Funeralcare screwupdate, with added overpricing

Charles Cowling

It is with a heavy-hearted sense of duty that I record this beastly and deplorable allegation against Co-operative Funeralcare. You can find the full version at

Don’t use co-operative funeralcare directors they are disgusting …They failed to complete the legal documents correctly they put the wrong funeral date on the documents … We were refused entry into the crematorium chapel and were left outside in the cold distressed and in total shock, the funeral directors were an absolute disgrace they were too busy blaming the crematoria staff and they in turn were blaming the funeral directors. They threw the flowers into my mums hearse and put her photo in on its side! they showed us no respect or help at all just told us to go back to our cars because the service would not go ahead today. It was only after myself and my family refused to move and told them to get the police that they started to accept that they would have to do something so the service could go ahead. DO NOT USE THE CO-OPERATIVE FUNERAL GROUP!!!!!

Here is an all-too-familiar complaint from the Guardian:

I had problems with the accounts section of Co-operative Funeralcare. When I booked the funeral I said that I would not be able to pay for it until probate had been granted. I was told that would be fine provided I kept the accounts section informed. On the day, and before, the staff involved with the funeral were brilliant. Afterwards I began getting threatening letters from the accounts department. I explained what was happening, but the threatening letters continued, including threats of Court Action and referral to debt collectors … Obviously no company would survive if it was not paid for it’s services, but I had expected a more human approach from Co-operative Funeralcare accounts department, not just communication with a computer.

Also from the Guardian, a case of an unaccountably expensive funeral, even after taking into account the fact that the only charge the writer saved himself was the cost of a celebrant:

In the last 12 months, I have sadly lost my Mum and my wife. Mum’s funeral in South London cost £1480 (inc VAT). My wife’s funeral in Fenland cost £2950 (inc Vat). In both cases we did not make use of a vicar, but conducted the service at the crematorium myself. The only ‘extra’ was another doctor’s certificate needed in the case of my wife. We had no headstones or plaques and no announcements in the newspapers. Included in the Fenland charge was £357 for a vehicle to travel 22 miles from the undertaker’s to the crematorium. I felt , and still do feel, very ripped off … The company we used in Fenland had been taken over by the Co-Op, but hadn’t told anybody.

The following, from the Independent, are not Co-op stories. But there is a moral in them for all funeral directors, because they are going to encounter more and more demand, especially from atheists, for direct cremation:

It was my aunt’s misfortune to die on Maundy Thursday, less than 24 hours before the longest bank holiday of the year. She had donated her body to medical science … But when the day came, her donation was, maddeningly, refused … My uncle and I discussed what to do. We agreed to go for the simplest option, in accordance with what we believed would have been her wishes. I began making enquiries. I phoned six funeral directors and asked them to quote for a cremation. In London, a 45-minute slot at a crematorium costs around £500, but if you are prepared to accept an early morning appointment – 9am or 9.30am – the charge drops to less than £200. In addition, you must pay the fees of two doctors to confirm the death, amounting together to £147 … The quotes I received from the funeral directors ranged from £1,500 to £2,000. I did some arithmetic. Allowing £200 for the cremation, £150 for the doctors’ signatures and £150 for a cardboard coffin (at cost) came to £500 in all. The task for the funeral director was to collect the body from the hospital – St Mary’s, Paddington – and take it to the crematorium (Golders Green, Marylebone, Islington or – the cheapest – Mortlake). For the living, the cost of this journey by taxi would be about £30. For the dead, it turns out, it is £1,000. Dead unlucky, you could say. Next time, I plan to hire an estate car, buy a coffin and do the job myself.

And this:

My father died in 2008. He was a staunch atheist who asked for his body to be ‘offered as convenient for medical use or research and otherwise to be cremated wholly without ceremony’. The hospital didn’t manage to take up this offer so we were faced with the same problem. We were unimpressed with what seemed absurdly expensive offers from undertakers. Eventually my brother took Dad’s body from the hospital mortuary to the crematorium by van, at a fraction of the price. This was entirely successful, and it was what Dad wanted. It’s time the death industry started providing for those of us who do not want any ritual around our remains.

Do leave a comment — especially if you are a funeral director.

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The Good Funeral Guide – Nick Gandon on funeral costsNick GandoncharlesGloriannaJonathan Recent comment authors

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[…] and, so far as I know, only dedicated direct cremation service. Here is the comment he left on this post from a few days ago, and which you might have missed. I first wrote about Nick […]

Nick Gandon

Jonathan, You wrote “Funeral directors aren’t set up to cater for direct cremation because the demand is almost nil”. It is true that as individual firms, few traditional FDs will receive enquiries for direct cemations on a regular basis. You may agree, or not, that because there is little profit in direct cremation, as opposed to the traditional funeral, there is little incentive for FDs to actively promote this method of disposition. Because we specialize in providing the service, our costs are appropriately less than would otherwise be the case, and we pass those savings on to our clients. You… Read more »

Nick Gandon

Well, when I started out in the world of funerals, they were just that little bit less complicated, and the “big groups” just didn’t exist, (with maybe the exception of the Great Southern Group). Even the Co-Ops were still in “bite-size” individual chunks of local business. In terms of evolution, 1970 was not that long ago, but in terms of business, thats another story. Things were simple, costs were realistic – a “regular” cremation cost between £170 – £190 depending on the catering. Few firms thought of offering pipers, doves, fireworks, novelty hearses etc., and most funeral services had humble… Read more »


Once again we hear family complaining the cost of a funeral is a rip (rest in peace this doesn’t mean) off, they say, they can do it cheaper themselves. Yet then go and spend thousands on a new car… yet the person they once cared about and loved possibly for many years doesn’t warrant or deserve and decent set off… Complaints that the person dies on a Friday and nothing can be done till Monday… ….not the fault of the funeral directors, but the crematoriums, doctors hospitals, etc. Some Cemeteries close an extra day at bank holidays..Yet the family assume… Read more »


(sorry, it published itself… as I was saying…) Collection of body £140 storage (average) £140 delivery to crem £140 bearers (x2 min) £100 crem fee (min) £495 doctors’ fees £147 coffin £325 Total £1487 So in my neck of the woods, I’d have to charge £1500 to make almost no profit at all. Funeral directors aren’t set up to cater for direct cremation because the demand is almost nil. Add on an amount for upkeep of premises and equipment, and wages, and F.D’s own time (by no means nil; when you’ve got a funeral on you’ve got to have your… Read more »


collection: £140
storage (average)


I inevitably flinch with guilt at the buoyant claims about £1200-£1750 funerals; I know it is possible, and we have done a fair few, at least towards the upper end of that. But then I remember the comprehensive advice, explanations, choices and guidance during the various meetings, viewings and many ‘phone calls needed by a family where (usually) quite a few people are involved in making the up-to-90 different decisions they say are needed for a funeral to happen. And still we – as funeral directors – are responsible for keeping the whole thing on track. The more things a… Read more »

Rupert Callender

Our hearts sink these days when someone asks us for a quote based on what they assure us is a pared down arrangement. Often after a bit of haggling the arrangements grow until it is just as complex as an ordinary funeral. Because of the entirely understandable series of checks in place to prevent a crime going undetected, the process between someone dying and their cremation is complex, regardless of whether any family are present at the crematorium. The application still has to be filled in, so there is at least one meeting with the next of kin, and who… Read more »