Free, easy, devastating

Charles 6 Comments

Posted by Charles

Funeral shoppers are nervous shoppers. They are in unknown territory, they’ve got nothing to go by. Of all shoppers, funeral shoppers are the most likely, if they catch a glint or a whiff of anything negative about a funeral director, to rear up, eyes rolling, and gallop away as fast as they can. 

That is the power of Qype and all those other review websites. We know we can’t trust everything we read on Amazon and Tripadvisor, but we can bring some experience to bear and come to a considered judgement. Funeral shoppers don’t have that sort of savvy to guide them. 

Here at the GFG we list funeral directors we like (not nearly enough; it’s a work in progress) and we post reviews from consumers. We have enough nous to sort them at source. Almost all negative reviews come from, surprise surprise, rival funeral directors. These reviews are easy to spot and delete because they usually employ undertakerly jargon. “The causal way he paiged the hearse was a discrace” is a dead giveaway. But some feedback, though sincerely meant, may be wide of the mark. A recent poor review of a GFG funeral director was sent in by an ex-wife whose children had arranged the funeral with an ‘alternative’ funeral director. The children had no complaint, but the complainant hadn’t liked the non-traditional style of the funeral. The funeral director was blameless and the complaint was a matter between herself and her children. I didn’t post it. 

But Qype might have — almost certainly would have. It would have been enough to frighten a lot of horses. 

In the case of malicious complaints, the potential for damage is enormous. Did you read about the recent experience of Damian Melville of Melville and Daughters, Tottenham?

The owner of a Tottenham funeral firm claims his business has fallen victim to a cyber bully leaving “fake” feedback on a review website.

Damian Melville, 33, opened Melville and Daughters funeral directors in West Green Road two years ago to ensure future job security for his children, aged five and 12.

Mr Melville, who lives in Enfield Chase, first started noticing the less than favourable reviews on the popular business review website, Qype, in December, but is now seeking criminal action against the internet user.

The claims, which show up as the first result on search engine Google, include information about how the supposed customer was “hounded” by the firm four days after the funeral to pay for overdue payments.

The Qype user also complained about the late arrival of the horse-drawn hearse and the use of an ill-fitting wig on the body of a deceased person. [Source]

Mr Melville has had to resort to expensive litigation to get the reviews removed — but not after they’d done incalculable reputational damage. 

It is unlikely that Mr Melville is the first to have suffered in this way. He certainly won’t be the last. For both funeral shoppers and funeral directors these online review sites are a serious matter. 


  1. Charles

    Hi Charles,

    Thanks for posting this. I think you’re right about the risks posed by reviews on sites like Qype. These review everything so they make no distinction between a restaurant and a funeral director.

    However I think that good quality consumer feedback can be invaluable to the funeral shoppers who are, as you say, nervous and uncertain. This can potentially help them make a more informed choice in an area where there are some who provide a very good service and some who don’t.

    Your point about how you operate the GFG listings is important I think. Because you know the area you are able to apply some quality control to the process to make sure consumers get the right information.

    As such I would suggest that the issue is not with online review sites per say, but rather with their lack of knowledge of the industry. For this kind of site to work it should be operated by those of us in the sector. And as the review site model is popular, the choice is really between us doing it well or someone else doing it badly.

    With this in mind, as you know, I have been working with the Natural Death Centre to produce a site called “Funeral Advisor”. This will be a high-quality and dedicated site that enables the public to offer feedback on the service they’ve received, and for funeral directors to respond and manage their profile.

    We hope that if we’re able to get this off the ground it will offer the public another source of reliable information to inform their choices.


  2. Charles

    Thanks for that, Jon, and I’m really pleased your project is going ahead. There is an important role for consumer advocates. The point is that they provide as valuable a service for good funeral directors as for consumers.

  3. Charles

    Happy to endorse everything Jon says – as you point out Charles, the consumer choosing funeral services is in uncharted water, the average person arranging only two funerals in their lifetime – other than choosing a member of one of the two main trades associations, there is little to guide someone newly bereaved in the funeral market place. The project Jon is pioneering is something long overdue, and at the NDC we are delighted to be involved in helping him develop it. The inside understanding of the funeral business along with informed moderating of any comments is crucial to ensure that the site is run responsibly and provides an accurate reflection of the experience of the clients – absolutely something that can only benefit funeral directors and their customers alike – we are looking forward to launching it later this year.

    Oh and yes Charles, the GFG is a welcome member of the new Natural Death Society – as our favourite independent observer of all things funereal then I am sure we can arrange honorary membership for you guys!
    Anyone else interested in finding out more can go to and hit the paypal button to subscribe!

  4. Charles

    I have always thought it a little odd that Funeral Directors often seem far more interested in their local rivals business than their own. This story is a worrying development. Setting up an anonymous email address and posting negative or false stories is not difficult and can of course be very damaging to any business.

    The Funeral Advisor is a brilliant idea. I wish you well with it.

  5. Charles

    “Uncharted waters” is right. I remain amazed and troubled by the way a family will simply accept an FD’s recommendation for a celebrant, rather than asking for more than one name (increasingly, there is more than one celebrant within a reasonable radius of a house, I would guess) and then phoning for a chat. When I arrive at someone’s home, people tend to assume I will be helping them with the funeral. I will often say that one purpose of the meeting is to make sure they want me, and not someone else, to proceed. This has to be done tactfully, or they think I don’t want the job, or I’m lukewarm, or in some way trying to put them off.

  6. Charles

    An interesting article Charles.
    I had some communications with Qype last year about a review on their site.
    I requested that they contact the reviewer or edit the review but they refused, they did use the opportunity to try to sell us advertising space though.

    The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the review ‘follows’ us around on the web so you can read it through google searches too.

    On a positive note though I read an article showing that poor reviews apparently get far more traffic.

    “A new survey has found that when it comes to social commerce, bad product reviews can be good for business.

    Data released by social commerce specialist Reevoo has revealed that 68% of consumers trust reviews more when they see both good and bad scores, while 30% suspect censorship or faked reviews when they do not see any bad scores. The survey also found that shoppers who go out of their way to read bad reviews convert 67% more highly than the average consumer.

    The survey revealed that three times as many consumers actively seek out and read negative user generated content as look for positive content: negative reviews were even more popular than “most recent reviews”, or “reviews from people like me”. It also found that shoppers who seek out bad reviews are highly engaged with their pre-purchase research, viewing almost four times as many products as the average visitor to a site, and staying considerably longer.

    Richard Anson, founder and CEO of Reevoo, said: “Consumers who seek out negative reviews outperform the average visitor to a website: we see a 67% bump in conversion rates for these shoppers. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, negative user-generated content is actually one of the most effective conversion tools.”

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