Undertakers overcharge, situation normal

Charles Cowling

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You may or not have been up early enough to catch the ITV Daybreak piece on funerals on Thursday morning. The GFG media monitoring team wasn’t. It was at the seaside. Had it not been for a call from Rosie at the Natural Death Centre we would have missed it altogether.

Impelled by a strong sense of duty, and to the accompaniment of howls of impatience — you have to wade through acres of vapid adverts to get to it — we have now witnessed the report for ourselves. 

We learned nothing new. The tone was hostile and entirely price-focussed. ITV had commissioned a poll and discovered that 1 in 3 of us feels pressurised into spending more than we want; 42 per cent of us feel we were overcharged; 1 person in 3 doesn’t understand the costs; and 1 person in 7 isn’t happy with the service. It all depends how you word the questions, doesn’t it?

ITV requested quotes from 120 funeral homes around the country for a simple funeral. Something like £2000 separated the cheapest from the dearest. 

A woman seeking direct cremation was told by one funeral director “We don’t do that” and failed to recommend someone who would. Her google-savvy daughter, after “weeks”on the internet, eventually sourced Poppy Mardall, whom she praised to the skies. How she missed all the other direct cremationists out there is a mystery. 

Dominic Maguire, for the NAFD, countered criticism by reminding us that a third or more of the cost of a funeral is disbursements and only 80 people complained last year. 

There was good advice about asking a friend to do the ‘project management’. We were told that we could do it all ourselves, but we were given no guidance on the small matter of how to look after a dead body. 

The report did not tell us that there are lots and lots of good guys in the industry; seek and you shall find. It was, arguably, an unhelpful omission. 

You can catch the report on the ITV Player here. Starts at 7.42. 

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andrew plumeJedNick Gandonandrew plumeEdward Cutler Recent comment authors

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Edward Cutler
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We have offered direct cremations since we opened in 2009. These have always been very well received by our clients.

Would it not be worth forming a Trade Association dedicated to Direct Cremation Providers?

ian
Guest
ian

nick, do you have premises at all? Even if you work ‘from home’ you could have a dedicated ‘home office’ that you can use for work…as for a range of coffins, well, you can always offer them at a slightly increased price – in theory we ‘offer’ american style caskets. No- ones ever had one, though… All funeral directors that belong to the NAFD offer, and always have offered, a ‘simple’ funeral. That is, by its very definition, a direct-cremation. I either have been or have worked for a company that belonged the NAFD and it’s a stipulation in their… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

Ian, yes we have premises. We don’t have the traditional “shop front” that 99% of funeral directors maintain in the high street. We operate from a purpose-built mortuary, that is set within a leafy public cemetery. It contains a general area, fridge room, viewing room, toilet, office and a multi-purpose room that can work either as an office, reception room, or viewing room. I personally feel that this form of setup is perfect for the type of service we offer. It’s a modern, spacious mortuary with public areas added, rather than the usual palatial FDs public area with a cramped… Read more »

ian
Guest
ian

Nick – what aspects didn’t conform with their ‘code’?

Nick Gandon
Guest

A very good question Ian. At the inspection, the comments were that there was nothing that could not be overcome. That then mysteriously changed in the inspectors report to the membership committee saying there was no way that we could conform to the code. The main sticking point, I think, was that we did not intend to maintain a dedicated arrangement room in our mortuary premises. Being an internet-based provider, 95% of all our business is arranged, at distance, over the web, and by telephone. The other 5% represents a home visit. The lack of a range/choice of coffins for… Read more »

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Hi Nick

a tale of NAFD persona being stuck in the last decade, imo

surely, the whole point of ‘Direct Cremation’ is, is that a “range of coffins” isn’t especially essential, particularly as the attendees at the Crem will be minimal if nil

and the issue of the “absence” of an arranging room is just plain daft for your business model

regards

andrew

Nick Gandon
Guest

Thats the way I saw the situation as well, Andrew.

– Nick

Kitty
Guest
Kitty

‘We were told that we could do it all ourselves, but we were given no guidance on the small matter of how to look after a dead body.’
Perhaps the co-op could do one of their surveys and tell us how many people would consider a DIY funeral.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

By the same logic, Kitty, the home funeral movement could survey its adherents about how many of them would consider a Funearlcare funeral. It’s not only how you frame the questions, it’s who you ask them of.

(I didn’t see the offending programme – you lot have put me off bothering!)

Kitty
Guest
Kitty

‘It’s not only how you frame the questions, it’s who you ask them of.’ Exactly. Sorry J, firmly in cheek tongue was.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Oh Kitty, always rest assured that cheek is my own tongue’s fixed abode – I just relished the rejuxtaposition, that was all!

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Hello Kitty

I’m afraid that the Coop will almost certainly NOT consider this (at all), as with the other Corporates, their business models do “not entertain DIY funerals”

regards

andrew

Jed
Guest
Jed

I wonder if the Co-Op will even go and listen to Rosie from the NDC et al at the NFE discussing DIY ( how many acronyms can I fit in one comment?)

andrew plume
Guest
andrew plume

Jed

they will not bother, it’s literally an area that will never interest them…….there’s nil in it for them in terms of their sole aim to maximise profits…….ironically, it’s the sort of issue that their founding fathers would almost certainly have encouraged

andrew

Nick Gandon
Guest

I missed it too. What you say, Charles, about “how you word the questions” is a very good point. It’s surely also valid to ask why, when a reporter or client is trying to compare costs for a NO funeral arrangement, they approach a funeral director. The clue is painted over the door – “Funeral Director”. Their whole business model is set up to sell and conduct funerals. Of course their prices will be higher, and their methods and costs more expensive. For those folk who only want a cremation, carried out with care and dignity, the choice has never… Read more »

Andrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)
Guest

Do you not think though, Nick, that the reason the NAFD has to answer ‘hostile’ questions is because it (they) never gives straight answers? It was a perfectly simple question DM was asked, but he avoided it like a seasoned politician. Surely if the NAFD became more of a consumer-focused organisation, with the consumer being the public rather than the FD, it wouldn’t have this problem. But then, until it becomes even slightly effective at policing its members (eg insisting they offer a basic funeral (as per the code of practice) – not only when it’s asked for by name)… Read more »

Nick Gandon
Guest

Andrew, I cannot argue with your logic. But, as you so rightly point out, the name over the door is the NAFD (association of Funeral Directors), NOT the association for clients of funeral directors. My firm recently applied for membership. We were rejected. NOT because our premises were unacceptable. NOT because any other LOCAL member FDs opposed us. NOT because we were unprofessional. NOT, I hope, because the NAFD is in any way opposed to direct cremation services, but simply because we were judged (by the nature of our business), not to be able (in every single case) to adhere… Read more »

Rosie
Guest

Certainly nothing new to us but we are not your average ITV watching members of the public. It was typically annoying, the editing having removed much helpful advice and positive FD info. However, it pointed out some pretty radical stuff. This was mainstream TV informing millions that you should shop around, be careful, delegate, question and SHOCK HORROR do it yourself is possible. I am still amazed at conferences etc to meet professional gate keepers who haven’t got a clue. If they can’t offer advice, know the law and point folk in the right direction then we will have to… Read more »

Andrew Hickson (Kingfisher Funerals)
Guest

Almost exactly the same words I used in an e-mail the day it was aired, Jed, so no point in me repeating!

Jed
Guest
Jed

I watched it on ITVplayer but got so cross about those adverts – every time I tried to fast forward to the relevant bit I had to endure 6 more… GRRRRR I was pleased to hear Rosie from NDC speaking good advice and that Poppy’s Funerals got such a lovely mention. I guess people maybe don’t know how to search for ‘Direct Cremation’ – how would Joe Public know what it was called? As ever Mr Maguire, like a good politician, avoided the questions – from what I hear the reason people don’t get as far as complaining to NAFD… Read more »