Blog Archives: February 2015

Dog eats dog. Move on, leave them to it

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

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Here’s the hot news:

“… we can today formally announce that we have initiated legal proceedings against the UK’s largest provider of pre-paid funeral plans, Golden Charter, seeking substantial damages for their actions against Safe Hands Funeral Plans.”

Yes, the Yorkshire terriers have gone for the throat of wee Big Dawgie, and they ain’t stopping there:

“Further claims against other companies are imminent and will be announced at a later date.”

Blimey, what’s this all about?

It seems that Safe Hands “recorded video and audio footage (presented, in January 2015, to the perpetrators via our solicitors) that shows representatives of most of the major plan providers launching vicious, unprovoked, verbal attacks – primarily against Safe Hands, but on each other as well…all in a desperate and shamefully unprofessional effort to get an edge over the competition.” Looks like a sting.

While the lawyers order trebles all round and get ready to enwrap both parties in litigation for as long as legally possible, the good citizens of Funeralworld tremble. A lot of heavily soiled linen looks like being washed in public. God forbid that the public learn just how much of the money they spend on a funeral plan gets divvied up among sundry predators in the form of commissions, sales and marketing costs, directors’ wages, you name it.

Golden Charter describes itself as “owned by and run entirely for the benefit of independent funeral directors”, a claim a great many independent funeral directors now reject. On its website, GC confesses “We work on behalf of more than 3,300 independent funeral directors throughout the UK.” Why on earth would anyone want to buy a funeral plan that works in the service of the very people who stand to make money out of them? Beats us.  

But GC has achieved a market share great enough to enable it effectively to act as funeral broker, and that’s seriously worrying. So: praise the Lord if the hullabaloo has the effect of concentrating minds and curing funeral directors of their dependency on this lousy financial product.

So far as we are concerned at the GFG, the present squabbles are between businesses with a failed business model.

Going forward, we recommend that funeral directors subject a funeral plan to the Lynch Test before endorsing it. The Lynch Test? Yes, the Lynch Test. It goes like this:

Does this plan facilitate face-to-face accountability between the buyer of the funeral– the personal representative of the person who has died — and the seller — the funeral director?

The only good funeral plan is one that restores the lost link between buyer and seller.

Again: The only good funeral plan is one that restores the lost link between buyer and seller.

Can this be achieved? Yes, it can. Shortly, we’ll show you how.

UPDATE 12-02-2015: I wrote to David Latham at NFFD HQ asking how Safe Hands had funded its prime-time ad slot on ITV on 09-02-2015. He replied as follows: 

“The advertising campaign is limited to the Yorkshire area only and was a special introductory package for a new advertiser. Consequently, the amount spent was minimal. More importantly, the cost was met by the NFFD, so I can state, categorically, that it most certainly WILL NOT affect the long term investments of Safe Hands’ plan holders. Whereas some other providers use their clients investments to advertise their services, you may be interested (and comforted) to know that Safe Hands most certainly does not.”

 

A journey to Great Yarmouth in a Winter Storm

Monday, 2 February 2015

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Posted by David Hall

In the second week of February 2009, a Winter Storm hit Southern England and this coincided with Vintage Lorry Funerals first funeral for Arthur Jary & Sons in Great Yarmouth.

Normally David Hall leaves Bradford-on-Avon very early and puts the first 2 hours of the journey behind him before most people wake up. However, on this morning David’s wife spent from 0630 hours to 0800 hours evaluating the best way for the Leyland Beaver to escape from Bradford-on-Avon, situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds and experiencing two climatic extremes. The road north was closed due to snow drifts, whilst all roads to the south and east were closed due to flooding.

David headed eastwards at 0800 hours but the traffic came to a halt just before Melksham, and David flagged down a van driver coming in the opposite direction for an appraisal of the hold up. This was a common way to find out information in the 1950’s before the advent of mobile phones and citizen band communication facilities. It was evident that the River Avon had burst its banks and water had over spilled onto the Holt Road and timid car drivers taking children to school were hesitant to go through the expanse of shallow water. Experienced drivers know that driving down the centre of the road, straddling the white line where the water is shallowest, is the best approach. However, White Van Drivers were ploughing through at speed forcing Mums, taking children to school, into the deeper water and creating a bow wave which threatened to push water into the engine compartments of small cars. Seeing women becoming very distressed and hearing children crying it was time for David to do a bit of assertive driving, like a 1950’s Lorry Driver, helping others in distress. David overtook all the cars in the queue and parked his Leyland Beaver in the deep water at the side of the road. He then climbed onto the deck of the lorry and acted as a Traffic Policeman, waving groups of three cars through the shallow water adjacent to the vintage lorry before instructing the 4th car to stop. He then invited a batch of three vehicles to now proceed in the opposite direction. Within 20 minutes David had cleared the backlog and proceeded towards Melksham, the first 5 miles of the journey taking almost an hour.

David’s wife continued to act as Mission Control, undertaking detailed research of the weather in various parts of the country and texting David updates. Reports of flooding in Essex had caused problems on the A12 at Chelmsford so David decided to take the A30 into London, follow the North Circular Road before taking the A10 to Norwich and then the A47 to Great Yarmouth. The selection of this route ensured that mainly a trouble free journey resulted, however, it was amazing that isolated hilly sections of the A10 were covered with 2 inches of snow and the localised effects of extreme weather is a modern phenomenon.

At 1930 hours David pulled up outside Arthur Jary & Sons Funeral Directors and Barry Gates, who had received a number of progress updates throughout the day, came out to meet the 1950 Leyland Beaver. Barry, relieved that the lorry had got through the Winter Storms, bowed down in front of the Leyland Beaver and thanked David for what he had done. David was dismissive of the praise saying, ‘It was nowt.  Men in the 1950’s did 240 miles in 11 hours every day of the week, sometimes 12 days on the trot.’

Barry relayed the good news to the Family, who were delighted. Their Dad had been part of a family Transport Business in the 1950’s so David created a Sheeted Load Theme to replicate the type of traffic their Dad used to pull. It was the third time that a Sheeted Load Theme had been used in a funeral with previous outings in Portsmouth and Newcastle. The Leyland Beaver created a lot of attention in Great Yarmouth and the local paper sent a photographer to take pictures during the funeral. David is very grateful to the Great Yarmouth Mercury for allowing him to use the pictures, two of which are included in this article.

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Given that the funeral was in the afternoon Barry kindly offered David the opportunity to park the lorry in his yard for two nights. The night after the funeral was very cold and temperatures got down as low as -10 degrees overnight and a number of pipes had burst in the street as David walked from his digs to the Vintage Lorry in Arthur Jary’s yard. The Leyland Beaver still started first time at 0630 hours, despite the freezing temperatures making the 5 gallons of oil in the sump of the 9.8 litre engine as viscous as treacle. The Leyland 600 engine continued to tick-over as David de-iced the windows, standing on his pop-up seat that he carries, folded flat, in the storage box at the nearside rear of the chassis. The stretch of the A47 between Great Yarmouth and Ackle is called the Ackle Strait and is as straight as a die for over 13 miles. As the Leyland Beaver trundled towards Norwich at 30 miles per hour, cars initially congregated behind the lorry. However, the car drivers were experienced and as soon as David put on his left indicator, making three flashes, they knew that the way ahead was clear and the cars came past in groups of 4 or 5 cars. Once oncoming vehicles had past and the road ahead was clear, David repeated the procedure probably over 20 times before the single lane road is transformed into a Dual Carriageway.

With the moonlight projecting shadows across the flat landscape David felt his actions were a bit like Officer Hilts (Steve McQueen) in the Great Escape making two pulls on the rope to signify that the coast was clear to escapees waiting patiently in the tunnel from Stalag Luft III, situated near Sagan, 100 miles to the South East of Berlin.

Coming back through Cirencester David refuelled the Leyland Beaver and as he was paying in the shop a loud voice shouted, ‘Which (expletive) idiot has got that beautiful (expletive) wagon out on a day like this?’ The man went on to explain that he had a vintage lorry and only took it out once per year on a Bank Holiday Monday in August. David gave the man a Vintage Lorry Funerals business card and told the gentleman, ‘No matter what time of year, no matter what weather conditions prevail, no matter what distance is involved, if a family wants my lorry and is prepared to pay then I’ll be there.’

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http://www.vintagelorryfunerals.co.uk