Low cost is the price of low value

Charles 7 Comments

Barnet funeral experts are unsurprised by news that London is the most expensive place in the country to die.

Emma Sargant, Director of Churchills Family Funeral Directors in East Barnet Road said: “I haven’t put my prices up since 2008.”

However, Barry Broad of Brooks Funerals in Church Hill Road said there are options for people. He said: “Funerals are expensive but we specialise in low cost funerals and our customers say that we are about half the price of the bigger funeral directors.”

We suppose that the story is similar throughout Britain. Funeral costs double more or less every ten years, so Ms Sargant has taken a heck of a hit. 

Yes, there’s a recession on. And third-party costs have risen faster than funeral directors’ charges, especially the cost of cremation. But is that the whole story?

The GFG is inclined to encourage funeral directors to audit the value of the funerals they sell — emotional value. Give your clients more time. Work with them to achieve a better end result.

We suspect that people would be prepared to pay more if they got more from the experience. After all, they’re still forking out for weddings. 


  1. Charles

    Yes and no, I think, Charles.

    I agree completely with what you say about the value of a funeral. We hold certain things to be fundamental…unlimited access to the chapel for example, a reassuring voice on the end of a phone 24 hours a day, time and space, and where necessary, help to plan something that is genuinely meaningful and will have a lasting effect. These are not ‘add ons’ they are, in our opinion at least, the fundamental entitlement of a bereaved family. We describe ourselves (to whoever will listen) not as the cheapest funeral home in the area (which we are) but rather as the best value for money (which I also believe to be true).

    However, I don’t think the comparrison to weddings is one that bears scrutiny. Weddings are, at least to a certain extent, a matter of choice. They can be timed to make the best use of available (or soon to be available) funds and they can take years to plan. (When my ex and I got married I think we were planning for around 18 months…I’ve never been one for quick decisions 🙂 It is also probably worth mentioning that the best wedding I have ever been priviledged to attend cost the family around £1,000. As with anything else, an excellent, meaningful and memorable event is not directly linked to how much you spend on it.

    Funerals in contrast are often unexpected, frequently do not occur at the best time financially for a family and even when a conscious decision has been made to take time and space to plan the best possible event have to be planned and delivered relatively quickly (especially when compared to even the quickest of wedding plans). I don’t know what the experience of other funeral homes in other parts of the country is, but for a large proportion of the families we deal with it simply isn’t a question of what they are prepared to pay, but what they are able to pay. Many of our clients cometo us initially because of our prices, although the feedback we get suggests that they beleive that they have got a service from us that far outperforms what they have paid more for elsewhere in the past.

    My point, I think, is that increasingly people are struggling, really struggling to pay for funerals. For many families we have encountered we were the last call before despair and (although many did not yet know that that was the next step) a ‘contract’ funeral. Yes, value for money is important but at the moment, at least where we are, so is price.

    I’d be interested to hear about the experiences of others with regard to this!

    1. Charles

      See below, Jenny, you beat me to it by four minutes! I’d add to your comments about weddings and funearls that people don’t want a funeral.

  2. Charles

    In Plymouth, for example, with a lot of effort you could grind down to about £950 the cost of a cremation (since the council hiked the cremation fee by around £150 in one go); that’s with no funeral director’s involvement at all. Cheap coffin off the internet into the back of the car, pick up the body from the hospital mortuary and go straight to the crem. No top hats, dog collars, celebrants, vehicles; just a family get together. It’s what I did for my mother’s funeral (in Edinburgh, even more expensive at the time) and saved £955 in fd’s fees, but then I’m an insider who knows what he’s doing so it was simple for me, and most would need at least the emotional support of an undertaker. Especially for heaving the body into the coffin, but even just to negotiate the minefield of people telling you that you can’t do it because you’re the wrong person.

    In other parts of the country there are undertakers selling the whole direct cremation package, including their fees, for about the same; which shows how much cremation fees vary.

    So the moral of the story would seem to be that, if you want a funeral director’s help, get your wallet out and look far and wide until you find someone who fits the description above, and be glad to pay for the support and validation he or she can give you. It’d be worth it.

    1. Charles

      Actually, Charles, I rather enjoyed your weddings comparison, but haven’t had a mo to comment until now.

      People who invest in weddings do ‘want’ them, of course. Those people feed on all manner of individual and group fantasies to elaborate an event that is designed to meet their needs, as far as they understand them.

      But I’m not sure that it’s right to say that people don’t want funerals. For sure, they might not want the dead to be dead. But they want a good funeral. It’s just bollox that — as we all keep saying — that we are not sufficiently in the habit of discussing and reviewing our ritual needs, and so get fleeced for a ‘hearse and one’ instead of knowing in advance what will really matter (and whether it needs money to be achieved).

  3. Charles

    I think funerals are perhaps one area of life where you really unlikely to get what you pay for.

    The big corporate style firms often charge twice as much for delivering almost zero support compared with the best independents. Anyone ‘under orders’ to sell a typical hearse and one funeral, regardless of the clients wishes – with no flexibility on price, date and time, is offering the bereaved a very poor service.

    Unfortunately so far, the firms operating that way seem to benefit from big profits – thanks to their prices, operational efficiencies and a determination to resist the poor and least well off. I suppose if money is really your thing – go work for a big formula funeral director and grab yourself some commission.

  4. Charles

    No commission, certainly from one of the ‘Big Boys’, just a telling off if you do it wrong. Not very good pay rates either. Wherever that profit goes it isn’t to the ‘workers’. Possibly explains the standard of service!

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