A series of shorts, today. Each is probably worth a post in its own right, but if I don’t get them off my chest now tomorrow will come and they will lie unremembered.
First, an interesting editorial in this month’s Funeral Service Journal, the UK’s Dismal Trade mag. It observes that “the spirit of entrepreneurship in funeral service is far from being dead,” and notes a marked proliferation of new businesses, both start-ups and new branches of established businesses. It acknowledges that “others—and particularly those of the new breed of funeral consultants or advisors—are likely to have occurred but escaped attention in this and similar periodicals.”
What’s going on here? This is what’s going on. Upstarts think they can do it better than the barnacled big boys, the ones who won’t move with the times and offer their clients the personal service they want. The big boys are trying to counter this by raising their profile. We live in interesting funerary times. There are too many undertakers out there. Probably 98% of the population live closer to an undertaker than they do to a police station. Something’s got to give. Darwin! thou shouldst be living at this hour.
Second, over in Jamaica, the Daily Gleaner notes an even more marked increase in the number of undertakers. Is this the shape of things to come here in the UK? “On almost every corner, there is a final-care facility, with as many as four funeral homes operating on at least one street.” Sonia Lewis of the Lewis Funeral home says “it can be a rat race out there to acquire the dead, between the established homes, the fledgling ones, and individuals who don’t even have a morgue to start with. The grounds of the Kingston Public Hospital are a major battlefield as the homes haggle with the families and relatives of the deceased. That’s where the agents come in. Daily, they vie with the established undertakers. I go to the hospital … It is sometimes frustrating because other persons (agents) might come in and say some derogatory things towards your funeral home.” The Gleaner goes on: “It can be a hostile environment with competitors engaging in heated verbal confrontations. Under-cutting is a major tactic, with costs being dropped at times to ridiculous lows.”
Thank goodness all we presently have to endure over here is Funeralcare’s telly ads.
Read the entire Gleaner piece here.
Third, there is an interesting blog by the priest of St Mary’s, Willesden, in which he reports that people are “by-passing Funeral Directors and Clergy and taking their relatives directly to the crematorium to keep costs down. I find that deeply disturbing.”
Whilst I am aware that some people are cutting back by cutting out the celebrant, has anyone out there heard of anyone actually cutting out the undertaker?
Fourth, and still on the subject of cutting out the undertaker, but for reasons other than penury, you will enjoy this article about a home funeral from the Smithsonian Magazine.