Charles Cowling

A consumers’ co-operative whose aim is to enable ordinary working people to buy things they would not otherwise be able to afford; one which  exists to provide a service for its members rather than generate profits for shareholders. A good thing, yes? It gets better. This consumers’ co-op also has an altruistic, ethical agenda for social change.

You’d think any such enterprise would be incredibly proud of itself. Dammit, it ought to be a national treasure.

So where did it all go so wrong for Co-operative Funeralcare?

And here’s the big question: What’s the point of it?

Let’s not get started, we’ll still be at it come Christmas. Let’s just look at Funeralcare’s new marketing trick for luring funeral consumers into its lair.

It looks like quite a helpful website for anyone planning a funeral and looking for a funeral director. It looks and reads like an (indifferent) independent consumer cheap online pharmacy without prescription resource.

Until you type your town into the Find Your local Funeral Director box.

Only a deeply damaged brand behaves like this.

Domain name:

         The Co-operative Group

     Registrant type:
         UK Industrial/Provident Registered Company, (Company number: IP0525R)

     Registrant's address:
         9th Floor
         New Century House
         Corporation Street
         Greater Manchester
         M60 4ES
         United Kingdom

22 thoughts on “Cunning stunt

  1. Charles Cowling
    Stephen Campbell

    I work for an Independent and the problem we face when it comes to Fairways is that they actually operate as an Independent business from the Co-Op. They have different coffins, different cars and different prices. They and you won’t like this even have a different policy on how people pay. So if they are operating as a private firm; come on lets face it I know for a fact that they wipe the floor with some Independents i really don’t see what the fuss is about them saying they are a local funeral director. I laugh and joke with my boss all the time about stuff like this. Independents always shout about the larger groups operating under private names. However this wouldnt be the case if the independents didn’t sell out in the first place. i agree that we are here to help people but lets face it people go in to business to make money. So don’t you think its about time we just bucked up our ideas and upped our game to ensure that from a service and quality point of view we are beating these guys. if independents cant afford to do it, well I think they should just sell out or if they feel so strongly about it give up the ghost!!!

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling

    Independent ladies and gentlemen, perhaps it’s time for an I.F.D.A, Independent Funeral Directors Association?? Together we stand, divided we fall?


    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling

    Very interesting blog and great idea Kingfisher and Nick. I will add my support and help if required. As a funeral professional of 26 years standing having worked for my father and uncle, then after being bought out by a multiple and then working for them and then another and then another and now very recently starting up and running my own family firm, I fully understand the argument about clarity of ownership and pricing and as a new business trying hard to make my way in an honest and transparent manner, it is challenging to say the least when sites like mylocalfuneraldirector exist.

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    The Funeral Lady

    Hi, very interesting thread.
    I’d be happy to assist with the Directory idea for my area and beyond, if you wish.
    I already plot FD’s, Churches, Crem’s and Cem’s on the old GPS device.
    Contact me if you want/need a hand.


    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Paul Asher

    After working for many years for both independent and corporate companies, I learnt that the big boys buy smaller family concerns so that they can increase prices and gain funeral numbers. Yes, your loved one is just a number. If the public keep supporting these companies as opposed to family businesses, then the family businesses will be no more and guess what? The prices will be raised higher still as you will not have a choice.

    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling

    Hi Kingfisher. I’m game. Any help on content etc would be appreciated as well as any help with compiling a database. Thinking of a searchable google map with premises photos and branch info might be a good start. Bit more interactive than a list.

    I’ve been doing one on my website with local churches, cemeteries etc.,0.742607&spn=0.125146,0.363579&z=12

    I’m happy to build and host the site(s) and any info would be greatly appreciated



    Charles Cowling
  7. Charles Cowling

    Nick, here’s an idea off the top of my head. Follow it up, ignore it, change or work on it, I shan’t be offended by any of them!

    It seems that there’s a fair bit of animosity and dislike of the website that is being discussed here, so, how about we, ourselves, research and compile a database? By this, I mean every reader and follower of this blog, each contributing what he or she knows.

    I’d be surprised if between us we weren’t pretty well-informed of the true identities of a huge number of companies.

    An immense task, and one which would require every contributor to be really focussed. But, very exciting, and think of the satisfaction when it was complete.

    I’d be happy to help out wherever I could, so do let me know your thoughts!

    This could be big if we all made it so … the start of a collaboration of FD’s willing to challenge the boundaries of the truth with which we all contend on a daily basis?

    Charles Cowling
  8. Charles Cowling

    It wont be a quick thing as I want to get it right but it will be honest that’s for certain!

    If anyone has any ideas on compiling the database easily please let me know. Could link to SAIF database but not all independents are members.

    Ill work something out.

    The “singing” FD
    The “singing” FD

    Charles Cowling
  9. Charles Cowling

    Smart! Good luck, Nick! Determining ownership is a heck of a slog a lot of phone calls. Since funerals-uk got so out of date there hasn’t been a dependable database.

    Charles Cowling
  10. Charles Cowling

    Yep, they have held every single variant of that address. What they didn’t do was hold

    Ill give you a guess who has just bought them…..ill get a list of independent funeral directors on there as soon as I work out how to do it. Ill post back on here when I have a template up and running.:-)

    Charles Cowling
  11. Charles Cowling

    @ Liam:

    I’d like to teach the world to grieve
    In perfect harmony…

    Charles Cowling
  12. Charles Cowling

    Nobody comes up for Monmouth. Excellent! The ones that come up for Cardiff are the “You know its just a field” people. Having said that I can think of one or two individuals from the co-op that we deal with on a regular basis who are good. John Hush in Berwick (trading under Co-op funeral care) and Philip Goode in Abergavenny (Co-op trading as Philip Goode). I would love the co-op to embrace natural burial and live up to their promise of consumer choice and ethical sustainability ( but then how would they shift the marble.

    There’s a link to ‘plan selling’ from nearly every page on this site. Even on the bereavement one – Just lost someone? Well get on with it and sort your own funeral plan out then. Nice!

    Charles Cowling
  13. Charles Cowling

    How long before we see a “Go Compare!” style TV advert for `mylocalfuneraldirector`?

    Perhaps not eh? Shame though, as it really could make an otherwise sad and sensitive subject matter appear very funny. Still, the boundaries of what many would have previously felt was innapropriate advertising are, it would seem, constantly being pushed. So watch this space!

    The competition for the best jingle has now opened. Go on, give it a go, I dare you!

    Charles Cowling
  14. Charles Cowling

    Claire, it’s the same principle that allows Harrods to call itself Harrods even when it’s really Al Fayeds. You buy the biz, the goodwill and the name.

    Of course, if Funeralcare thought they were any good they’d buy out a biz, proclaim UNDER NEW OWNERSHIP! on the windows, tear the old name down and replace it with their own.

    I mean, if John Lewis, a worker co-operative, were to start doing funerals under its own name, how differently we’d feel! We all love John Lewis.

    It’s all a matter of brand confidence, isn’t it? It’s worth noting that every department store that John Lewis has bought out has been renamed John Lewis.

    Charles Cowling
  15. Charles Cowling

    Why would a caring, trustworthy and nationaly known funeral service provider with a national network and identity, word a website in a way that is clearly designed to pretend otherwise?

    Why would such a funeral service provider push the boundaries of misleading advertising as far as is legaly possible?

    Why feel the need to suggest that anyone not listed on their search engine is not there due to them lacking the same high standards of service?

    Why when contacted as a perspective client by phone and asked to reveal their true identity would they still endeavour to fob you off with various excuses which do not allow them to tell you who does actually own the website?

    Why doesn`t anyone from the many very highly trained, professionaly qualified, industry recognised and commended listed funeral service providers on this site, feel the need to defend itself from the apparently damming assesment made over their true motives and integrity?

    Why such silence from an organisation that seems to be spending a considerable proportion of its budget on TV and other forms of advertising in order to tell as many people as possible about its true self?

    Oh the frustration of not hearing the other side of the story and being left to draw your own conclusions!

    Charles Cowling
  16. Charles Cowling
    Claire Callender

    Dear Charles, I expect you have covered this somewhere before. But how do the Co Op get to trade under family names?
    It seems so dishonest.

    Charles Cowling
  17. Charles Cowling

    So if I type in my post-code, I get only my local co-op FS undertakers, even if I go via the “all” link. So if I was naive, I might perhaps think these people really are the only ones around. And my local co-op FDs are not billed, on the website as Co-op.

    If I go to “about us” I find nothing about who “we” are or where we are based. Actually, nothing substantial about “us” at all.

    I may find some useful information on this website, but I can’t phone anyone from it, I can only email. I am also directed for further enquiries to one of the local undertakers I have found via my post code.

    Surely the co-op only has itself to blame if people think this is at best puzzlingly odd and at worst rather unpleasant. Mylocalfuneraldirector is in fact a lot more people than this website throws up. Can someone explain to me why this can’t be seen as looking to the naive as possibly slightly dodgy? Some might think a more accurate name might be someofmylocalfuneraldirectors.

    Ah, wait, I see – it’s not dodgy because it doesn’t actually SAY anywhere that it is a complete list of local FDs. Oh, that’s OK then. Fine. Great. Super. Caveat Emptor, especially when s/he is bereaved and confused. Fair enough. ‘Nuff said.

    Charles Cowling
  18. Charles Cowling

    I don’t want to appear hubristic. I check the search terms people use to find my site and paste them into google. So, for example, just one from today: ‘the observer, co-op funeralcare’. Try it for yourself.

    Charles Cowling
  19. Charles Cowling

    You’re welcome, Charles, and I’m surprised this little blog has such amazing power as to dampen the flames of Satan and Son’s family firm of undertakers – well done!

    Charles Cowling
  20. Charles Cowling

    I do worry about Funeralcare’s lawyers, Jonathan. So, thank you! Why they haven’t come for me yet I don’t know. When they do they’ll find I have no money. Perhaps they already know that. They watch this site, of course (hello, Stasi!) because it is now beginning to damage them commercially. Ah well, all in a good cause.

    Try typing in Birmingham.

    Enjoy the distinction they make on other pages between Funeralcare and Fairways (a wholly owned subsidiary of Funeralcare).

    Charles Cowling
  21. Charles Cowling

    Postscript to above:

    Something Charles would have to delete to keep the lawyers off his back.

    Charles Cowling
  22. Charles Cowling

    Any unwary recently-bereaved family could easily be misled into thinking this site is an independent, disintersted funeral advisory service. It’s not till you look closely that you even read the words ‘co-operative funeral’, and then only with your strongest reading glasses.

    It even puts a sly subliminal message in the ‘type your home town’ box: “View ALL funeral directors”. I’m a funeral director, and it doesn’t mention me.

    “Surely if this were a firm of undertakers it would have its name at the top of the home page, wouldn’t it, Ethel?”

    “Of course it would, George, stop fussing – Mum wouldn’t have wanted us to be so suspicious for her big day. You’ll be asking about prices next.”

    Charles Cowling

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