Open letter to George Tinning, Managing Director, Co-operative Funeralcare #3

Charles Cowling

Dear Mr Tinning,

I found myself, this morning, entertaining one of those whimsical thoughts that pops into our heads when we’re showering. Have you noticed how people tend to say ‘He’s been dead for 30 years, now’ instead of, ‘He died 30 years ago’? It’s as if they regard death as something akin to a state of being. I wonder if there’s an insight there into subconscious existential belief in a secular age? What do you think?

Look, I mustn’t distract you when you have obviously got a lot on your plate. How do I know you have? Because this is the third letter I have written to you, and you haven’t replied to the first yet.

How’s it going with the re-think? Are we any closer to founding principles? Am I getting ahead of myself? Have you picked yourselves up yet?

I ask because your website still carries a video clip of you giving your reaction to that Dispatches programme before the programme went out. Mr Tinning, you cannot respond to something before it has happened! You urgently need to speak to those many people who are still in shock as a result of what they saw. Please, break the silence.

While you’re about it, you might like to have a word with the person who worded the answers to the FAQs on that same webpage. There is one question:

Are deceased stored naked in mortuary facilities?

to which the answer is:

No, a deceased should not be stored naked the modesty of the deceased is maintained at all times and in addition the deceased will always be covered with a clean white sheet.

Let’s agree to draw a veil over the missing full stop after ‘naked’. Let’s talk instead about the word ‘deceased’. It’s used a lot by the funeral industry but, like the term ‘hygienic treatment’, it’s not much used by anyone else except, perhaps, as a dainty euphemism by the genteel. It’s jargon, George. If you insist on using it, understand that it is most commonly used as an adjective but, when used as a noun, can only be accompanied by the definite article. You can no more talk about ‘a deceased’ than you can talk about ‘deceaseds’.

Listen to it. ‘Deceased’ is sibilant. It gives off a double hiss like escaping gas. Not euphonious, George. It sounds neuter. It’s a horrible word. Divorce it.

And remember: so far as most people are concerned, a deceased, inanimate as it may be, is still a person, whose care is a sacred task.

That’s all I’ve time for. Before I go, a quick reminder. When you’ve got positive and reassuring messages you’d like to pass on to funeral shoppers, do let us know. We really want to get behind you.

With all best wishes,

Charles

PS You’ll have picked up that there is a great deal of talk these days about funeral poverty, and you know that more and more people are finding it difficult to pay for a funeral. I’m sure you will have been inspired by the example of your sister Canadian funeral co-ops: ‘the average cost of a funeral in Canada in 2004 was CAD$6,325, while the average cost of a cooperative funeral was $3,677.’ It puts one in mind of one of the core principles of the Rochdale Pioneers: to enable working people to buy that which they would not otherwise be able to afford.

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Andrew Danskineandrew plumeOpen letter to George Tinning, Managing Director, Co-operative Funeralcare #4 | The Good Funeral GuideJedEX Co OP Employee Recent comment authors

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Andrew Danskine
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Andrew Danskine

Think the ex employee forgets the job they did.. I became a funeral director by accident i worked in a hub I was never taken on and asked abput my sales . I worked with seven other people out job was to take care of funerals and the loved ones that people entrusted to us. targets were not am issue .. perhaps he chose the wrong profession . I did the job because I wanted to help people not because I wanted a bonus..and fprthe record every person brought into our care was treated with respect and were never left… Read more »

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[…] they are. Did you read the comments on this blog written by EX CO OP EMPLOYEE? Read them here and here. What do you […]

Simon irons
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Simon irons

Mr Holmes, I see that you continue to lambast the larger company whilst still punting your business to the very companies that you are on record as being so critical of. I’ll place a bet that none of the top 6 consolidators will make a bid for your business….. Nor should they.

Beverley
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Beverley

Great news David

David Holmes
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The bad news! Sorry Charles – I think George and Co are still crossing their fingers -screwing up their eyes and hoping this all blows over as soon as possible. Sadly they may be right to hope.

The good news! I arranged my first funeral today with a client who said ”after seeing that programme – no way was I going to use the Co-op.”

See, it did do some good.

EX Co OP Employee
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EX Co OP Employee

The Coop Funeralcare operate a staff bonus scheme!! SELL SELL SELL!!! If you fail to make the grade, you get pulled in. A Brief descriptions of how it works. The large bonuses available are only paid out to hubs who reach and exceed their target sales. League tables of staff average selling prices are produced at monthly meetings evey month so that other staff members know at a glance the poor performers so they can be and are humiliated in front of collegues as those who are not performing as well as they could or should, or those with a… Read more »

Jed
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Jed

Thanks for posting EX CO OP Employee! I had a quick look at the funeralcare website and the job description for the hub manager is a bit of a give away too. Wrapped up in the ‘exceptional client service’ but the sort of sales pressures that you speak of and that we saw with our own eyes on Despatches only come from the top. Hub Manager The Manager or Hub Manager is one of the most fundamental positions within the Funeralcare business. Overseeing a number of branches and staff, the Manager is responsible for ensuring that the hub delivers on… Read more »

andrew plume
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andrew plume

thx for your invaluable post I hope that many who read this blog will be truly repulsed by this and the effect that ‘sales figures’ (will/do) clearly have on those employees arranging funerals and selling allied costly (and sometimes non-essential) add-on’s a climate of fear and bullying clearly operates at thse hubs and where does that end?, well with the poor client who is then unwillingly subject to this behaviour. I suspect that f’care are not alone in this but as ‘the people’s undertaker’ it’s even more disgraceful f’care seem to have completely disregarded one crucial fact, they are (over)selling… Read more »