Statement from Phillip Greenfield Funeral Partners

Charles 59 Comments

Phillip Greenfield, Chief Executive of Funeral Partners and owners of Gillman’s Funeral Directors who featured in last night’s Exposure programme of ‘The British Way of Death’ has made a video statement of the company’s response to the revelations.

The full text of what he says can be found on the Funeral Partners website here.

Two exposures of bad practice in the funeral industry in three months. The deeply shocking and utterly despicable behaviour of Gillman’s staff present a very specific issue, but we believe the two programmes expose the failure of two different versions of the corporatised funeral business, where the balance between service and profit has been lost.

When Funeralcare was exposed we made an offer to George Tinning to talk to and work with the Co-op to help them look again at customer service in their business and publicise their planned improvements.

We repeat the offer here to Funeral Partners: a great many people visit this website, this blog in particular. Doubtless you will, in the coming weeks and months, wish to get messages out to consumers which will restore their faith in Funeral Partners. We should be very happy to publicise these for you.


  1. Charles

    These bad practicies have been going on for years. People like mr. greenfield should spend a month working in their own companies, seeing what the reality is for their workers. I ‘ve witnessed the same things happening for years in this business – bad practice and managers who have no clue how to do things properly or ensure staff are doing their jobs properly. Extremely heavy coffins being carried by 4 bearers, when 6 are absolutely neded ..complain, and you are told “stop moaning and get on with it “…having heard the lame excuses from Mr. Greenfield, with his attitude – I doubt anything will change.

    1. Charles

      This programme did not expose the TRUE Funeral Director, but rather took us back to an era of undignified, uncaring undertaking. This lot could not even be described as being COWBOYS, they were not good enough to be cowboys.
      The NAFD should take immediate steps to suspend Gillmans, and following an NAFD investigation (not an internal FPL whitewash) kick them out with Press Announcements to send a message to both other equally poor operators and the public that the NAFD will not let these operators disgrace our Profession.
      This goes beyond the Group/Independent issues that many are raising. There are (probably) as many independents out there whose services would not stand up to scrutiny…and not just in areas that the public rarely get to see.
      I felt sick watching this programme and had to force myself to view it in it’s entirety, God help those recently bereaved who used this firm or indeed any Funeral Company and saw this exposure, because let me assure you all, regardless of how high OUR standards are, the public are talking about our profession and judging us on this evidence.
      In just the same way as expensive doesn’t ensure Good Service, NOR does cheap, so please stop the infighting, let all of US who have the true interest of the bereaved at heart get together and stamp out these cowboy operators, be they groups or independents.

  2. Charles

    I completely agree with Sue, everything shown on these programs has been par for the course with these companies. Where I don’t agree is that the implication that the top management are somehow unaware of what goes on at lower levels of their companies. They are fully aware, they just don’t care as long as they aren’t receiving complaints and sales figures are met.

  3. Charles

    Hello Charles

    Unless I’ve missed something, it seems that YOU ARE STILL waiting for responses from George Tinning to your various ‘open letters’…..and as I’ve said before, this apparent refusal to respond can only harm their business



  4. Charles

    If you will employ this type of person Mr Greenfield, what do you expect!

    Your opening line is about your service to the families, no mention of the dead then!!!

    Typical diversionary response “all the cards and letters of gratitude” I wonder if those grateful families had witnessed the way their loved ones were handled and spoken about ‘back stage’ what they would say then?

    Every day I deal with traumatised families complaining about undertaker services. Virtually none of them has the strength to complain through the official channels. Some FDs know this and try to fool everyone with the ‘Oh we do thousands of funerals and rarely receive a complaint story’. Ostriches or ‘what they don’t know wont hurt them’ or self denial, I wonder.

    You address the racism but what about the undignified, blue gel senario? No respect or dignity at all. Disgusting and disgraceful.

    Maybe the front of house in these big firms should have cctv so they can watch and listen to what is going on behind the scenes. Vile the lot of them.

    We know that there are some brilliant funeral directors out there, all feeling sick to their stomachs today. Can I guide everyone to our ‘questions to ask a funeral director’ pdf.
    also the brand new Funeral Advisor website, maybe together with these types of approaches we can help the public demand and get a decent service.

    1. Charles


      here’s my (additional) input into your post:-

      “If you will employ this type of person Mr Greenfield, what do you expect!” – exactly, is or wasn’t it, people and not a person?

      “Your opening line is about your service to the families, no mention of the dead then!!!” – merely pawns used as part of ‘the profit machine’

      “Typical diversionary response “all the cards and letters of gratitude” I wonder if those grateful families had witnessed the way their loved ones were handled and spoken about ‘back stage’ what they would say then?” – yes, I seem to recall that this was the same sycophantic comment from one George Tinning

      “Some FDs know this and try to fool everyone with the ‘Oh we do thousands of funerals and rarely receive a complaint story’” – in my book one dissatisfied family is one too many

      “…..but what about the undignified, blue gel senario?….” exactly, what is/was the reasoning behind the gel – a substitute for washing?

      “…..We know that there are some brilliant funeral directors out there, all feeling sick to their stomachs today” – I’m not at all surprised



      1. Charles


        Just for your information, the “blue gel” you refer to is likely to be a product called “syngel”. It is fairly expensive topical embalming product, which helps preserve the skin and upper layers of dermis.

        It is used to obtain superior results, and can be used either on it’s own, together with chilling, or in addition to arterial embalming the subject.

        A product I endorse without hesitation.


        1. Charles


          Syngel is only effective when used by people who know what they are doing, the people shown using it didn’t even have a clue which was which. When used as it was in the program with no other consideration given to any real embalming technique it was futile and a total waste of time.

          It is a wonderful product when used in the right way, but a terrible alternative to real embalming especially in a place with such lousy refrigeration.

          1. Charles


            I never suggested otherwise.

            As you say, it’s a great product, and from the Dodge range of embalming chemicals. I’ve used it for around 20 years.

            It is however, for professional use only. The ethical implications of allowing “non-trained non-mortuary” staff to “have-a-go” is beyond any acceptable practice I’ve ever known.


        2. Charles

          I cannot see how you can describe this product as being…”used for superior results”…when clearly the manner in which it was applied in THIS case did NOT give superior results. Surely Arterial Embalming is the most effective method of temporary preservation? Using an ointment as a surface preservative cannot have the same effect as professional embalming.
          I do not advocate embalming is for everyone, it obviously is not, however, it is the ONLY way to reasonably assure that a deceased person does not suffer severe Decompostion and subsequently cause distress to the bereaved.
          The use of refridgeration is only useful as long as the deceased remains in those conditions, even then this only gives a TEMPORARY respite from the Natural process that occurs after death.
          Rubbing a gel on a deceased is NO SUBSTITUTE for doing the professional job for which I am sure the firm concerned was paid.

          1. Charles

            John, I sincerely agree with every word you say.

            Perhaps I did not phrase my point as well as I could have…

            What I intended, was to advise Andrew what the product actually was and what it does.

            In my view, having used Syngel on many occasions over the past 20 or so years, I rate the product. It most certainly is not a substitute for arterial embalming, but used in conjunction gives a superior result.

            What say you Ken?

            Reegards, Nick

  5. Charles

    Such a sad, sordid and horrible affair. My heart breaks for those whom we saw being so callously treated in the care of FPL. No body deserves that. Any organisation surely takes its ethos, its guidance, its direction from its leaders – be it a charity, a supermarket, a school or a funeral director. Mr Greenfield should have read the taking in the in-breath post to get some sincerity into his apology. What is totally unacceptable is not monitoring, not knowing, or perhaps not caring, what your staff are doing at all levels of your business. I thought Managing Directors managed or directed, I’m hopelessly naive. Apologise if and when you get found out seems to be the default position. No, wait, George Tinning from Co-operative Funeralcare didn’t even apologise, did he?

  6. Charles

    The programme I watched last night was disgusting no respect what so ever. I think everyone that appeared in it should be sacked and never allowed to worked with people again dead or alive.!
    Why do we have to wait so long to bury or cremate our loved ones? Why do they have to be put through all of what we have seen on the programme disgraceful….
    The Family that paid out £11,000 for the furneral that everyone said he smelt was the saddest of all, when asked if she will get her money back he hesitated. The family should get £11,000 and a lot more.
    Disgusting the M&S. bag over the lady,s head, disgusting the blue gel to cover the body and rubbed in to her tities, disgusting the sainsbury’s plastic bag with the clothing in shoved in the end of the coffin disgusting
    OMG i could go on but the more I’m doing the more I am getting upset.

    Today we should be able to handle every thing ourselves like they do in Ireland. Die one day buried the next the family take care there is no undertaker getting involved they dress and wash the person with tender loving care the family’s dig the grave the family’s carry the coffin (with pride) it’s an honour to be asked and an Irish furneral to carry the coffin. The family fill in the grave and then look after that plot for many years to com.

    So so respectful

    1. Charles

      Hi Maggie

      We can and some families do carry out everything themselves here too. The NDC charity offer guidance and support on all relevant points through our helpline, website and of course we cover every angle in the Natural Death Handbook.

      Unfortunately not everyone has friends/family who can cope with a DIY/Home funeral approach. We can but dream of a time when entering every funeral directors premises is safe and without fear of abuse or pressure selling.

      Maybe more people should engage with the process and ask to witness every step even if they don’t want to join in.

      As well as the GFG we have a list of funeral directors who have signed a pledge to be decent, transparent, flexible and honest.

      There are respectful folk out there.

  7. Charles

    To react to this film by saying the dreadful staff we saw should be sacked is to miss the point. What shocks me is that these firms are raking in vast sums of money with huge mark-ups on coffins etc and yet they are clearly unwilling to pay for decently trained, decently paid and decently equipped staff in sufficient numbers. This is about funeral bosses who have had it too easy for too long, with people at the point of bereavement not questioning the level of charges, and, because people don’t really want to know what goes on in the back rooms of funeral parlours, getting away with scandalously low standards and pocketing the dosh that should be spent on the service they claim they provide.

  8. Charles

    Absolutely disgraceful,yet this happens in all large companies, the mark up on coffins is disgusting, yet to whack £100`s of pounds on a horse drawn carriage is daylight robbery, does making a phone call to book it cost £100`s.
    Im an independent funeral director, we dont charge extra if a client decides they wanrt the horses.
    As for the likes of Dignity, co-op funeral(dont)care =, Fairways, and FPL
    they shouldnt be allowed to trade under family names when there is no family employed in the branch.
    Personaly i cant understand why people go to these parasites, just look at the millions in profit they make each year that should say it all.
    I have worked for large national funeral companies but i cant justify the costs and underhand ways to sell, sell,sell.
    Hopefully they will lose business very quickly.

    1. Charles

      Hello ‘anon’

      A ‘transparency issue’ again – after the Coop hoo hah, I blogged persistently, one of my ‘targets’ was Mutual Services (Portsmouth) Ltd, the holding Company for Southern Coop F/D and ‘what they hide’ from the public

      I haven’t checked to see if this has had any impact on their ‘web presence’ but I’m holding out virtually nil hope



  9. Charles

    I find it quite strange that you have not berated FPL with the same venom as you did with the Co op. Charles is there a reason for this, are you in someway connected business wise with FPL, also I understand Mr. Powell, at one time was employed by FPL! the plot thickens!

    1. Charles


      Charles is a big boy, tall rather than wide and can look after himself and has since replied

      You are reading way too much into absolutely nothing


  10. Charles

    Hello, Frank. I’ve just got back from a long day away. I haven’t seen the programme yet nor had a chance to sharpen my pen. What can I add?

    The difference between FPL and Co-operative Funeralcare is that the latter claims to embody higher values. It has further to fall.

    Your suggestion that I might have business links to FPL is, if you think about it, improbable and, I hope, unworthy of you. But for your pleasure and delectation I shall say yes, I have a £16 million stake in FPL and a lot to lose. Good to go?

    Your conspiracy theory is especially interesting. I think you should develop it. Is FPL really a jihadist front organisation? Sorry, I’m no good at this sort of thing, but your imagination seems to be on fire.

    Your drollerie is always welcome here, Frank. We need some light relief occasionally.

  11. Charles

    Frank I agree with Charles (now there is a first) and although I think it odd that there has not been the verification of FPL or Gilmans as there was for Funeralcare I do not think that CC has any connection. In fact as I have pointed put the GFG and the NDC both receive thanks on the ITV website for what can only be assistance in compiling it.

    It’s interesting that in the runup to this programme we we tempted in the media with Racists comments disrespect of the deceased and appalling facilities and got all ofmthatolus more. With Dispatches we were promised naked bodies stacked like TV’s and disrespect of the deceased, and got covered remains in a professional state of the art mortuary and a coffin placed in an ambulance without the lid, at the suggestion of the reporter, whilst all the time the driver was saying, we should not be doing this, so even if it was disrespectful it did not look to me like it was meant to be.

    1. Charles

      Here’s another first David, I agree with you.
      I find the hub system thoroughly unpleasant, and emblematic of all that is wrong with corporate funeral firms, but the staff forced to use it in the Despatches doc were acting with as much dignity as they could muster under the circumstances. What I really objected to, and think that the Co-op management have succeeded in completely swerving, was the cynical, venal overselling of products to a largely elderly, largely working class customer base who still believe that the Co-op are looking out for them. That, alongside the outrageous margins shown in last night’s documentary is the real scandal, not the muttering asides of underpaid, undertrained and most importantly undervalued ignorant idiots.

      1. Charles

        Hello Rupert

        I currently cannot find one of the pieces that I wrote on Corporate greed in this industry

        The ITV doc concentrated (as I said yesterday) on the ‘back office facilities’ and not on the sales side but it is abundantly clear how these large organisations are set up in terms of arranging and dividing up their cake and it’s pretty clear that the groundforce backroom team get the smallest proportion, the sales/funeral arrangers will get more and area management (who on the whole probably know little about the profession) a ridiculous amount and then we have the fat cats at the top, but of course

        by dumbing down the essential backroom facilities to these sorts of levels and with the minium of investment. simply creates what we saw earlier this week and as I’ve said at least once since then, the funeral industry is totally unsuitable for the Corporate world

        we are yet to have LM Funerals ‘featured’ but here again they’re backed by ‘Vulture Capital funds’ and have an incredibly well paid Chief Executive and seem to be set up on exactly the same way as FPL, indeed they have the names of their area management on their website. The last time that I saw an LM invoice for a funeral and it was around nine years ago, even then this was way in excess of your average independent and I’m sure there has been no difference since then



    2. Charles

      Dear ‘Dave’

      I covered this yesterday (on another thread):-

      “……In fact as I have pointed put the GFG and the NDC both receive thanks on the ITV website for what can only be assistance in compiling it.In fact as I have pointed put the GFG and the NDC both receive thanks on the ITV website for what can only be assistance in compiling it…..”

      possibly you had not seen this before posting the above?

      Let me perhaps underline what I have already said in ‘firmer detail’: When Matthew Maynard’s son Tom accidentally died on the District line tracks earlier this Summer, there would have been a link on the BBC news story to ‘The Independent Police Complaints Commission’. That’s standard journalism. The IPCC had of course no previous involvement in this sad event and this is comparable to the ITV website piece. I hope you see where I am coming from?

      Charles Cowling is doing invaluable work on this site (and that’s putting it mildly), Charles clearly must have a strong constitution. An apology from you would be decent, I feel?


    3. Charles

      I do not agree that the mortuary shown in the depatches programme about CWS was in any way state of the art. The dead were stacked up to the ceiling without anything to seperate them from exposure to anyone who came into the facility. Unlike the walled and doored facility seen on hospital programmes and cis etc.
      A huge COLD ROOM, not a purpose biuilt mortuary store.

  12. Charles

    Dave, Charles has yet to watch FPL and Dignity on camera, it should be an interesting blog tomorrow, it was a horror show, a Company ruthless with NO regard of feeling or empathy to the individual or the people who entrusted them. Charles has (if not financial connections) a fondness towards FPL!

  13. Charles

    I guess it’s time to make some comments since my name has been brought up.

    I worked for FPL for a year as a consultant doing acquisitions and saw only the highest standards of care and dignity both from the management and the staff. However when I was there they had “only” about 20 branches and it had a very family orientated feel. As I said in my previous post – from the changes I saw at Abbotsfield I had the utmost respect for Phillip and his team.

    One of the challenges of a growing business is that you loose that daily personal contact with each of your employees and so place an ever increasing amount of TRUST in them.

    I was actually very disappointed with the program. Yes the behaviour of some staff was abhorrent and I am sure they are no longer employed by FPL, the under-staffing and quality of staff need looking at. Let’s face it they shouldn’t even be working in a McDonalds. But the repetition of the accusations, in my mind, ended up undermining the whole thing.

    I’m sure things will change at FPL, let’s hope that many of the independents out there that I visited whilst working for Phillip, who were desperate to sell their grotty little businesses and that we turned down buck up some of their ideas. The one’s with the Rolls Royce in the garage but no refrigeration, the ones using a shed for a mortuary or with dirty stained chairs and net curtains and those who were just closed when I and families tried calling.

    Let’s be honest the whole industry needs a shake up and if the Government aren’t going to regulate it then our only hope is people like Charles (who I have absolutely no influence over but whose opinions I respect and trust) continue to stir things up.

    1. Charles

      Hello Bryan
      In my discussion with some former Kenyon Emergency team members today, establishing the fraudulent identity of “Nom De Plume ” you were referred to as the Bryan Powell who sold his business in The Midlands, (Coventry, Leamington, was it called Ison or Eason,? ) a few years back. Can this be true ? Did you take the King’s shilling Bryan ?

      How much money did you make Bryan ? Tell us do !! Are you now a gamekeeper turned poacher ?

      1. Charles

        Dear Ken

        If you actually verbally used that expression in your conversation, I would be very grateful if the name ‘Plume’ doesn’t appear. Thankyou

        I’m sure that you didn’t but felt it important to underline this



  14. Charles

    Before any conspiracy theorist out there asks, ‘how can Charles blog on a programme he hadn’t seen?’, I should ‘fess up that I posted this blog in reaction to the ‘British way of death’.

    I am sorry if I didn’t sound outraged enough for some of you – I thought words like ‘despicable’ and ‘disgusting’ expressed my reactions as well as I could. In truth I was, like many people, left simply speechless at some of the scenes shown.

    The issue with the Co-op that makes it stand out is, as Charles has said, that it trades on a reputation of being on your side, when it behaves in just the same way that the vulture capitalists do. There is a different sort of dishonesty at work in FPL – masquerading as small local and independent when it is, in reality, being driven for shareholder benefit by companies that have no interest in or loyalty to the trade. That is where their fault lies.

    They get away with it because a veneer of comfort and respectability and the distress of the consumer means that most people don’t ask the questions that consumers can usually be relied on to ask. That is why it is the corporate behaviour of companies like these is so unprincipled, exploitative and unacceptable.

    And I don’t believe for a moment that the bosses who turn up on youtube looking so worried and apologetic about the shocking things that have just been seen on TV are as ignorant as they make out. If you structure a business with tight cost controls, sales and profits drives, bonus structures for managers and penalties for poor performance – you know what you are creating.

    But don’t blame the GFG for it. It’s the only voice out there that has consistently praised all sectors of the industry when they get it right and criticised all sectors when they get it wrong. It’s one of the very few voices that has, without money or support, and often in the teeth of considerable industry abuse, argued for a better way. Not because there is money in it, but because people deserve better. And with a little imagination and effort and perhaps a slightly smaller profit margin for the vultures, it is within everyone’s reach.

    That’s why, with Charles blessing, I repeated GFGs offer to work with these corporates not to improve their image but to try to bring about real system-wide change.

    It’s the only way to make sure that horrors and abuses like the ones seen on both TV programmes are never allowed to happen again.

    (And before anyone says it, we are about to relaunch the GFG Recommended Funeral Director scheme in a new more rigorous form to offer support to the independent sector too).

  15. Charles

    Still a lot of flack being thrown a Dignity and Coop for having hubs or more specifically large hubs, but lets get some perspective here.
    Many many independent firms operate hubs of some description and some of the larger ones operate quite large hubs, such as Lodge Bros and Lyms ( must have seen refrigeration for at least. 40 on dead good job). So why the mud thrown in the corporate direction only.

    Does any one know how many “hubs” funeral care have country wide? If they do please post up the number. We do know they do 100,000 funerals from 900 branches which is about 110 funerals per branch, if we new the number of hubs we could work out how many funerals per hub? And I guess that on average less funerals are organised “per hub” that are arranged than in the majority of independents.

    We need to stop banging on about hubs and think about the people. When I worked in a large hub, I did not suddenly become uncaring and less of a funeral director.

    I think the next TV documentary that is being made about individual client complaints will have a much wider focus that just the corporates, but it won’t do the profession any good either.

    1. Charles


      I completely agree, there’s no ‘more mileage in the hub’ discussion, unless there are shocking business practices

      It should now (all) be about what the client is paying and how this is approached with the client, whether good or bad…… of course ‘the transparency of ownership issues’ too


  16. Charles

    FPL bought Huntleys in Redditch 5 years ago, their first acquisition, since then they have gone from strength to strength, a portfolio only FAIRWAYS would be proud of. I understand that Fairways sold out to the Co op for a great profit and the former Directors of Fairways Established FPL…is this a magic roundabout?

    1. Charles


      well there’s, fwiw, a little more to this than what you have mentioned

      in Surrey and Hampshire, there are quite a few ‘named firms’ who were owned by Fairways but are now part of the FPL organisation, i.e. Woking F/S, Diamond & Son, JL Sturney and AH Rogers

      my understanding is, is that for some of these (but not all) there was already a Funeralcare branch in the immediate vicinity, so I assume that they had to be offloaded (to avoid yet more competion issues but of course, not to an independent



  17. Charles

    Co op, Dignity, Funeral Partners Limited (a family oriented Funeral Service) Trade under your own group names, if your proud of the service you all provide, then drop the family name you acquired! You will never be able to hold your heads up high if you don’t believe in your own service… as an independent family owned and orientated funeral service, in every possible way….DONT LET US SEE SCENES LIKE THAT AGAIN!

  18. Charles

    Not to chuck too many tacky irons into the fire, I personally telephoned Messrs Gillman & Co around 15 months ago in order to commend a client to them.

    I knew that Rodger had departed from the firm, and I asked the female receptionist that answered my call whether Rodger had “sold the firm”.

    No. the reply was that “Gillmans’s have merged, not sold out”.

    Talk about misrepresentation?

    1. Charles

      Hi Nick

      imo, it isn’t just that, it’s what appears on the FPL individually owned form’s websites, that’s also an issue. Here’s part of what appears:-

      “………Family-orientated funeral directors of distinction….”

      err………….. and again imo the wording ‘Family-orientated’ should definitely be dropped and pdq



      1. Charles

        Clever wording Andrew, but perfectly “legal”.

        Reminds me of a case some years ago when The Co-op took over McKennas (a large multi-branch Lancashire based family firm) without re-branding it.

        Outside one branch (or maybe more) was an existing sign saying “Family funeral directors” There was, I recall, a bit of a do about this, as the Co-op refused to change it. Trading standards were involved.

        The Co-op sucessfully argued that it actually now meant that as funeral directors, they arranged funerals for families.


  19. Charles

    I would love to see some of these big corporates on the TV show Undercover Boss but very much doubt they would ever wish to deliberately disclose some of the behind the scenes goings on. Forget ‘hubs’ for a minute, how lovely would it be to show the ‘unsung heros’ of the funeral trade too those that sit daily with the grieving handing the tissues to the snotty bleery eyed mourners and listening to pensioners who are fondly talking of their life lived together with this person who has died.
    Come on if Ann Summers can do it why can’t dignity?

    just a thought.

  20. Charles

    to Anon, (and everyone else)

    I was interested in what you said about the additional charge to hire the horses, it’s not just horses of course that there is a surcharge on. That’s why suppliers often offer a trade price. Credit to you for not adding to the burden of costs.

    However the worst case of this ripping off I have personally come across was actually an independent FD.
    A young man had died at a VW festival and had seen our cars in the show and shine display and said to his pal if anything happens to me I want those. Well sadly the following day this gent did die at the show and of course word got around that someone had died .
    I was contacted by the FD who was asked to carry out the service for this family. I said that I knew what had happened and I wanted to help his family plan what he wanted. I cut my charge to bare bones the amount I quoted was £450. I wanted to give his family what he had wished for although it was at quite some distance from my base.
    I never heard from them again I was rather surprised I have to say and then while I was looking through the internet just checking out my company name I discovered a forum/blog. This blog was calling me all the names under the sun I was a rip off merchant! The price given to the family for my hearse was £1395, a whopping mark up of £945!
    I was horrified and very angry and upset that these people thought it was me that was greedy. I wrote on the forum that I had not quoted any where near that amount and that they should go and speak with their greedy funeral director. I never heard any more.
    How can we suppliers continue to trade when there are people like this out there, they would be happy to put us out of business I guess.

    1. Charles

      I read this with interest. I went to a funeral recently wherein a Horse hearse was employed. The weather was a bit rough, very wet and windy. The Horse hearse owner/operator told the undertaker that they were not prepared to do the service because of the weather and safety issues…it wasn’t that bad a day. The undertaker asked the horse person if they were going to cancel their fee as well as their services, they would not becaue they had travelled over 100 miles in their 2 HGV’s to get to the point of service. They would only reduce their charge by 50 quid. The undertaker had to provide their own hearse, which was unavailable due to it being booked in for service and they KNEW they wouldn’t need it, so they had to get one from a rival business. The family were very upset and disappointed, as well as being understandably angry, it was after all their Joe’s wish to go on the Traditional vehicle he always wanted.
      The undertaker couldn’t charge the family for the Horse hearse, nor could they realistically expect the family to pay for the clapped out local assistant provided hearse, which they didn’t want in the first instance, so the undertaker sent in his bill without these items. I have learnt from the sister that they are refusing to pay the undertaker anything for his services as …they had booked an inclusive service that in their understanding of the contract they agreed to include a hearse pulled by horses, and that at no time was it an implied part of the contract that a modern vehicle be used in its place…Legal jargon from some lawer apparantly. So the undertaker not only lost out on the horse fee, (which he had to pay for fear of never getting them out again) he also lost the cost paid to the local rival (350) and failed to get any payment for the funeral other than the grave and priest fee. The family even refused the paper announcement, service sheet charges because it said Horse Drawn Funeral and that was not what they got.
      Perhaps these are a few reasons why the underatkers charge more than the Hire fee.
      Undertakers are at the end of the day BUSINESS ventures, if they dont make a profit, they cannot supply the service that people request of them. Being in a different trade myself, I also have to make a profit and in addittion to the charges I make for the things I supply, I also add on to the cost I buy things for. I think you will find that ALL businesses do the same.
      Can anyone for example really justify charging 12,000 or more for one night in a hotel room?
      When the standard room costs as little as 150? Yet if you stay in the econolodge it will be 50 quid?
      A rolls royce costs 250000 new, but you can buy a susuki for less than 6000.
      Harrods charge 3 times the price that ToysRUs do on some of their toys.
      In the meat dept they charge 2 or 3 times what tesco do for steak. It is the same with spuds.
      And they probably buy them from the same place.
      Corner shops/independent stores often charge more than Tesco M&S Sainsbury etc for the same goods.
      One thing they all have in common is that they charge MORE than they pay for them.
      I dare say the NDC/GFG who produce books for sale charge more than they actually cost to buy…just a thought.
      A business naturally sells something for more than it costs, in the undertaking trade quite often the final bill is not paid, like council tax SOMEONE has to foot the bill, it is therefore I suspect added onto their overall costs so everyone else pays it. Most places get their money when a purchase is made, I have it on good authority that undertakers RARELY get paid in advance.

      1. Charles

        John, thank you very much for this tale of woe, which certainly gives us another perspective on margins. At a contractual level, I’m very surprised the horse-hearse people had not addressed this contingency; I expect this must happen often. Having said which, I think we can all agree that the law has only a very distant and often estranged relationship with justice.

        Yes, all good grown-ups know that goods have margins. But in the case of the third-party fee, is it not difficult to justify? Especially when the admin/agency fee is covered in the professional charge?

        As to my book, John, I have to tell you that authors are right at the end of the food chain. I have not, nor shall I, make any money out of it — unless it suddenly turns into an overnight bestseller. The record shows that it will almost certainly not.

        1. Charles

          I am not in any way dissing your book, I have read it after it was given free of charge to a friend of a friend by a Cardiff based undertaker who had purchased it from a Humanist Officiant…very long winded roundabout story. Anyway, my friend had learned she was only with us for a few more months (Big C) and she needed help and guidance planning her service, teh Cardiff undertaker visited her sveral times and gave her good advice, she ended up having a lovely service with a Humanist lady who also allowed a Hymn, she was one of a couple pre interviewed by my late friend.
          I digress. Anyway, my point was simply that everyone charges for their services and if you are subcontracting, you accept liability for that subcontractors work as well. Should the subcontractor let you down, YOU have let the main purchaser (cllient) down and it is from YOU not the 3rd Party that the client will seek redress.
          I read in an earlier blog that some undertakers take their motor hearse on the funeral as well as the Horse one, that being the case, do they charge for both? If not, maybe that is another reason for 100% or so surcharge on the hire charge. Do the undertakers get the money upfront, or do they hope to get paid after the event? I dont know but there are some on here who might.
          As an outsider looking it, I have to say that there seems to be much infighting, distrust, bitterness even between people who do make a livingg out of what should be a dignified noble profession and those who feel that undertakers are exploiting death and the bereaved.
          I can only say, that as a purchaser of a funeral, I received a fantastic level of service at a (what I considered to be anyhow) fair price. I paid a bit more than if I had gone to a smaller cheaper business, but decided the re was no comparisson in the staff vehicles premises . I used a family undertaker, not a coop or the people on TV the other day. They allowed us to look around their premises and even see there garage and vehicles, as well as having a coffee and kitcat and a chat. No pressuer, no upselling, no telling us what to do, lots and lots of questions about what WE wanted.
          Sorry I went on a bit there. Seems to me ther are good people out there as well as the not so good. I do not think the bad are all the big boys though, I have heard some terrible tales about smaller groups that are family orientated but not family owned but that is another tale for another day.

      2. Charles

        Hello John

        a woeful tale as Charles mentioned

        ‘Horse drawn hearses’ are pretty popular these days even when the additional costs are factored in and I recall a conversation with an excellent F/D, one of those recommeneded on this site, who said categorically (and rightly so, imo) that whenever it’s the four legged form of transport, a conventional hearse always goes too, should the horse(s) go lame etc. That’s even when they use what is probably the best known firm of Carriage Masters in the UK

        So whenever I’m out and about and see the horses pulling the hearse, that conversation always springs to mind, often there’s no back up motor transport in the cortege



    1. Charles

      Ahh! Thanks Charles, I’ll wait with bated breath in hopes that Ken does the decent thing and comes clean, so to speak.

      Ken, if you’re a professional embalmer, and you’ve got something worthy of saying, then by blogging here you’re educating me with your wisdom.

      Without decent input, a blog can get stale. Lets hear from you – but obviously within the acceptable ‘rules’ that Charles has had to enforce.


  21. Charles

    Well, a quick scroll down revealed some interesting facts, but none as shocking than the non participation of the wretched Philip Greenfield. What can we do to make FPL, Dignity and Cooperative Funeralcare take responsibility for appalling standards of behaviour and dreadful attitudes of members of their staffs?

  22. Charles

    I am glad my family showed me the documentary on ipad last night and i was able to evaluate the above comments.

    Having lost various family and friends in the past few years . I felt disgusted and trauamatised by the staff perception/ beliefs, ideology through out the programme.

    pakis and vadgy, chelsea scum, m&s bags,

    greenfield and other are aloof in relations to how his staff treated the deceased and thier families. being of afro-caribbean ( racist/ neglect/ lack etiquitte) descent i could relate to the lady who piad £11,000.

    We will ensure to use afro- caribbean undertakers in the past

  23. Charles

    Yes I agree as an Independent funeral director I honestly believe that this program has done nothing but agitate suspicion. Yes I agree there where a few issues surrounding the office staff, there was no excuse for her dishonesty. However I think where the MD of Funeral Care went a bit wrong was fact that he skirted round the issue of the hub operation. Let me point out some facts. Coffins: Are we to close every coffin factory in the UK because the coffins have been stacked. Let me tell you all in most proper coffin setups, they are not just stacked they are racked high into the air requiring an extendable fork lift truck to bring the pallet down. 2) Racking of Deceased Persons; Earlsfield Hub serves the heart of London. You only need to look at the statistics for the cause of death of many of the poor soul’s that are sent on their way in London and its surrounding areas on a daily basis. Lots of these people have had PM examinations, lots of these people have died with complications arising from complex medical and contagious infections that are still active post death. HIV, HEP A, HEP B, HEP C, Sepsis and sometimes AIDS. A company the size of Funeralcare will have consulted expert Mortuary Scientists and it will have been looked at with a view to provide the safest and most effective way that these people can be looked after and stored in a way that their Dignity will be protected and the staff entrusted to look after them and also the families of whom they belong are protected from these added risks. It is the most sterile way of doing this and it ensures that all concerned including the deceased are protected. What I have just said it the total truth as bad as it may seem; however it is a very sad but true fact of life. 3) Embalming needed; Over time when people have passed away changes occur. The person is no longer a living being. From the second the heart stops and death occurs there are all kinds of things going on that we don’t see and we cant stop without intervention. So I agree, if a family wishes to view it would un ethical as a Funeral Pro not to insist on Embalming. Why would we ever wish any one to see any one they loved with their tongue hanging out, blood, mucous and a lot of time the contents of their bowel exposed in the plastic body bag they have been sent from the hospital in. Or as a business are we to aspirate the bowel, close their mouth and clear away the sad but natural signs and symptoms of death? I ask the question if £50.00 is what they are charging for HT then its worth every single penny. Anyone who complains about this must be mad. Why is it ok in London to pay 15.00 for a buzz cut if your a gent? But is isn’t ok to charge £50.00 to make sure that a person is cared for by a highly trained Pro, using goodness how much water, several gallons of hot water, gallons of special chemicals and then disposing of anything soiled that may have come with the deceased from the place of where they passed. 4) The ombudsman was so effective as a body pardon the pun it is still working today. I get annoyed with my fellow independents for shouting about the larger groups. I know my service is better I simply up my game if it isn’t, I wonder if the Ombudsman has ever sat down with a family, arranged a funeral, conducted a funeral and cared for a deceased person as i do every single day. In conclusion yes a few issues that are not good but look at this program for what it was. Drama to get viewers. Lets close down coffin factory’s because they stacke the coffins. Lets not bother charging or giving proper advice and leave it to the government to look after our dead. Lets go back to the 1930’s where we just was and put a sandbag under the chin of a deceased person to close their mouths. Then lets sit back and see what happens. CRISIS, DECEASE, DEATH and people unable to GRIEVE in Peace. I hope I have made my point. Sorry if I have been blunt but I think it needed to be said. Steve

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