Charles Cowling

Okay then, what’s so what’s our line on the latest media coverage of Funeralworld sparked by the ‘consumer advocacy organisation’ Which? deploring mendacious, predatory funeral directors?

All the age-old charges are levelled against funeral directors: opaque pricing, upselling, and talking people into services they don’t need like embalming. Out of 20 funeral directors mystery shopped by Which? the advice offered by 14 was rated poor or very poor.

This is what we think.

First, consumers have a duty to prepare, in advance of any commercial transaction they enter into, by informing themselves and shopping around. Funerals are no different. Perhaps they should be, but just now this is the way we do things, so tough. Buying a funeral is no different from buying a fridge. Or, perhaps more appropriately, a second-hand car. The first rule of capitalism is never give a sucker an even break.

Second, Which? has a very poor claim to be a consumer advocate in the area of funerals. Why? Because the Which? guide What To Do When Someone Dies is written by an funeral industry insider. That insider is Anne Wadey. Anne Wadey heads up the Bereavement Advice Centre, which is financed by the Independent Trust Corporation (ITC), a probate specialist, and sponsored by the NAFD. ITC’s reputation is deplorable. Have a look at the Review Centre website here. The latest review (12.12.2011) begins: “ITC Legal Services _ Never consider using them!” Please anyone out there contemplating using this firm for probate work, don’t don’t don’t! They are complete charlattans who lull you into a false sense of security that they will support you during a time of need and are actually only after fleecing the estate of your loved one. They have upset me so badly, I feel unable to even telephone them and consider taking them to court for misrepresentation is the only way forward.

We first looked at ITC in June 2010. If you’d like more detail, click here.

Third, this so-called survey by Which? is irresponsibly sensation seeking. Sure, they “applaud the examples of empathy and good practice we did see” — but there’s no reference to this in the Daily Mail report.

The effect is to tar all funeral directors with the same brush. This is terribly unfair.

Here at the GFG we are no strangers, obviously, to vile service from lying, cheating bastards trading as funeral directors.

We are also aware that some of the nicest, kindest, most principled people you could ever hope to meet also trade as funeral directors.

If Which? wanted to do consumers a service, this is what they would have said. They would have said that the good news is that anyone, anywhere, can find an ethical, golden-hearted funeral director who’ll look after them wonderfully well.

But they didn’t. They chose to stir the shit to get themselves a bit of cheap publicity.

And our completely crap media fell for it.

 

Daily Mail story here

Daily Telegraph story here 

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Funeralworld's Hallelujah Chorus – The Good Funeral GuidecharlesDavid HolmesJenny UzzellJonathan Recent comment authors

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[…] stuff about Funeralworld coming out of the media these days – stuff like the Which? survey (here) and Channel 4′s Dispatches recent exposé of Co-operative […]

David Holmes
Guest

It would be a start if the cost of a basic cremation were stated. In my experience, and the experience of Which, many larger funeral directors do not offer this service – even when words like ‘simple’ or ‘basic’ are used by the enquirer. This seems to me to be a breach of the NAFD code. I wonder if someone could ask the NAFD what action was taken against any FD found to be doing this in the past 12 months?

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

Thanks, Tracey.
I know prices have to be on display in the premises, but didn’t know if there was any guidance on websites.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I’ve said it before: but the problem with fds displaying prices is that each has his individual way of pricing. (Very often eccentric, in fact.) So, collecting a body could be £100/£200 for fds A/B respectively, but A could charge £15 a day storage while B charges nothing… viewing in chapel of rest: A£x/B£y, bearers: A£e/B£w, and so on, through the list of items. Confusing. Unless you knew how many days you want the body stored, which coffin you’d choose from different fds’ catalogues (which of course are only comparable between identical coffins anyway), whether one has Volvo limousines and… Read more »

Tracey Warren
Guest

Hi Jenny the NAFD Code of Practice states that price lists must be on display and readily avaiable. (Im not a SAIF member so cant comment for them)

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

Genuine question here (remember I’m very new to all this!) Have the NAFD or SAIF ever tried to get members to display prices? Do we know what their opinion of the practice of displaing prices on websites is?

Tracy, some brilliant ideas there…thank you!

Colin Fisher
Guest

If you visit my website all my prices are clear and precise for everyone to see, I have nothing to hide and it gives anyone looking for a cost a chance to look at them in the comfort of their own homes without pressure. I sometimes have people call to ask for any hidden extras, so I do think people are enticed through the door of some funeral directors with false prices then hit with extras and in their bereaved state are made to feel guilty and pay it, so I think that funeral directors should have clear price lists… Read more »

Colin Fisher
Guest

#I totally agree with Charles’comments.And to add to them, I personally did not like the comment; ‘There were also huge differences in the price of a simple coffin, ranging from £160 with the Co-op to as much as £690 with an independent company’. I can’t see an independent or a large company for that matter charging £690 for a simple coffin. As to embalming, there are advantages to this, but I charge £100 and pay the embalmer £80 the £10 goes towards other costs, but if the embalming involves that of a post mortemed deceased then I pay the embalmer… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

Perhaps we FD’s should ask our trade associations NAFD and SAIF to make it compulsory for any FD with a website, to provide a clear and accurate price list on it? Wow! That would be a revolution eh?

Kingfisher, I take your point about marketing. Not all of ours costs money – some does!

Tony Bryer
Guest
Tony Bryer

“First, consumers have a duty to prepare, in advance of any commercial transaction they enter into, by informing themselves and shopping around.”. Nice idea, but how many FDs make their price lists (which should be more than price lists, also informing people of choices they may not have considered) available online? And then when someone tries to get information, “When arranging my wife’s funeral I visited a branch of Dignity (Geo. S. Munn) to see what they had to offer. When asked for prices they became very evasive and refused to give any.” (Mail comments). There are honourable exceptions of… Read more »

Kingfisher
Guest

David, I agree that marketing is difficult, and I’d add that it’s time consuming, but I don’t agree that it has to be costly. Tracey hits the nail on the head when she says that we need to adapt. That is what the small independents should be brilliant at. They don’t have the head offices to ask, they can just do exactly as they want. Adapting doesn’t have to cost money. In fact, I firmly believe that it can save money, both for the funeral director and the client. That has to be good news for everyone. If we adapt… Read more »

Tracey Warren
Guest
Tracey Warren

David that is so true we have never had such a high level of bad debt or dss claims

David Holmes
Guest

In these recessionary times people seem to believe funerals are a certainty. No doubt the Plc and Venture capitalists use this to their advantage when raising investor interest.

The reality for the small FD is different. It gets a bit boring when friends assume you are making money at a time almost everyone else is struggling. For very obvious reasons, at present we have more bad debt and families asking for our lowest price services, as well as making economies with their choices.

Tracey Warren
Guest
Tracey Warren

That’s very true shareholding companies seem to be increasing in our business. And your exactly right about adverts – same old same old I’ve set up a website and when people look at the home page it doesn’t look like a funeral directors. Also investing in going to agricultural fairs locally has paid off massively I also am having a trade stand and 40 min presentation at a local mind body and spirit fair (lots of crystals holistic readings etc) when I asked if I could the response could not have been more positive. I want my business to move… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

Marketing in our business is extremely difficult and costly. I have spent many frustrating years, looking at boring Ads (including mine) that seem to say the same old things. Reaching the people you wish to serve takes more than advertising. The internet is playing a bigger part and will do in time ahead but it’s not the only answer. My latest Ad has an unusual picture and tag line. It’s not obviously an Ad for a funeral home. The business model of the largest FD’s appears to rely on trading on the success of the past owner. To a certain… Read more »

gloria mundi
Guest

It sure does make sense, Tracey, and good luck to you, wish you worked in my area!

Tracey Warren
Guest
Tracey Warren

The problem is funeral directors have become complacent – the attitude well they have used us before they will come to us again. Good funeral directors now have to start thinking outside the box to stand out from the crowd and – ultimately take a financial gamble. I’m happy for families to provide their own coffins, bearers transport etc but the horror stories I’ve heard about other families being told by a funeral director that they were not allowed to supply their own coffin due to health and safety ! Interestingly as someone who worked for a big multi- national… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

Please not the £2 – £2,500 quoted did not include a cremation fee, Doctor’s fees or a Minister’s fee.

David Holmes
Guest

By coincidence yesterday I called my competitors. I do this once a year to check prices and assess the quality of their service. Each time I told them I wanted something simple, a cremation without a limousine or ‘viewing’ as they love to call it. All quoted in excess of £2,000, most nearer £2,500. None mentioned embalming – although I got the impression this was included. Two told me I had to pay for a limousine even if it was not required. Two kept saying ‘bless’ and ‘ahhh’ despite the fact they had no idea on whose behalf I was… Read more »

David Holmes
Guest

I agree with every word Charles. Sadly I sincerely believe it’s the consumer at fault here. In any industry where free choice exists, the buyer could inform themselves in advance of committing to the transaction. That so few do this is a source of genuine misery to me. My local parish magazine January edition featured 17 local people who passed away in December. I didn’t recognise any of the names – the families had opted to use a big business funeral director, paying a lot more for the privilege of getting a package funeral with little choice. Unless people bother… Read more »

Fran Hall
Guest
Fran Hall

Aah Charles, always unpredictable in your views and informed in your knowledge of who’s behind the headlines. Despite the caveat emptor approach I have a inkling you know in your water that your average customer of your average funeral director has no more undertaken their duty to prepare than fly to the moon – the vast majority are like rabbits in the headlights of the profit making machines that are behind many of the high street names. The summary in The Telegraph is (unsurprisingly) better balanced than that in The Mail, the content of both is irrevocably damning to the… Read more »

Simon Ferrar
Guest

Calm down dear it’s only a commercial.

Biff! Pow! Oofgh…take that!

Trouble with you Charles is you’re just to damn nice.

Next time you could be a tad more candid.

Love it !