Simple solution

Charles Cowling

 

We had an enquiry the other day about simple funerals. Our enquirer had visited the website of a funeral director, surveyed the components of their simple funeral (as prescribed by the NAFD at 11.4), and reckoned it would do nicely. The cost was £1640.

All our enquirer wanted on top was a limousine. He gave the funeral director his order: one simple funeral, please, and a limousine. So logical and straightforward did the request seem to him that he was astounded when the funeral director replied, “Thank you, sir, that’ll be £3670.”

Two grand for a limousine (fair price, £200 tops). Where the heck did that come from?

Students of the Dismal Trade will not be nearly as astounded as was our enquirer. Most funeral directors hate people buying their simple funeral, so they build in deterrents. The example above is just one. Anything outside the package shunts you up to an altogether more elevated price scale. Add a lim and you pay for a bespoke funeral. Another trick is to bundle a coffin of more than passing hideousness and make you feel like a toerag. The coffin in our enquirer’s simple bundle has no handles. Yes, really. Flagrant to those who read this blog, perhaps, but not, interestingly, something that our enquirer seems to have noticed or cared about.

A great many funeral directors do not advertise their simple funeral. Why does this funeral director advertise his? Is it a gambit to get people through the door – a loss leader that no one ever actually gets to buy? You tell me.

This sort of marketing sleight of hand comes from the Tommy Cooper school of conjuring. Clumsy. When you do something that’s bound to be found out, that’s stupid.
Intelligent, ethical funeral directors can teach their dim or devious fellows a trick here. Start with your professional fee. Calculate how much you need to charge to cover your time, expenses and overheads, then add a bit of profit. Be settled in your mind that what you take home will not be so little as to make you resentful. Once you’ve done that, you can add merchandise and services at a normal retail markup or even at cost. If a client turns up with their own coffin, you won’t mind a bit. The important thing is that there will be no imperative to upsell.

Exploitation of the bereaved is under threat, not from consumers, but from new entrants to the industry who are pricing their services fairly and transparently. The days of the dark arts are, we must hope, coming to an end.

Not yet awhile. Down in London, Barbie Leets was compelled to permit her mother to have a public health or council funeral when she failed to get together the five thousand pounds she needed to bury her. She is angry with the funeral directors in her locality. Why? In the words of the BBC report:

Barbie Leets ‘says that she was never told about the simple funeral that every funeral director is supposed to offer for nearly half the price she was quoted. “I feel very let down, very disappointed. I feel they took advantage of my situation at the time.”’

Watch the video clip here. Enjoy the response from NAFD spokesperson Dominic Maguire.

If you have a view about this, please add a comment. I am conscious that what I have written may not say it all. Examples of ethical simple funerals welcome, too.

8 thoughts on “Simple solution

  1. Charles Cowling
    David Barrington

    Nick – Your website isn’t so shoddy either. Good job I’m updating mine, new look coming soon.


    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    Nick Gandon

    Not to be left out (so to speak), our “local” options website at http://www.simplicitysilver.co.uk is as transparent as we could design.

    You still can’t beat sitting down with a family and finding out what they really want, though.

    Yes, very cool new website Charles.


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    DavidB

    I have never been able to get my head around this nonsense way of working. As a carriage master we have supplied cars to families that have taken simple funerals with other companies, and the staff then have to refuse to sell them a limousine because it is a “limited service package”.

    How can anyone really believe that this is good customer service? It confuses people and alienates them.

    I charge £1295 plus disbursements for the simple funeral service if the family want to add on anything they can, the basic funeral is the baseline we build up from that.

    I imagine that the two grand difference includes viewing, use of the chapel of rest and embalming but how does that break down? The code of practice also specifies that we must break down the component parts of the funeral invoice so the client understands what they are being charged for.

    Love the new look Charles by the way.


    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    Charles Cowling

    Thank you, Bryan. I think we take it, then, that the so-called simple funeral should be the baseline for all funeral directors, and there is absolutely no need to sell it as a downmarket package?

    Interesting to learn that transparency of pricing acts as a great marketing tool. If honesty is the best policy, that’s very heartening. Let’s hope other funeral directors read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.


    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    David Holmes

    Our cheaper than a simple funeral is now on our website: Direct cremation @ £950 all-in. It includes a basic coffin with handles. We can offer an early morning cremation fee at less than £300. Only other possible costs are Doctor’s and a Minister or celebrant fee. YES, a funeral in London is possible for less than £1,600 inclusive of all fees and charges.

    The alternatives – at greater cost are also shown. A limousine or other extras are available at reasonable cost. We hope to lead the way in open pricing but could be in for a long wait.


    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling
    Bryan

    I just didn’t want to be the first to comment.

    I agree totally with everything Kingfisher has said and as you know Charles we offer clear pricing on both our Social Enterprise business http://www.familyfunerals.co.uk website and our tradition funeral http://www.powellandfamily.co.uk website.

    The majority of our customers tell us that the transparent pricing is one of the reasons they chose us. Being a new firm every funeral we get is one someone else hasn’t so it’s their loss and our and the client’s gain.

    We have set our business up to be able to provide funerals at an affordable price and still give us a reasonable standard of living. We also get a lot of satisfaction out of serving the less well off and knowing we have made a huge difference to their lives. I’m not saying that those firms that charge a lot more than us don’t, it’s just that we have found our niche and are enjoying it.

    As for our so called spokesman: Wouldn’t he make a great politician?


    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling
    Charles Cowling

    Not blowing your trumpet, Kingfisher, but telling it as it is. Thank you very much for leaving this comment.

    The web page to which you direct us looks to me to describe a model of good practice. The sound of your trumpet will be heard in the land — but it’ll (more appropriately, perhaps) be us sounding it.


    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling
    Kingfisher

    The simple funeral is sadly one of the failings of the NAFD and SAIF codes of practice. If they were policed properly (or at all) it might work, but saying “our members subscribe to a code of practice” and in effect self-regulate is completely pointless.

    In Barbie’s case, unfortunately even if the funeral director was following the code of practice (assuming he or she is a member of a trade association, which isn’t specified) there would be the option of adding ‘an additional charge’ under section 4h of the specification of the simple funeral. What this additional charge might cover is not really clear. I guess it could be for bearers which are needed at a burial but not at a cremation. The opt out clause stating ‘where this is available locally’ gives the funeral director carte-blanche to decide that it’s not available anyway!!

    Personally I’ve never understood the reluctance to offer a simple funeral, except that it doesn’t give any chance to upsell. If funeral directors had sensible professional fees rather than adding extortionate profit to coffins in order to hide the professional charge, simple funerals would be far more accessible.

    Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, but I believe that offering the simple funeral as standard, with the option of adding anything a client wants, has been one of the reasons my fledgling business has succeeded. http://stneotsfuneraldirectors.co.uk/a-basic-funeral-for-1050-plus-disbursements/


    Charles Cowling

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