Undercutting the undertakers

Charles Cowling

 

Business in bargain basement funerals is booming in Germany. Budget undertakers now enjoy 25 per cent of the market, up from 16 per cent two years ago.

A typical German funeral is comparable in cost to a British funeral: somewhere between £2,500 and £3,000. But the funeral price comparison website Bestattungen.de will quickly lead you to Sarg-Discount (translation: Coffindiscount), who will cremate you for as little as £412.89, and to budget undertaker Aarau, who will bury you for £860.

Old school German undertakers are not surprisingly hot under the collar about all this and respond in the language of undertakers the world over:  “Either there are hidden costs, or the body is treated without dignity,” warns Rolf Lichtner of the German equivalent of the NAFD. Whatever the truth of this, the image of budget funerals in Germany is somewhat tarnished by the fact that the ceo of Aarau, Patrick Schneider, is a former Stasi officer with a criminal record – just as the image of budget funerals in the UK has been besmirched by the activities of serial cheat and bungler Richard Sage.

German budget undertakers retort, of course, that dignity isn’t something that can be measured by the number of euros spent.

There may be an interesting sociological slant to this Teutonic trend. Dagmar Haenel, an anthropologist at the University of Bonn, thinks that cheap funerals reflect a contemporary throwaway mindset and reflect a divergence in the behaviours of different social classes, noting “We also have a rise in very individualised burials, sometimes very costly” by rich and educated people. “When it comes to funerals, the struggle of the classes is gaining ground,” she concludes. Here in Britain, on the contrary, a budget funeral is generally much more interesting to educated professionals than to working class people.

It would be impossible, in Britain, to get prices down to German levels. But there’s room at the bottom for sure. And how good it would be to see more people dispense with the customary trappings and trimmings and focus their attention instead on the principal business of a funeral, the farewell ceremony, an event where what is said and what is done matter most, and where what is spent is supplementary. Not only would the bereaved get much better emotional value for money, they would also be setting a good example.

 

More on budget German funerals here

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Tony
Guest

A Cortège?

Vale
Guest
Vale

A ministration of celebrants? A procession?

Tony
Guest

A Party of Celebrants?

X Piry
Guest
X Piry

Surely it’s a body of celebrants?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

A middle class of celebrants?

It’s past 10 o’clock – mourning coffin, anyone?

Rupert Callender
Guest

A drone?
I include myself in this convocation by the way.

Vale
Guest
Vale

The trouble is celebrants are a solitary breed only gathering occasionally in roosts around Totnes or Huntingdon – but boy can they talk when they do meet.

Hence my suggestion – a gabble of celebrants

Kingfisher
Guest

Judging by remarks “elsewhere” a Devaluation of Celebrants. I don’t agree with this at all though. I’d say a Reverement of Celebrants or a Customisation of Celebrants.

Rupert Callender
Guest

Well said Kingfisher and X piry.
And come on people, someone else suggest a collective name for a group of celebrants.

Kingfisher
Guest

Class is the all-important word. We are all terribly middle class aren’t we? And we care about funerals, and have a middle class approach to them.

But is that right for those who aren’t, and don’t? Should we impose our ideals? Where have I read that before?

X Piry
Guest
X Piry

All interesting stuff and agree with GM and Jonathan. Back to Charles’s post – am intriqued by the quote “cheap funerals reflect a contemporary throwaway mindset”. Is it that, or are people just prioritising differently. Cheap funeral, but good party afterwards? The class difference is striking, too – the biggest displays of flowers often come from families less able to afford them. Again – priorities. And this also comes back round to the discussion that follows. Perhaps a possible FD question is “what’s the most important thing you want to get out of the funeral?” That way they can know… Read more »

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

You couldn’t phrase it this way, obviously, Kingfisher, but when the family asks ‘how long?’, you’d say words to the effect of ‘well, if you want a meaningful event, we’ve found a bit longer works best; or if you want to rush into it without thinking and regret doing so later, you can get it over with a bit quicker.’ You’ve had much more experience of this than I have; but all the families I’ve worked with in this way have been grateful, in the end, for being slowed down. I just remind myself in the first two or three… Read more »

Gloria Mundi
Guest
Gloria Mundi

Well all respect to Kingfisher, he has to make the first contact and I don’t, but not for the first time I ask “what’s the hurry?” Some people may be as you say, but don’t we all find that often people are grateful for a lead and an informed opinion? I don’t myself find it easy to ask leading questions, but maybe sometimes we have to and we should. Or maybe we’d better go and buy some tents along with Jonathan. Or just keep plugging away with any public liaison and education ploys we can. And – why should small… Read more »

Kingfisher
Guest

I love the theory of this approach. We tried it once, more by luck than judgement admittedly, and it worked a treat. I guess the approach can only realistically be adopted by small independents. Corporates just don’t have time to adopt this do they? Wait 3 days before booking the crem? Unheard of… It’s true though that some things, particularly newspaper notices, are required quickly. Miss the printline and it could potentially mean delaying the funeral by a full week. The other issue, I believe, is that there are some, possibly many clients who just wouldn’t want this approach. They… Read more »

Rupert Callender
Guest

A Catafalque of Celebrants? Or a Tribute perhaps..

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Oh, yes, Gloriamundi, how often I too have put my feet over that boundary, only to have to struggle back again because “it was too late”. But who says it’s too late? Why can’t the family pay to have what they want? Who overrules them? Well. The newspaper ads have gone in, the crem has been booked, the hotel for the gathering has ordered the food, the limomousines and hearse have been earmarked for the crem slot, the coffin’s on its way from China… in short, the goods train has begun rolling downhill. And all before the ceremony was even… Read more »

Charles Cowling
Guest

Ah, that’s it, GM. Start from the ceremony and work backwards. That’s the way to express it!

Gloria Mundi
Guest
Gloria Mundi

Interesting, Charles. How often have we GFG- ers agreed: it’s the ceremony that matters, so please Mr/Ms FD, start with the ceremony and work backwards to what may turn out to be unwanted fringe extras, like big black cars. So much more important are things like where do you want to hold the ceremony. Recently met a family who had some lovely ideas, but they couldn’t be fitted into the 20-minute Crem model. I was rash enough to point out that they could have exactly what they wanted in a village/community hall, room in a hotel etc, either before or… Read more »