fact that money is involved should not factor into the basic care and treatment of someone, whether living or deceased.

    I would imagine the expectations of the bereaved will vary greatly if a study was conducted. Looking at it logically, I cannot see how there would be any conclusion found from such a survey due to the varying religions and personal beliefs of the extremely diverse population within the UK.
    A bar must be set to ensure people act within an appropriate manner and provide appropriate facilities for storing and caring for the deceased.

    • Sunday 15th July 2012 at 9:00 pm

      Davey, a couple of years ago we had a discussion about direct cremation on this blog. I was dead against it. After listening to what others had to say, I am now in favour of it – for those who want it. The same goes for embalming. Whenever a better argument comes along, I go with it.

      As to the care of the dead, we need to look at this from the point of view of the bereaved because, in the words of Thomas Lynch, the dead don’t mind, but they do matter. They don’t mind what happens to them. What’s more, after a period of being looked after, in most cases, rather well, they are then buried in the ground or burned. This business is caring for the dead is only temporary.

      While they are still with us, how they are cared for matters to the bereaved to a greater or lesser extent. In the same way, dead people mean different things to different people. For some they are to be shunned as unclean. Some suppose that they harbour a spirit, at least for a time. Some regard them as just so much carcass, in no way any more the person they once were. So there’s no uniform standard that can be applied, as you say, so where do you set your bar? What’s appropriate?

      A minimum standard might be one which prevents people who work with the dead from being coarsened by their work. Is this what you are driving at?

      I’d be interested to know exactly how you think dead people should be cared for at a minimum.

  7. Saturday 14th July 2012 at 11:10 pm

    Hi Davey – Sorry about the slow reply; I am in weekend mode. I’d like to make it clear that I wear my opinions lightly, so I am very grateful for this debate. I like to be challenging, but I also like to be challenged. I’m always looking to move on in my thinking.

    Agreed, hospital mortuaries are clinical places staffed by people for whom emotional detachment is a must for the reasons you describe. From my experience, they tend also to be characterised by professionalism — ie, an awareness of the needs and wishes of the bereaved. On the whole, bereaved people don’t dwell on what goes on in such places, nor do they enquire. They presently believe them (a matter of trust, for the most part) to be proper places for their dead. This perception matters. Were it to alter, hospital mortuaries would have to change in line with their demands.

    The difference between a funeral home and a hospital mortuary is that a funeral home is a commercial operation to which people must write cheques. This makes bereaved people customers in a very much more direct sense than they are customers of hospital mortuaries, which they pay for through taxes. So long as customers are prepared to pay, I think undertakers must provide conditions for dead people which accord with their expectations. It’s not for them to decide what’s good enough. Your analogy with the cats’ home does not apply because bereaved people do not give their dead away, they pay to have them looked after.

    This being so, does not an undertaker have a duty to find out what those expectations are, and to meet them regardless of what he thinks of them?

  8. Davey Peters

    Friday 13th July 2012 at 6:49 pm

    Do smaller funeral directors like Go As You Please not operate a Hub System??

    • Friday 13th July 2012 at 7:27 pm

      I personally don’t think it’s an issue, Davey. It only becomes an issue if the fixtures and fittings do not accord with the needs and wishes of the bereaved, and the people in it do not conduct themselves with decorum. Exactly the same might be said of a small independent’s mortuary and, as we know, there are some very poor examples of those.

      Simple things like covering the dead, giving them some privacy. I think most people recognise that dead people must be refrigerated. There’s a balance to be struck. You have to consult what people find acceptable.

      No nothing wrong with the concept of a hub — as I see it.

      • Davey Peters

        Friday 13th July 2012 at 9:07 pm

        Ok thanks for the reply. I will take that as a yes though ; )
        I personally don’t see a problem with these hub systems. I think it would be impracticle in this day in age to deal with things in any other way, however I do feel that for one hub to be classed as a production line then surely they all must be labelled with the same stigma, no matter how large or how small or whether they are run by an independant firm or a larger company. …..or for their to be no stigma at all?
        Surely the fact a larger company runs a busier hub than a smaller company does not take away from the fact that they are both the same system, just proportionate to the amount of funerals they undertake?

        • Friday 13th July 2012 at 11:31 pm

          Hi Davey – I think the distinction between a hub which might be classed as a production line and one which is not so regarded is a matter of perception by bereaved people and, since they are the clients, this is what matters. Where systems of working result in each dead person being just another dead person (ie, impersonal), and those who work in the hub become divorced from the expectations of the bereaved and even begin to treat their dead people casually, with less than the respect they are reckoned to deserve, then we have a problem. I don’t think it matters how busy a hub is. What matters (in my opinion) is the behaviour of those who work with the dead — even though, of course, dead people are oblivious to how they are treated. The second thing that matters is the way the hub is fitted out. I know this is irrational, because dead people don’t mind, but how and where they are kept matters because it matters to those who entrust their care to the funeral director who runs the hub.

          The best way to get it right is (in my opinion) to conduct market research to find out what is expected. If the bereaved are happy, then it’s all good. If they’re not, something needs to be done. Let the market decide. There’s a cost implication, of course, and bereaved people need to factor this in.

          A hub (call it what you will) can be an exemplary place to care for dead people. Stigma comes when there’s a perception that respect levels are not as high as they ought to be.

          • Davey Peters

            Saturday 14th July 2012 at 10:54 am

            I’m not sure I agree entirely with what you’re saying Charles.
            I’ve been looking into how hospital mortuarys are run and they aren’t a lot different to what was seen in the program. They are also,essentially the main Hub within the hospital and in the case of the coroner, within their area. The staff within seem to work in a similar manner to which people in funeral homes would. I would imagine there must have to be emotional detachment on some level at times for people behind the scenes, dealing with the dead, to do what they have to do without becoming depressed or going completely insane??

            Surely all persons in the care of an undertaker should receive the same amount of care and respect as the next, regardless of what the expectations of the bereaved are.
            If we take a look at the GAYP you tube video. The Hindu gentlemans family were ok for him to be treated as he was. Does this make it right?……
            You mentioned a cattery earlier, now say for instance a cat was brought onto the premises from a loving family which could no longer keep their feline friend as they were moving abroad. Does this animal deserve to be treated in a more caring way and given more catnip than an animal that has been brought in after being resented and beaten by its owner? I don’t think so.

  9. andrew plume

    Friday 29th June 2012 at 10:31 am

    Hello Tony B

    yes I recall that documentary series and excellent it was too – Roger Gillman has since sold out to Funeral Partners Ltd – the much respected West & Coe also featured

    yours

    andrew

  10. TonyB

    Friday 29th June 2012 at 8:43 am

    “Someone should commission a programme which shows the business in a good light.” In past times there have been multi-week FOTW documentaries on John Nodes, Gillman and Albin and in each case on could not be other than impressed by the way in which the business was run.

  11. Friday 29th June 2012 at 7:57 am

    Please see above posts for context of these videos. -sigh- Seems I must trawl through every post connected to this issue to point this out.

  12. Simon Irons

    Thursday 28th June 2012 at 10:50 pm

    Searching YouTube to watch the programme again, I came across this video of independent funeral director recommended by this blog

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HLYu6K99aA&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    Now that is shocking !

  13. Vale

    Thursday 28th June 2012 at 10:28 am

    Let’s come back to the customer in all this. The GFG was written for them and they are the people that this blog wants to engage.

    Think of them now, coming into the ‘shop’ – often confused and anxious. Death doesn’t happen often in our lives and it is surrounded by baffling bureaucracy and procedures. Often they will be exhausted too, surfacing after having attended an illness or cared for an invalid for days, weeks, months or more. And they are filled with grief and an anxiety to do what is right. What they hope for when they step though the door is someone they can trust to help them through the next stages.

    You could be looking at them for a long time before you thought of the savvy consumer.

    Faced with people in some version of this state is it right to exploit their trust by promising a level of care that cannot be provided, selling unnecessary services or by masking choices in order to increase sales and maximise profits?

    It was this cynicism that, for me, was truly shocking in Mondays’ programme – a corporate willingness to exploit peoples vulnerability and need for trust as the basis for a hard sales pitch.

    Of course Co-ops aren’t alone or even – in a week that has seen both Barclays and Mercedes exposed for cheating – unusual. What makes it wrong and utterly unacceptable is that achieving the £52m profit demands the cynicism of this hard sell at the time when people are least likely to challenge it in an organisation that gains competitive advantage from being different – better – than all the rest – a Cooperative.

    Of course behind the sales sits a lean organisation keen to drive costs down when it can. Nothing wrong in that. But is that confused hub, the muddles and mistakes over bodies, a sign that staff and systems are too hard pressed? That there has been underinvestment in the bits that the public can’t see? It’s easy to imagine that a profit driven organisation might be guilty of cutting corners like that.

    From the arguments on these pages it is clear that the Coop inspires loyalty. It is also clear that good people, trying their very best for customers are working there, but surely there was evidence enough in the film to say that there are problems – real structural and cultural problems – too. Even George ‘I didn’t do it’ Tinning accepted as much.

    Of course poor practice and even malpractice will exist across the industry. There are other profits driven corporates out there. Independents will mess up too (though probably in different ways) – but it is still, surely, very bad indeed when the biggest and busiest of them all is caught betraying the trust of its customers. Especially when it is a company that trades on being different, better and more trustworthy than the rest. As Shakespeare says ‘lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.’

  14. andrew plume

    Thursday 28th June 2012 at 9:55 am

    Ken Davis said…

    “Well said Bryan

    Someone should commission a programme which shows the business in a good light….”

    and there lies the problem, good news stories rarely equal viewing figures – look at the media, aside from the broadsheets, the tabloids are really only interested in knocking and on a (semi) permanent scale – as a nation we do not do praise for people/business in bucket loads…… but we do criticise in bucket loads

    and as Bryan rightly said, the BBC prog on Edinburgh Council’s Morturay Service was a very good piece of tv, with no side and just reporting what they did. From what I saw of ‘the Coroner’ series, something very similar too but both of these services are just that, a service required by Government/Local Authority regulations etc etc

    They are not commercial organisations and as such do not strive for profit/have no need to do so

    I’m not sure how the Ryan family (based in Newport) are faring after ‘their featured prog…..C4 also did another documentary on the business last year, those appearing were the Allcock business in Norwich and two employees who worked for different firms in Worcester, one of whom allowed the deceased to drop into a coffin, when filmed…………

    yours

    andrew

  15. Ken Davis

    Thursday 28th June 2012 at 1:01 am

    Charles,

    I apologise, i meant to answer your question about charges. I charge £75 to embalm, whatever the circumstances of the death or the condition of the deceased. I use my own transport, equipment and cosumables such as fluids etc.I take as much time as is required, the average being an hour or so. I am happy with the money I make and do not struggle to live. I have no idea what embalmers are paid where they work exclusively for one employer but when I worked for Plantsbrook a long time ago,the pay was ok, and the upside was that you had a well equipped mortuary which is not always the case now in my experience.

    I know that some of my funeral director customers will charge more to their client but I accept that as a fact of doing business. I am aware of one public corporate organisation where they charge £70 to the client so lose out each time but that is their issue.

  16. Ken Davis

    Thursday 28th June 2012 at 12:35 am

    Well said Bryan

    Someone should commission a programme which shows the business in a good light. What about the one recently about the guy with his two young daughters in the business, in Cardiff ?? Not sure that was a hit.
    I would imagine that the Tv production companies would not be interested in good news, after all, bad news, however obtained, attracts interest.
    Incidentally, Mr Albin operates a “Hub” in Bermondsey which services his “Shops” as he calls them. Do you think he has racking to stack TV sets ?

  17. Rick Hughes

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 9:56 pm

    The big boys are all ducking for cover over this, nows the time to be seen to take control of your industry and you will benefit greatly.
    These ratbags have been hiding behind the stigma of death that the public dont want to know about and its been going on far too long.

    Families are not going to use your company for your skill in embalming, they are coming to you for a solution to a problem. Use your proffesinal skill to detirmin what needs to be done.Treat the remains as if they were one of your family!

    You all are after your market share thats fine, after all its a business, but its an industry that deals with peoples raw emotions so its essential its done well by like minded professionals.Communicate together Get rid of the ratbags! and make the funeral industry in the uk something to be proud of.

  18. Simon Irons

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 9:42 pm

    Anne BA
    On the programme?
    On the subject of contracts, many hospitals all over the country contract out their mortuary provision, one is St Charles hospital West London, they have used j nodes for over 20 years, all deceased that die at the hospital are taken by Nodes to their mortuary across the road but the family can choose which FD they go to…….
    Nodes are Independent not part of one of the groups. Their Mortuary is an industrial style building and is not part of a funeral home as such…….
    How do I know, I used to work their 5 years go!
    And I would say there’s nothing wrong with what they do that a few hundred thousand pounds worth of investment wouldn’t fix.

  19. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 8:54 pm

    I only just caught up and watched the Dispatches show. Absolutely appalling. Is it a reflection of the whole company? I confess to now knowing enough about Co-ops antics to be a judge of that. Though I can’t say I’ve heard a lot of good about them…. But what was shown in this show certainly reflects very poorly.

    I love the info you give Charles about funeral planning. I think ‘Take your time’ is about the best advice I’ve ever read and probably where most people go (or are led) astray from making some different choices – not knowing they don’t have to rush it.

    PS Devilishly handsome doesn’t even begin to cover it.

  20. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 3:43 pm

    Charles,

    I have a trade embalmer and she is fantastic. Yet charges me £55 a case, when she is away for any reason I really appreciate the work she does.

    I find that a lot of this comes down to area, I love the Willow-Calico stuff, but in reality most of my clients go for the standard traditional oak veneer and once I explain the process of embalming we get a 50-50 split of clients either choosing it or not no pressure one way or the other.

    I also agree with Rupert that it is not for us to decide whether it is ok for a family to see a deceased relative and in fact sometimes I will take them into my mortuary if we are waiting for doctors papers and they want to see somebody as long as they are aware of the surroundings and the condition of the person then it is up to them to decide not us.

    I’ve also taken funerals off other companies who have refused to let a family see a body before the deposit has been paid.

    I think we have to try and understand a bit more that the people we look after can make their own decisions, it’s for us to give them honest information so they can make informed decisions.

  21. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I’m not a great fan of the Co-op and what particularly irks me is the hiding behind local trading names but at least they have fridges – I’ve been to many an independent that hasn’t. I know of one locally that has a cold room but no trays or racking so bodies are kept on the floor.

    Shame the Co-op or Dignity or one of our so called trade associations can’t commission a programme about the positives. There have been some really great programmes recently on the work of the Coroner and the mortuary at Edinburgh. Barry Albin showed it can be done. If people are so interested show them the whole process, not just the sensational bits.

  22. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 11:45 am

    Louis Armstrong once said about music that there were only two types, good and bad. The same thing can be applied to undertakers. Not all of us independents are slavishly devoted to the idea of four legs good two legs bad SImon. As we know many independents keep a pet embalmer because it is cheaper than investing in several modern refrigeration units. It’s as wrong as misleading the public into thinking that ‘hygienic treatment’ is almost a legal requirement, certainly implying that it is a medical necessity. Euphemistic sleight of hand that lets the bereaved fill in the gaps themselves: unembalmed equals unacceptable risk to our staff and to you, should you want physical contact with them. Want a last kiss? Then let us get on with it.

  23. Simon Irons

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 10:57 am

    On the subject of embalming was there not a blog on this subject earlier this year where CC posted a clip from an INDEPENDENTS website which compelled clients to have embalming…..?

  24. Afford dignity

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 10:36 am

    In my defence A.N employee I am only basing what I have to say on personal experience ,I am not saying all co-op employees are dirt bags I was referring to the people in charge I’m sure all the staff in your section of the co-op are all wonderful people 🙂

  25. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 9:35 am

    Although I was unable to watch the clip about the news program you are discussing, I appreciate the tips you give on funeral arranging. As you have undoubtedly mentioned, it is such an emotional time and very hard for people to be thinking clearly to make funeral arrangement decisions. It is such a big “purchase” that one does not want to be taken advantage of and so I thank you for the tip recommending enlisting the aid of a close friend who you feel completely comfortable with. Even if there are multiple people helping with the arranging (for example, siblings arranging a deceased parent’s funeral), it is a good idea to have someone there who is a little less emotionally involved. They can help ask the important questions you might not be thinking about in your state of grief. Thanks for the advice.

  26. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 9:19 am

    Hello Ken and Richard – thank you very much for calling in and saying your piece. You are both, clearly, intensely proud of the history and traditions of funeral service. What you have written, and the way in which you have written, will bring readers who are unversed in funerary practices closer to understanding the ideals and pride of those who best serve the bereaved.

    I am very pleased to see that you have elicited a response from one of Britain’s finest members of the willow-and-calico brigade. I think you’ll admit that he makes a good case.

    Not that I’m saying it trumps yours. And, as a matter of record, I would have you know that the Good Funeral Guide’s attitude to embalming is one of serene ambivalence. We believe that the choice to embalm or not to embalm is none of our business but a matter for families, equipped with all the facts, to decide. If you read back through archive you will find opinions expressed for and against.

    We therefore offer you our respect in the same measure in which we offer respect to Mr Callender. We know which side we are on personally, but this is of no account. The GFG is in favour of open and lively debate. We’re a forum, not a touchline.

    One question I would ask you. Given the price charged by many funeral directors for embalming, even taking into account the dreadfully low pay of most embalmers, do you think it possible to do a good job for £70-100?

  27. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 9:10 am

    Just to clarify something Ru said above: we never advise a family not to spend time with a body, we describe in detail how the body looks and let them make up their own mind. Who are we to tell someone they cannot see someone they love who has died?

  28. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 8:57 am

    Anne Beckett-Allen… I would be interested to know the name of the hospital that you talk about. Unless a coroner has taken an interest in a death it would be illegal for a hospital to make demands about where a body is sent.

  29. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 8:56 am

    Belinda… You said “But no-one’s going to fund Charles and/or the NDC making a programme about good funerals”. I suggest that we shouldn’t need film making companies or indeed Charles and the NDC to be educating us all about our legal rights. What film companies ought to do is investigate why ministers, civil and public servants do not educate us about what to do following a death, and expose how they each point us to undertakers and charities for guidance, which in some instances also have a commercial agenda for not providing sound advice. A death becomes public information and guidance about what to do in the event of a death should be delivered from a public source.

    In relation to the film aired on Monday evening I refused to be filmed unless I could be assured that the producer wasn’t making a film about bad undertakers…again!

    I am sure for many people some contents of the film were very alarming, but from what I witnessed it appeared that the only illegal practice was the deception and miss-selling of products, which of course is unacceptable, and that two parties to a contract didn’t have a mutual understanding which is also unacceptable.

    I too am passionate about good funerals, and they can only be good when it isn’t realised after a funeral has taken place, that it could have been better.

    • Monday 23rd July 2012 at 8:48 pm

      take a look at the film we made http://www.beyondgoodbye.co.uk in memory of our son Joshua………….this is the first funeral we have organised and we did it in 11 days in a state of complete shock and with no knowledge at all about funerals……..

  30. Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 8:55 am

    Hi Ken. I’m a do good, willow kind of guy. I’ve been a practicing undertaker for 12 years, and I have been showing families their unembalmed dead all of that time. Many have had previous family members embalmed, and their relief at seeing them in a natural state is palpable. I have also seen what happens to decomposing bodies. They decompose. I naively thought when I first started this that when a body came into our care that was “on the turn” then I could get an embalmer in to sort things out. Not so. Embalming needs to be done on an entirely fresh body, it cannot reverse the natural process any more efficiently than good refrigeration. There is a patronising paternalism at the heart of traditional funeral directing that thinks we need to be screened from any of the reality of what happens. Our experience is that the gradual changes that occur to a body are actually helpful to their psychological process. What they find weird is to see someone they love who has died but looks like they’ve just got off a plane from Majorca. We have helped families keep their relatives including children at home, unembalmed, In one instance for 15 days. This was done with a full and frank discussion of what they might see over that time, and the assurance that if they changed their mind at any time, we would immediately take them into our care. They were profoundly grateful for the experience, for not being excluded, and for being allowed to let go in their own way. Sometimes, due to very distressing circumstances, we don’t advise for a family to come and see their dead, but we only advise, not exclude. I don’t believe in these circumstances that embalming would be possible. When all of this furore dies down, if ever, I will be putting up a guest post fully explaining our position on embalming.

  31. Richard Russell

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 5:48 am

    Well said KEN DAVIES!! …Hands up all of you who may have witnessed what happens to us organic creatures when we start to decompose ? how many of you, (Aside from the genuine funeral practitioners ), have had to deal with odour, fluid leakage, putrefication and more ? Or is that something you prefer not to think about ? Absolutelty spot on!

  32. Rick Hughes

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 1:05 am

    After working in the UK Funeral industry in the 90s I,m sad that things have not changed. The rule of the universe states If you take you loose. If you give you get.To all you funeral care professionals its about time the uks funeral industry had a big shake up. Those with nothing to hide should prosper those that have will be exposed and hopefully put out of business

  33. Ken Davis

    Wednesday 27th June 2012 at 12:16 am

    How I smile at some postings made by people who can have no idea about the history of funeral service. Do some of you really believe that Funeralcare or the Co-op invented the “Hub” concept ? I suggest you research your subject. You may find that, during the 19th century, Independent firms created the concept of operating small “Order offices” in High street locations so that they would be convenient to the Public whom they wished to serve. As these businesses expanded, the cost of occupying more properties dictated that most back of house resources were centralised and bingo, the birth of the “Hub” !
    I am an embalmer and I simply cant believe how many of you “Do Good, Natural funeral, willow coffin, calico shroud” types loathe the practice of embalming and consider it totally uneccessary, simply an item which funeral firms try to sell to people in pursuit of profit. Hands up all of you who may have witnessed what happens to us organic creatures when we start to decompose ? how many of you, (Aside from the genuine funeral practitioners ), have had to deal with odour, fluid leakage, putrefication and more ? Or is that something you prefer not to think about ?

  34. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 9:52 pm

    Charles, thanks for sticking up for us small independents. As you say, programmes like this unfairly reflect on us all.

    Simon and I thought you came across really well on the programme, especially with regard to blanket embalming. (HT!!)

    A couple of small points, but not all hospitals do have mortuaries, especially here in Norfolk, it is not uncommon for the deceased to be required to be removed from the ward within a couple of hours – and often Funeralcare have contracts for this, so the deceased gets taken to them whether the family want it or not.

    Also, with regard to time for registration, you can apply in writing to extend the 5 day limit if you have good reason for doing so.

    Anne

  35. Richard Rawlinson

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 7:26 pm

    A highlight is at 14 mins and 50 secs!

  36. Richard Rawlinson

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 7:14 pm

    Watch it again!

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/4od

  37. FD

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Several things come to mind reading through these comments.
    Firstly everyone commenting has their own angle so there are NO unbiased views here.
    The link to the Funeral Advisor search for an FD is approximately 15 years out of date looking at the companies that come up. No I am not joking! And that is supposed to help you make an informed decision.
    Yes you can arrange your own funeral or you can pay for a companies experience/knowledge/facilities. There are many very good companies in all size catergories and unfortunately there are some not so good. Go on local reputation.
    Burial can quite often be cheaper than cremation so please don’t generalise.
    Local councils also view cemeteries/crematoria and now civil service celebrants as good revenue so it isn’t just the private sector looking to make a business out of the funeral.
    ‘Hubs’ are often relied on by hospitals and councils in the event of an epidemic. Do hospitals always tell you where your relative has been moved to after death on the ward?

  38. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Teresa – you wrote ‘Why should any charity or individual need to be educating the public about their legal rights?’
    But I wasn’t talking about someone doing a TV programme to educate people about their legal rights. Surely the whole point about everyone who contributes to this blog is that we’re passionate about good funerals.

  39. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Ha ha I guess I’m never going to win with you am I?
    I knew as soon as I posted it would get thrown back in my face and labelled as “boasting” more or less.
    I do not feel the need to “tell everyone about it” just your self and whoever may stumble on it when reading this blog I guess.
    There’s no banner waving and no wish of recognition and it’s most definitely not the actions of “dirtbags” according to afforddignity.
    And no, free funerals do not make for good business so I’d guess you’d call it a service to the community where infants are concerned.
    And with the Co-operative being such a large organisation I suppose they find it easier to absorb costs more than say an independent could.

  40. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Teresa and ‘afforddignity’, I wonder how much you know about the Co-op? It started as a co-operative in Rochdale in 1844, set up to share the benefits of retailing on a democratic basis. I’m a member and have been for years, so I get a share of the profits. I imagine that members everywhere will feel, like me, that the movement has been unfairly tarnished with a very broad brush.

    Its ethical approach to banking and retailing was unique for a long time before other major retailers started to jump on the fair trade bandwagon, among other things. One of the Co-op’s activities that few people know about is supporting the The Beaver Lake Cree Indians in Canada who are trying to stop the extraction of oil from tar sands, which has turned unspoiled wilderness into a disgusting mess (http://www.co-operative.coop/join-the-revolution/our-plan/clean-energy-revolution/tar-sands/). There’s a Co-op Education Centre about 8 miles from where I live, where all sorts of community activities take place. Calling the Co-op “dirt bags” says more about you than about them. Yes, Channel 4 has revealed some problems with its Funeralcare division, but I’m still a fan. Find out more here: http://www.co-operative.coop/join-the-revolution/.

  41. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 5:49 pm

    Dear A.N. Employee…what you say is somewhat contradictory. On one hand you are saying that the company carries out free funerals for infants, and then claim that free funerals do not make for good business.

    Many people in business offer hospitality gifts to hospitals and charities at Christmas and Easter. Some do so to generate more business and others simply do so out the goodness of their hearts. In my experience the people that give generously from the heart, do not feel the need to tell everyone about it.

    • EX CO OP EMPLOYEE

      Sunday 29th July 2012 at 12:48 am

      Easter eggs collected from schools and donated from small local businesses and public donations went mainly to nursing homes! The large co op shops would never make a contribution. Staff members had to be bullied into giving up their free time on a saturday or sunday to do community work to get a free editorial picture in the paper etc. I was once involved in a charity car wash for the co op one saturday morning whereby we only washed a maximum of six cars!! The following week in the local paper we had raised many hundreds of pounds for good causes which was simply not true. It was all spin and lies from the media dept in manchester which dealt with the newspapers through the local co op managers. Also, i along with my former collegues, were put under enormous strain, to increase our average selling price per funeral. Many older and experienced old school funeral directors at the time ( 2007 ) with up to 25 years and more experience felt sincerely and severely embarassed during monthly hub meetings getting made to look like blithering idiots because we couldn’t sell funerals. The co op employ and recruit young upstarts with a desire to impress their managers who are no more than used car salesmen!! Its all about profit and margins. The co op funeral care have a staff bonus scheme. The managers also have a bonus scheme which is strictly top secret. These schemes do not benefit the customer nor the Coop Members. The Co op got off lightly on the T.V. I felt sorry for the chap who couldn’t get the coffin in the the back of the removal van with the lid on. He seemed pretty decent to me, but due to the co op culture and pressure he did what he did because of the consequences of his not delivering the coffin on time and a Family coming to view etc at a certain time and being under pressure of strict deadlines. I hope he did not loose his job over this!

      • A Celeb

        Sunday 29th July 2012 at 8:37 am

        Ex Coop Employee: he’s a lovely, hard-working man and he didn’t lose his job. And the lid would have fitted on if the undercover reporter hadn’t stopped the lifting mechanism from working properly. Allegedly.

  42. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Dear Teresa, the company I mention already has the contract for welfare funerals also the contract for infants which they do free of charge providing a limousine,casket and two members of staff for as long as the family needs them.
    They also take Easter eggs to the local hospital every year and the staff use their own money to buy presents for under privileged children at Christmas so they have something to open as well as organised fun runs in memory of deceased. They provide cars to ferry pensioners to and from remembrance day celebrations free of charge every year. And by no means is that exclusive to that particular branch as its commonplace throughout the Co-operative organisation.
    Now do you see what I mean when I speak about customer relations?
    They don’t HAVE to do this….but they do.
    However free funerals do not make for good business,surely you understand that concept.

  43. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 5:18 pm

    A.N. Employee…I imagine that there will not be any free advertising and profits generated by word and mouth for the company that you are talking about for a while…if only a short while!

    You mention here that the same company does a lot of charity work, it might use any spare time it finds it might have as a result of the programme aired last night to providing free services and goods to people that cant afford to pay for a funeral?

  44. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Absolute rubbish afforddignity. I know of a branch of funeralcare (privately named that display the co-operative logo everywhere) that are 90 funerals ahead of this time last year.
    And that’s due to a team of concientious and dedicated employees with excellent customer relations thriving on repeat funerals and word of mouth.
    This just wouldn’t be possible if they were “dirt bags” as you so disgustingly labeled them.
    Think twice before you throw around outrageous accusations that you don’t have a hope in hell of proving.
    Yet another unfounded and uneducated post from yourself.

  45. afforddignity

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 4:30 pm

    I have to disagree with GTS as well I afraid. Saying “There are certain things that the public don’t need to know” and “Funeral Directors should be and generally are experts in telling the bereaved what they want to hear” is very wrong in my opinion. The lack of transparency is part of the reason why these dirt bags are in this horrible mess. The reason the general public is so horrified is that they had no idea what actually happens behind the scenes and if they did certainly wouldn’t have entrusted their loved ones to funeral care.

  46. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 4:22 pm

    Are we the only people to shun the phrase “loved one”? That kind of euphemistic double speak is where the rot begins. They didn’t “pass away”, they died.

  47. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 4:08 pm

    I have to disagree with you GTS. Both parties to any contract should have a mutual understanding of what the contract includes. If it is not known that a loved ones body is in cold storage and is expected to be on the premises, then the person paying the bill should be informed.

    Too many undertakers and bereavement managers make assumptions that people newly bereaved do not want to know about something. No one should make claim to know more about the individuals needs than they do themselves.

  48. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Hoots mon,whatever do you mean laddie?

  49. GTS

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:44 pm

    Last nights program was quite unfair to the Co-op. I believe they should have also interviewed Dignity and a Large Independent Firm.What people forget is that Funeral Directors are there to relieve the stress of arranging a Funeral. There are certain things that the public don’t need and don’t want to know. Funeral Directors should be and generally are experts in telling the bereaved what they want to hear. If the Co-op explained to families that their loved one would be kept in a cold store with other deceased people, they may find it distressing. All the bereaved need to know is that their loved one is being cared for with dignity. When the Co-op explained the staff had noticed damage on the Coffin and it was going to be replaced, they we’re doing it for two reasons, firstly for their own reputation, but secondly for the families peace of mind. If they had told the family that they’d forgotten to bring their loved one to the Chapel of Rest, it would have been even more distressing

  50. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Belinda…If ministers and civil servants were doing the task needed, there wouldnt be a need to fund Charles, the NDC or even me, though like Charles I work not for profit and free of donations.

    cWhy should any charity or individual need to be educating the public about their legal rights? Information about what to do following a death needs to be incorporated into edcation programmes about Citizenship.

  51. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:22 pm

    A.N.Employee are you really George Tinning undercover?

  52. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:20 pm

    That’s as maybe RU but still a very appropriate quote!

  53. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Yes David, you are way too suspicious and cynical and it’s made you bitter.

  54. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks A N Employee, when faced with an ethical dilemma, it’s always good to ask ” What would Richard Nixon do? “

  55. afforddignity

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 3:08 pm

    I believe your right it is up to the public to make the right choice and try not to rush into a decision. I also think the independents have a role to play, of course they have just been given a leg up by dispatches so hopefully they’ll see an increase in numbers through their doors. I think the industry needs to move forward people should be aware of what goes on behind the scenes. The public must have a choice and they must be give genuine information of course it is also up to them to do their research. Why not invite them in to see for themselves what a decent funeral directors looks like and how it operates if there is nothing to hide why hide it?

  56. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 2:53 pm

    Charity work? You mean self promotion surely? Real charity work tends not to be branded and the subject of copious press releases. Or am I too cynical?

  57. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 2:51 pm

    People power is the answer! But no-one’s going to fund Charles and/or the NDC making a programme about good funerals. Are they? And despite our best efforts very few members of the public do any research either online or over the phone. Although they do seem to spend a lot of the time searching the internet for poems and music…

  58. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 2:49 pm

    @ A.N.Employee:

    I don’t think anyone’s saying the co-op is all bad. No doubt there are many great people who get into the business with the best intentions and deliver a fantastic service to families (in a difficult context).

    But…

  59. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Just a comment from the money saving expert site you provided Jon.

    “So sorry to hear about your loss and the terrible way you have been treated. I would definitely complain. Just to balance things though cooperative funeralcare handled my dad’s funeral last year and I have nothing but praise for them, they were wonderful.”

    There’s always a flip side to every story and a key word never used around here is balance.But not many contributors on this blog would praise the Co-operative for anything they ever do.
    As a huge company they don’t have to do all the charity work and good they do for the community….but they do!

  60. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Jon Underwood… I completely agree with what you say. People are in part responsible for not being responsible about knowing what to do following a death, and I was once one of these people.

    No matter what religion, race or creed we are if we are educated about what the laws of England & Wales is, then people can make informed decisions about any aspect of funeral arranging if they decide to have one of course.

    I hold ministers and civil servants responsible. They jointly have failed to educate people about what to do following a death, and in fairness to the undertaker who is after all running a business and looking to make a profit, it is ministers and civil servants in addition to trading bodies that have allowed some members of the funeral trade to continually rip us off and disrespect our dead, as long as they “dispose” of the “remains” (both insensitive legal terms).

    What really made me angry about the programme and in view of the time that I have given to people working for True North Productions (TNP) who made the film, was the opening introduction. The narrator said “If anything is guaranteed in life it’s that one day we will all require the services of a funeral director…”. This is untrue and TNP know it.

    I think that TNP missed an ideal opportunity to make obvious the rights people have when someone close to us dies. The producer quite obviously chose to focus on the sensation of what the Co-Op is doing and which the NAFD will be completely aware about. I also sense that personal perception influenced the final production. Maybe the producer believes that regulation is the answer, and if this is the case, I totally disagree! People power is the answer. The more people know about their legal rights, the better equipped they will be when entering an undertaking shop, as this is what it is, or dealing with hospital and mortuary staff and even a coroner.

  61. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 2:04 pm

    A Celeb, I’ve retired as a celebrant after 20+ years with an unblemished record – haven’t messed up once. No “sometimes” about it. As for the cost – I didn’t always charge.

  62. A Celeb

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 1:31 pm

    I agree with your comments on the programme Margaret. As for a rubbish officiant messing the whole thing up – this also can be true. But sometimes not only do we not mess up, we gently lead our families into planning a send-off far better than they could have imagined. At less than the cost of one floral tribute.

  63. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 1:16 pm

    A very fair and well written piece Margaret.

  64. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 12:48 pm

    @ A.N.Employee

    Lol you’re right about the self promotion (in my case anyway)!

    Unfortunately the programme shows evidence of systematic failure on the part of the co-op rather than the actions of a few. This has corroborated many times, on this blog and elsewhere.

    Please read around and then see if you still believe that its still the actions of a few. Here are a couple to start you off:
    http://www.thisisdevon.co.uk/Funeral-boss-forged-parent-s-signature-baby-s-cremation/story-11697096-detail/story.html
    http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com/showthread.php?t=2455421

    But Charles has a whole dedicated category: http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/category/co-operative-funeralcare/

  65. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 12:44 pm

    I watched but wasn’t as horrified as I was led to expect. No problem with the hub. I guess most people are too squeamish to think about storage arrangements. Hard selling isn’t confined to the Co-op and isn’t true of all Co-op branches. As in all businesses, it depends on the local managers and their ethos. The example of a funeral where the wrong body was delivered was reported with no evidence that such mistakes were common. That’s just sensationalist lazy journalism. I’ve come across bad practice in small independent family funeral firms, though the families concerned weren’t always aware of it.

    At the beginning of the programme, the presenter said something about us all needing the services of a funeral director one day. That’s not true. I’ve helped families who done most or all of the arrangements themselves, though I realise very few would want to.

    I think it’s unfortunate that the Co-op came out of this so badly and that many viewers might imagine that the examples they saw were typical of the organisation as a whole, and that smaller firms don’t have problems. It’s clear that you don’t like them very much.

    I agree that people should be encouraged to ask more questions about the services they’re offered, and even if you have a really good funeral director, all it takes is a rubbish officiant to mess the whole thing up.

  66. A.N.Employee

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Some have really whipped themselves into a frenzy haven’t they?
    Almost to the point where I’m not even sure we were watching the same programme last night! What we saw was the actions of a few so let’s not get hysterical and assume funeralcare conduct business this way….let’s keep some perspective here shall we.
    Fortunately the white knights of the funeral business are collective here to indulge themselves in a bit of self promotion so we can all rest easy!

    One of the worst enemies in such situations is overreaction and even panic. Nixon once advised that when circumstances are the hottest is when leaders must be the coolest.
    ~ Ken Khachigian

  67. andrew plume

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 11:42 am

    Andrew Hickson said:

    “Whilst applauding the nature of your consumer advocacy Charles, I do wish you’d get your facts right, especially in a post like this. Cremation is not, not, not always cheaper. Fact”

    Andrew, I assume that you’re perhaps referring to a case where, say a spouse is interred in the same burial plot of her husband and that it’s simply a question of reopening and adding to a plot that was purchased many years before?

    andrew

  68. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 11:42 am

    This program made me sick to my stomach. It was both horribly shocking and depressingly predictable.

    May a mighty wrath strike malpractice from the Co-op. Sadly I do not have much hope.

    One thing to mention is that we, as consumers, have the power to change this in an instant if we chose to. Sadly that means we are also complicit in the status quo.

    Agree completely that vigorous consumer scrutiny is the best way forward. In a bid to support this I have been working on a website with the Natural Death Centre where the general public can write reviews of funeral directors. The test site is up now and we’d love feedback: http://funadtest.datamage.net/funad/

    This program has one big, fat lesson – we need to talk about death a bit more.

    PS can only agree with Claire above – Charles is *devilishly* handsome

  69. andrew plume

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 11:39 am

    Charles

    just an addition to your excellent words of advice – PAYMENT – if a Client needs to access funds held solely by their deceased, they shouldn’t panic regarding the balance due (after the funeral), simply pass the invoice to the Bank or Building Society where that person held his/her account and they will immediately settle. In other words, one does not need to wait until Probate has been granted before funds can be released

    regards

    andrew

  70. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 10:48 am

    Well Done Charles
    You took the words right out of mouth, It has always been a pet hate of mine, Hygienic treatment, we do 35 -40 funerals a month and the last person we embalmed was 6 yrs ago and that was for legal reasons
    All the best
    Carl

  71. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 10:07 am

    Well done Charles. I’d like to POINT to your blog from Our Blog.
    The exposé was unbalanced and not good for the smaller more personal undertakers.

  72. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 9:42 am

    I think, not because this is his blog, we could have done with more footage of Charles, to help people with making better funerals, and less of the dramatics (striding around, shots of graveyards etc.) The devastating points they exposed were simple enough to make, the key footage would have taken about half the time, maybe! Still, Channel 4 did a good job.

    Apart from the cynic in me saying that Hayes would be a good place to start an independent at present, and awaiting the resignations of the branch and area managers, closely followed by Mr Tinning, it is surely a very sad story. I hate the idea of people who have arranged funerals with FCare this and next week worrying and getting upset.

    Claire, with regard to the roguish CC – beware, he may be a sheep in wolf’s clothing….or do I mean v.v.?

    Charles, I hope you feel vindicated this a.m. though no doubt deeply troubled. Well played, sir!

  73. A Celeb

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 9:27 am

    I had no problem with the hub. However, I bet most families think that their loved one is ‘lying in state’ in the chapel of rest the entire time. Or at worst stored in a small refrigerated room on the fd’s premises. That’s why people will be shocked by the hub – that and the chaos. I felt really sorry for the man trying to cope with it all. And for all those arrangers who are dealing with the fallout today. And I agree with Claire – I know not all arrangers are ‘casual and sneering’ but even if there are only a few, it’s too many.

  74. Lin

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 9:15 am

    Simon Smith – totally agree, I know of four funeral directors here in W Mids within a 20 mile radius who are trading as ‘old family names’ but are infact Co-Op’s – misleading.

    This was a very interesting programme, indeed it reminded me of many of the ‘tactics’ used by my former boss when I was arranging – not at a Co-Op.

  75. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 8:02 am

    For me it wasn’t so much about how they treat the dead, but how they treat the living (ie bereaved families) the casual, sneering exploitation that is clearly the company’s policy, hammered into the staff form the moment they joined.

    Also, just how devilishly handsome is CC?

  76. Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 7:16 am

    This programme makes it even more important that the Coop branches that trade under the old family names are exposed. In Totnes there are 2 Coop businesses, Perrings and Halletts, but most people in the town have no idea they are Coops. This is a further dishonesty. The public deserves to know what it is buying. When I brought this up a few years ago with an outgoing NAFD president he sneeringly replied that if I went out and bought a Mercedes I wouldn’t know who the ultimate owner of the dealership was! I think if I am going to buy a Mercedes I might be feeling quite robust and good about myself – but when I am buying a funeral, not quite so good!

  77. Mark Chivers

    Tuesday 26th June 2012 at 1:42 am

    When my mother passed away just before last Xmas I used the Co-Op in Garston, Liverpool and the service was very much worse than when they dealt with my grandfather about 16 years ago. However upon seeing the Dispatches I will be revisiting the issue with their area manager as I got caught in that “no visit to the chapel of rest (room under their stairs) unless hygeine treatment is done” and other matters. I am so angry, it is lucky for them that I live over 3 hours drive away or I’d be in their office and in their face as soon as they open up tomorrow.

  78. Ken Davis

    Monday 25th June 2012 at 11:46 pm

    I watched the programme this evening and then found your website and blog. I have worked with many undertakers over 40 years and would comment that big is not always bad – small not always beautiful. As recently as last month I had cause to visit a family undertakers where the entire building was full of the stench of decomposing remains. The “Mortuary ” was a cluttered room at the back, no means to cool the cadaver and family were due to visit. I was told that the relatives had been offered, but refused to pay for embalming.
    Interesting to see how the programme dealt with multi shelved mortuary racking. Many General Hospitals have similar arrangements only encased within a cabinet with doors. Is there much difference ?
    I have had contact with some Co-op undertakers who have been very helpful and, relatives have told me, very caring. Surely this programme is no more than a snapshot which has been edited to make good TV ?

  79. Sandra Lau

    Monday 25th June 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Evening Charles. Bet you are somewhat busy tonight.

    Dispatches did well on opening a can of worms, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. I am rather gutted that they didn’t proceed onto challenging how changes could be made, so it’s a good thing that you are here to expand.

    I totally agree with your points, but can I be so bold in asking you to add an extra point? ‘point 6’, google funeral/ cremation blunders, mistakes, failures, this ultimately brings up cases (very sad ones indeed), and links to your good site in helping people read more into ‘what could happen’. As you know i didn’t do this and I so wish I had. I wouldn’t have been so naive, uneducated, unchallenging and trusting if I had knew more about what could potentially go wrong. This ignorance of mine caused a heartache of a lifetime!

    I am not saying every undertaker should not be trusted, just that people should be aware of what potentially could go wrong, and therefore be wiser and question things/situations a little further. An example of this was when I was told/lied to that my son would be sent for a ‘recremation’! I believed this at the time! Given what I have read and experienced now, I probably would have probed the X coop funeralcare manager a little more and he may/may have not owned up to his mistake.

    Keep up the good work Charles!

  80. Monday 25th June 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Andrew, I have changed ‘cremation is always cheaper’ to ‘almost always cheaper’. Thank you again for the prod. Appreciated.

  81. Monday 25th June 2012 at 10:26 pm

    Thank you, Andrew. I’ll make the edit.

  82. Monday 25th June 2012 at 10:25 pm

    This is from our press release, Fran, and in the bit I haven’t published here (further info, contact details, etc, I have given your e-address and phone number.

  83. Dave Boyes

    Monday 25th June 2012 at 10:22 pm

    I agree whole heartedly, most funeral directors strive to provide families with the highest standards and are totally ethical in their approach. Sadly the funeral service is let down by the big companies who charge astronomic prices for equal levels of service at best

  84. Monday 25th June 2012 at 10:08 pm

    Whilst applauding the nature of your consumer advocacy Charles, I do wish you’d get your facts right, especially in a post like this. Cremation is not, not, not always cheaper. Fact.

  85. Jonno Braid

    Monday 25th June 2012 at 10:06 pm

    I live in a village on the outskirts of Leeds. The independent funeral director here keeps the deceased in a shed, with no refridgeration. Give me a co-op style hub any day! The TV show showed they have proper mortuary equipment. OK, there were a couple of dodgy staff comments and I’m sure they’ll be weeded out, but I was expecting something scandalous to be uncovered.

  86. Monday 25th June 2012 at 9:58 pm

    100% agree with your comments above Charles.

    For anyone who is about to arrange a funeral, may I suggest visiting the Natural Death Centre website and downloading the ‘Questions to ask a Funeral Director’ document as an aide memoire?

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