Thank you

Charles 5 Comments

I know this blog has around 3,000 readers (and rising). I have no idea who any but a tiny fraction actually are. Google Analytics tells me that most of them are in the UK, and around 500 live in the US. The rest are scattered around the globe, and it’s these who, when I check my stats, most intrigue to me. Who, I wonder idly, is my one reader in Ethiopia? My one reader in Saudi Arabia? My one reader in Iran? That’s their business; I’m not calling on them to tell me.

One thing I have become aware of in the last week is just how many UK readers are funeral directors. The comments on posts about the Saif’s research into funeral prices are some evidence of this; the number of personal emails yet more. If there are two topics that get funeral directors reaching for their keyboards, they are funeral prices and Co-operative Funeralcare. Not, perhaps, surprisingly, the Co-op has many adversaries who email me and, in recent times, just one persistent defender. I am always interested in defences of Funeralcare. Once upon a time I used to send a link to all pejorative blog posts to a Co-op press officer called Phil Edwards, begging him to give me the good news about Funeralcare. He never replied.

Why did Phil not reply? Bad manners? Overwork? Disdain? I don’t know. He never replied, remember. But I guess it may have something to do with the trust Funeralcare places in the power of marketing. Because brand image is all. And it doesn’t have to be earned. Not if you can throw enough money at the right agency to create the right ‘perception’ and enough of it. We all saw the telly ad, right? Cost a few bob. It’ll probably pay for itself lots of times over. So who cares about some little pipsqueak consumer advocate with a PC and a Blogger account? In anticipation of an injunction or some other form of legal intimidation I long ago made over all my worldly possessions to other people for safekeeping. It looks as if I was flattering myself.

I say that, but I don’t believe it. I don’t believe that an independent consumer guide published by a respected, mainstream publisher, complemented by a lively website, cannot do an honest and effective job of creating perceptions which are closer to the truth.

Because this isn’t just about me, some little pipsqueak, etc. Self-appointed experts are not the ones we necessarily admire, but when they research carefully and think hard and test their opinions and listen properly and sideline their egos and speak with and for those who are decent and honest, they are valuable servants of a good cause. So to all those who have written to me, I say thank you. And to those who haven’t, please do, because this is about all of us. The address:

Jessica Mitford took the easy route with the US funeral industry. She held it up to ridicule. Great fun, but not much use to anyone looking for a good funeral director or wanting to create a good funeral ceremony. The emphasis of the Good Funeral Guide will remain the celebration of all that is best in the UK funeral industry. So do, please, send in your good news stories. So that we can accentuate the positive and show people the best it gets.


  1. Charles

    You normally hit the nail on the head. I am a fan of your blog from the USA. Jessica Mitford deserves some defense.

    She wrote in the 60's and it was a time of protest and ridicule. Hippies, Vietnam, civil rights protest. I confess I was alive then.

    She would approve of the current decline of the traditional funeral industry in America. Funeral corporations are struggling here and so are traditional Funeral homes. Batesville Casket and the NFDA admit this. Yet there is also an explosion occurring with the lower cost funeral model. This is a positive thing to report. Lower cost does not have to mean cheap. Doing many more calls a month can be very profitable.

  2. Charles

    Good to hear from you, Brian. Like you, I remember the 60s all too well. And like you, I enjoyed Ms Mitford's book. It is very, very funny and, if it laughed a few people into some good sense about funeral practices, so much the better.

    My reservations concern Ms Mitford's ability (or willingness) to speak for all – or even most. She was a socialist. And she was a Brit. Over here, we regard your funeral practices much as Ms Mitford did. That's okay. But to be of value, criticism must be culturally relevant. It's not for us to tell you in the US what to do, or vice versa.

    To point fun is the easiest thing in the world. I do it myself. But it must never become an overriding impulse. Such criticism may be usefully destructive, but it needs to be tempered with something more constructive and respectful. No one made friends by calling people fools.

    Having said which, US funeral directors are indisputably more exploitative than our UK ones. You have a job to do and you do it indefatigably. I read your blog regularly, and there is much that is just in what you say. It is criticism which I think you are much better placed to voice and, coming from you, is much more valid. Any diminution of funerals as retail events is a good thing. We, all of us, need to focus on making our funeral practices more meaningful.

  3. Charles

    As a former Funeralcare employee I am pleased to tell you that there is good news. Many of the staff are genuine and caring and honest and hardworking. The staff at my branch were either still there from the days when it was an independent or were trained by the same. The general consensus was that we did a good job in spite of the Co-op, not because of it. The people are what make or break any business. The Co-op wont make a good person bad (mad, maybe)Nor an independent turn an idiot into a saint, There are good people there. just not enough.

  4. Charles

    As a funeral celebrant, I agree with you, Bill, that it's the people at the front who deal with the bereaved at any funeral director's who make the impression; (though I did recently hear Co-op being praised because they were once someone's only local FD who'd agree to pick up a corpse that died of AIDS).

    People want to feel cared for, and you can't have that done to you by an organization, however morally principled (or not). However, you can be made to feel crap by such an organization, as some find out when they glimpse over the shoulders of the underpaid who do what they do for more human reasons than filling their Tesco trolleys every Friday night.

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