A price worth paying for good value

Charles 31 Comments



How many shops do you know where the goods aren’t priced on the grounds that if you need to know the cost you can’t afford it? Outside a posh, celeb-prowled zone or two in London, my guess would be none.

Would you use a shop that didn’t display price tickets? Or a restaurant that didn’t have a menu in the window?

Or an undertaker who didn’t post their prices on their website?

That last question is a joke, of course. It would take an especially scullionly, vulgar little cut-price upstart to betray the dignity of a noble profession by doing any such thing. A Director of Funerals lives to serve the living by caring for their dead. He (or, okay, maybe she) is a member of a secular priesthood untainted by unworthy worldly concerns.

Enough satire, you protest. Cut it out. All right.

A great many good, decent, likeable undertakers agonise over whether to post prices on their website. They do this out of deference to the notion that to post prices would be to betray the decorum of their calling. Something like that. Nothing to do with upselling, of course. Truly. Good, businesslike undertakers despise upselling and build their margin into their professional fee, so they don’t need to.  

But failure to equip a potential client with what they need to know before they step into the premises places that client at a disadvantage that can only breed insecurity, cynicism and resentment. It looks like lack of openness. It is. It looks puzzling. It is. In an age in which shoppers do their price research on the internet before buying so much as a washing-up bowl, their inability to access this vital information in advance of the negotiation is a matter of angry frustration.

No wonder so many feel expertly ripped off.

The reason why so many good undertakers agonise over whether or not to post their price online is because they are torn between meeting the expectations of the market and deferring to the retrograde opinions of their fellow undertakers. Here’s a dilemma in which there can only be one winner. If you truly place the interests of your clients first, get em up there. Join the real world.

And stop spending so much time trying to impress each other.

This blog is no enemy of the principle of consolidation. A well-conducted corporate operator could bring great benefits to funeral shoppers. It was consumers who bankrupted the high street, remember, not Tesco, who simply offered the alternative of fresher, better, cheaper.

But the corporates operating in Funeralworld aren’t Tescos.  They’re not idiots, either. Their business model thrives because they know that bereaved people shop blind. It crumbles as soon as they start shopping with their eyes open.

If you can offer a handbuilt Morgan for the price of a mass-produced Fiesta, if you can offer a top-notch funeral for £500, £1000 less than Dignity and co, why on earth wouldn’t you tell the world about that? 

The price-savvy consumer is the good undertaker’s best friend. Get em up. 

WE ESPECIALLY LIKE Paul Sullivan, Kingfisher Funerals and Evelyn’s Funerals. Is there anyone we’ve missed? 


  1. Charles

    I believe the funeral industry is one of the last bastions to fall to serious price competition. The margins for many funeral directors is too high and serious challenges will emerge. We offer a complete service including Chapel of Rest viewing for £1895.

  2. Charles

    No Charles, what we really really want is more satire, not less. A journalist has just emailed me to say that my novel ‘R.I.P. Off! or The British Way of Death is ‘a masterpiece of tact and diplomacy that reveals a deep affection for and understanding off undertakers, a cruelly maligned group of professionals.’ What is he trying to tell me?

    1. Charles

      I was singling out those with a ‘price generator’, Ru. But now I look at your page again, I can see that it’s really very good — a lot of people may actually prefer this to a price generator, it’s more ‘humane’.

      You also describe a business with a very strong personality, and that enables me to make a judgement about value. That’s crucial. The transaction is not exclusively about the exchange of money for stuff, it is also about the quality of the human interaction. Above all, and more important than the bottom line, is the ability to find ‘someone like me’ who will help me create a great funeral.

      I notice there’s no photo of your fleet?

      While you are clearly just right for all sorts of people, you definitely wouldn’t do for lots of others. It’s all good. Everybody’s friend is nobody’ friend.

  3. Charles

    Very interesting, Hugh — and a very good price. How do you demonstrate value? If I am a bereaved person and I’m thinking, ‘You get what you pay for’, how do you reassure me that I won’t get a dirty hearse and bearers who look as if they are on community service? This business is full of chancers, especially at the budget end. How do you differentiate yourself from them?

    1. Charles


      We supply excellent quality with a very personal service. Our hearses, cars and fully trained staff are exceptional and clean, including the pall bearers.

      We reduce costs by having no high street overheads and all the staff multi-task.

      Our margins are significantly reduced and will remain so even as we grow in the marketplace.

      I fully respect all the many private businesses who offer a quality service and don’t manipulate families at a vulnerable time to pay more than they should.

      I am disturbed by the larger companies who buy up smaller funeral directors and trade under their name, Families who may have used these companies in the past will be unaware that certain staff are on zero hour contracts and have little motivation to provide a good service.

      I believe we can offer a healhy challenge by providing a very good service and a fair price.

  4. Charles

    It was only a matter of time before this subject was mentioned, Hat-Tip to you Charles.
    Being from up north (Liverpool to be exact ) we say it like it is, and yes its got me in hot water from time to time but I bounce back.
    With having family still in Liverpool I often visit and like to read the local papers and sometimes go straight to the FDs advertising themselves, some time ago I noticed 1 or 2 were putting prices in the advert and this stood out from the rest.
    I included my price for my All inclusive Cremation for £1,992 in my first advert and over half of my funerals have come from this advert, people still call or email first to confirm the price includes Cremation ,Drs, Minister, choice of 3 coffins and all our professional fees, and are surprised when I reassure them its all in, My advert also mentions I will personally hand over £50.00 in cash if the account is settled in full during the arrangement stage. My website includes all our fees with nothing hidden, I have even had my price list printed with a 4 foot vinyl sign on the shop window, being next to coop food shop they are open late and my sign is lit up. As you know Charles my recent Flyer Advertising got me noticed as it included both Dignitys and the Coop price for a like for like Cremation cost, the coop have now removed the price they were charging from there website so people have to make the call before they find out what a funeral will cost. I cant understand why they would remove there prices from there website but lets hope it returns with there next price increase, it must be due soon.

    1. Charles

      I love the idea – myth – that it’s only those north of Birmingham who “tell it like it is,” GMT.

      Poppy’s Funerals (London) The Green Funeral Company (Devon) and Evelyn’s Funerals (Berkshire) are all, in different ways, helpfully explicit about prices, and they are members of that hopelessly euphemistic toffee-nosed tribe known as Southerners. (As am I, darlings….) And that’s just three I know about!

      But GMT is on the side of the angels. It’s bullshit (see, I’m trying….) not to give people an idea of costs in such a fraught time, it forces them into conversations they probably don’t want and feel bad about.

      So Bravo! for Hugh, GMT, and the above named, and all undertakers who don’t use a pretence of tactfulness to disguise the true cost of their offer – whatever it is.

  5. Charles

    Our fee’s are fixed at £950 and all other costs are invoiced at their true costs. We always strive to be as open and transparent as possible with all our clients. It does mean you have to be careful with quotations to ensure the less obvious or hidden costs (such as shipping etc) are accounted for though.
    Our average Woodland Burial costs approx £1950.

  6. Charles

    Might I respectfully point out that you seem to have missed us out Charles!
    We have posted our prices on our website for the last three years. A funeral is no different to anything else that a family may be buying, and they need to know how much it is going to cost. I learnt a long time ago not to worry about what other funeral directors are doing. We concentrate on offering a professional and dignified service, at a realistic price. We must be doing something right as we have just opened our third branch.
    Hope you are keeping well.

  7. Charles

    Ours are there – http://www.holmesfunerals.com and they have been for some time.

    Inevitably we do charge more for extra services, but many of our clients pay exactly what they saw on our website.

    We are proud to be among the first funeral directors to openly advertise our charges. I look forward to everyone else doing the same – but I wont hold my breath..

    1. Charles

      They’re coming round, David, they’re coming round. We’re close to critical mass. Soon it’ll only be the chumps playing their cards close to their chest, wondering why the phone never rings.

      1. Charles

        Hello Charles. As we know, the line usually followed, is “….that we would prefer to discuss our charges verbally….rather than to advertise them…..it gives us the opportunity to strike up a relationship etc etc..” dah de dah etc. We all know that the percentage of UK f/d’s who disclose their prices on line are less than 5%, some/many do not even have a website presence. I would have thought that the larger players would not be so slow in err……coming forward. Here’s an interesting comparison – let’s look at Greater London’s largest indep’t powerhouses – Albin’s; Uden’s; Leverton’s; West & Coe; T Cribb; Truelove’s; and Lodge. Only Leverton’s disclose their prices online
        regards, andrew

  8. Charles

    I’ll dust myself down, and admit that back in 1991, I had the audacity to put my price list in the ‘shop’ window. Not a big ‘splash’, just A4 size.

    OMG. There was an instant meeting of the local NAFD, and the mood, so I am well informed, was to get me run out of town. In fairness to the chaps involved, it was a bit radical, and must have come as a bit of a shock. Very unprofessional, I was told, in no uncertain terms.

    There were no complaints from SAIF though – mind you, I was the only SAIF member in a 35 mile radius at that time!

    Thankfully, things have moved-on somewhat, though 22 years later, I STILL can’t recall having seen a price tariff, clearly on public display, in any other undertaker’s window.

    So, maybe they were right all along, and it IS damn unprofessional…

    1. Charles

      a good story Nick – reminds me that way back then, it seemed not the done thing to publicly contemplate that one had to charge for carrying out such work. best, andrew

  9. Charles

    A.W.Lymm have a fully priced 96 page brochure on their website with a vast number of options. If they can do it, why can’t others?

    1. Charles

      exactly Tony – put simply, this purely demonstrates what a cracking firm that they are, namely that they want to go to this extent. regards, andrew

    1. Charles

      When tempted to fiddle with my price list, I always ask why? In truth much of what we do I know for sure other funeral directors charge as an extra. In my early days, I was surprised that most FD’s charged extra mileage and time if the limousine didn’t return the family fast enough post funeral. Adding a little bit extra on for that, or taking flowers somewhere after the service may seem like a sensible practice, but in reality it just looks mean. We still don’t do it, preferring the swings and roundabouts approach. If my families want ashes collected, we’re usually at the crematorium again soon, so why charge? Maybe this will never make me rich and depresses my profits, but the alternative would depress my soul. Which is more important? In a world now dominated by bean counters and excess profits, I am making a stand!

  10. Charles

    Gillman July 2002, completely up-front about pricing “Therefore: the cost of a Traditional Inclusive Funeral will be £1085 plus the price of the coffin or casket selected and any fees to third parties that we are required to pay on your behalf.” https://web.archive.org/web/20020705042012/http://funeral.org.uk/traditional.htm and now no longer Gillman owned: “Please contact us to discuss your requirements and the various options available in order that we may give you the total charge for our services and an estimation of the total cost of disbursements and any additional fees, based upon your specific requirements.” http://www.gillmanfunerals.co.uk/funeral-cost.html

    1. Charles

      Hi Tony – all very standard stuff, I’m afraid. Not one of the Funeral Partners branches has a link to the actual costs, mind you, they’re no different than LM, Dignity of F’care. Andrew

    1. Charles

      So you have, Jenny, and of course we honour you for it. S&F is famously fair and transparent. My only anxiety is that you are not charging enough for what is a premium service.

      I was favouring those with an online calculator, hence the ‘especially’, but yes, you have a perfectly good point.

  11. Charles

    I have been considering putting our brochure on our website for some time, Inspired by this blog, now I have done it.

    Will this open approach enhance our business, scare clients off, or make no difference?

    We shall see.

    1. Charles

      Malcolm, I admire you for making a start, but I don’t think you go far enough. You quote “approximately £3,300” and you give examples of disbursements, but what, for example, if I (as a client) don’t want a limousine, or want to provide my own bearers, or want to use flowers from my garden? There is no way of finding out what the cost of the funeral will be in these circumtances.

      Why not list all your prices individually, so that a ‘shopper’ can pick and choose exactly what he or she wants? Why hide prices in packages?

      1. Charles

        Thank you Andrew for your comments, I was just trying to do the typical service most of our clients enquire about, to cut to the chase so to speak.

        But yes I could have more detail, by the way, being a dog lover Roxie is brilliant as a bereavement dog!

        Very homely.

        I will have to enlist my Westie, he is called Angus.

    2. Charles

      Malcolm – it must enhance – your brochure is excellent. It’s full of information – I like the white private ambulance and the explanations of every stage of the procedures. People can look if they want to – a downloadable brochure is genius. Good luck!

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