Why undertakers don’t post their prices

Charles 14 Comments



The following is by Charles Manby Smith writing in London Life magazine in 1853.

Messrs. Moan and Groan know well enough, that when the heart is burdened with sorrow, considerations of economy are likely to be banished from the mind as out of place, and disrespectful to the memory of the departed; and, therefore, they do not affront their sorrowing patrons with the sublunary details of pounds, shillings, and pence. … For such benefactors to womankind – the dears – of course no reward can be too great; and, therefore, Messrs. Moan and Groan, strong in their modest sense of merit, make no parade of prices. They offer you all that in circumstances of mourning you can possibly want; they scorn to do you the disgrace of imagining that you would drive a bargain on the very brink of the grave; and you are of course obliged to them for the delicacy of their reserve on so commonplace a subject, and you pay their bill in decorous disregard of the amount. It is true, that certain envious rivals have compared them to birds of prey, scenting mortality from afar, and hovering like vultures on the trail of death, in order to profit by his dart; but such “caparisons,” as Mrs. Malaprop says, “are odorous,” and we will have nothing to do with them.



  1. Charles

    We are proud to be one of the few who do display our prices on our website. No mystery, just simple transparency.

    I am delighted to add that a client family has this very week sourced and supplied their own coffin too..

    It’ll never catch on with the mainstream!

  2. Charles

    Your right David, It is transparency but will it catch on………….
    Some traditional FDs will never advertise prices its probably a taboo word and many will have the attitude, if it has not been done before why do it now.
    The Funeral Profession is changing and for the better in my opinion i will probably get shot down by some traditional FDs for saying that but its right.
    People do still shop around for estimates and if all FDs had just the basic cost ie professional services and coffin prices on line would this not help the family.
    “A family that sourced and supplied their own coffin”
    David what will your competitors think……….
    I think its great that a family can now obtain a coffin without going via Funeral Director and I have said so on my website and in most of my advertising.
    I hear Dignity in my area are soon to have a price increase of over £300,
    The breakdown will mean Caring for the Deceased person will in my area be over £800, that Includes the staff for the removal, a suitable vehicle for the removal, preparing the deceased and laying to rest for viewing if desired.
    I agree certain areas in the UK places are more expensive but soon a basic funeral will hit the £4,000 mark.

  3. Charles

    Did you know that 93% of the poorest families do not shop around and they are the ones who end up using most expensive funeral directors. Meanwhile 64% of the richest families do shop around – mainly because they have access to the internet. They are far more likely to end up with an independent FD who costs less.
    (I made all that up but I bet it’s close to the truth)

  4. Charles

    MC – you’re right – even if the stats are a bit made up 😉 An expression I’ve heard often is: “We were advised to go to the Co-op. We were told, they’ll take care of you.” People sadly and naively believe that if the good old Co-op costs £3.5k then all the others must be MORE expensive….. We can hope that everyone will begin to be better informed – I believe it’s slowly changing – people are finding the independents and the decent, honest FDs – especially the ones who publish their prices. If anyone wants to add a price estimator to their website – and use WordPress – you need Jazzyforms – it’s a free WP download and is what I used to build mine.

  5. Charles

    When people are in the stress of immediate bereavement, and the hospice or nursing or care home is pressuring them to hurry up and solve their own dead body storage problem for them and get the thing off their premises by tonight, they don’t tend to say, ‘wait there, I’ll just check the internet and ring round a few likely looking locals to guage which ‘funeral director’ would best suit my emotional needs as well as my budget and I’ll get back to you in a few days when I’ve had a chance to decide what’s for the best in regard to this potentially life-altering event called the funeral of someone I love. They just look at the list provided and close their eyes and point their finger.

    Undertakers still don’t need to post their prices on their websites. Very few people would look at them if they did.

    1. Charles

      Jonathan I think you are wrong on this count. Of course some people, even most perhaps, fall into the ‘stick a pin in a name’ category, but there are more and more who are shopping around before the death actually happens.

      These shoppers are mostly internet shoppers, and the ability to price a funeral online is proving a winning formula for them. Frequently people say to us “we’ve already priced up the funeral on your website” (on our jazzyform) and produce a print-out, citing that as the reason they chose us. Many see it as a challenge to make sure we charge them what the website has told them. So do we. It’s a great ice-breaker.

      A testimonial we recently received says “The way they present their services online was easy to understand so I could select what I wanted and clearly understood the cost.”

      That, to me, makes the case for having our prices up there, setting us apart from the rest.

      1. Charles

        You, and the few like you Andrew, are indeed set apart from the rest. I’d say that goes for the people whose attention is attracted to your service also, and agree with you that the ones I’m talking about are indeed still the majority.

        What proportion of relatives would you say are planning the person’s funeral before they die nowadays? Any idea at what rate that is changing?

        1. Charles

          Today I visited a family in Bucks who are doing just that – planning the funeral before the death. The dying lady has planned everything – a friend feels honoured to be asked to drive her to the crem in his bedecked work van, she’s asked her friends to come and wash and prepare her body, and (after speaking to a couple of local FDs – all sporting fabulous in depth details about themselves and their vehicles before any reference to their clients…she also visited the new co-op branch and was offered a £50 off voucher to be used before the end of March – apparently they’re ‘like gold dust’ – these vouchers…) they contacted the NDC for advice and encouragement to do it themselves. I’m supplying a coffin and the Flexmort mini and it’s all in their hands now.

          Andrew’s right – I followed his model on publishing prices. More families are responding to the published prices and they all like the clarity and ‘upfrontness’ – no surprises, no hidden costs. I think it’s a great thing to be removing the veil on pricing.

  6. Charles

    I was encouraged to watch this weeks ‘Eastenders’ funeral. The Beale family certainly didn’t shop around – in fact they didn’t even get to choose the FD.

    The deceased was murdered, the Coroner had the body in his care, until a police liaison officer informed the brother of the deceased that it had been released. The brother kept this nugget from his father, Ian Beale, who had been busy distracting himself by re-opening a restaurant. When he did finally pass on the info regarding the body, Dad (Ian Beale) immediately asked the obvious, ‘where is she now?’ and was told ‘at the new Albert Square funeral home’ so they rushed over there. As you would.

    On arrival, the creepy wizened old FD (full equity member, straight from his last role playing Mr Sowerberry in Oliver Twist) told them that she was in the Chapel of Rest. Who arranged the funeral, who chose the coffin, we can only guess. Perhaps these conversations are unnecessary, real families are overcomplicating things by taking any interest at all?

    On arrival at the new funeral home, I immediately observed the very traditional surroundings of dark old panelling and dark furniture – quite how this look was achieved in a new opening FD’s shop I can only guess. Achieving the look would have kept the Eastenders set chippies busy for months? Alternatively, it may be they used a real undertakers premises – a more likely explanation.

    The deceased, Lucy Beale, it has to be said is a beautiful young actress, she looked fabulous dead. So good that she must have been embalmed – although by who and on what authority we cannot know. Sadly Lucy looked so fab in her toe-pincher veneered coffin, that any future real-life client of a FD whose relative has also been in a morgue for weeks on end, pending forensics and criminal charge, could now be expecting the long dead cadaver to look as good as poor young Lucy did – despite the long gap between death and Chapel visit!

    The brother remained, tearful with his sister in the Chapel. The discrete undertaker had gone back upstairs for his lunch. As the drama of the visit played-out, I was struck by a curious object in the Chapel, it looked like a made-up single bed. In fact it was indeed a bed. Having spent a little time quietly sobbing by his sisters side, the brother climbed in to the bed and apparently remained there until the next episode! Can we now expect our clients to want to follow this new trend?

    I haven’t actually seen the funeral yet – but my hopes are not high.

    I will definitely be writing to the idiot producers of this rubbish. I had thought these soaps liked informing and educating as well as entertaining? They are doing neither on this subject.

  7. Charles

    Here at the NFFD (National Federation of Funeral Directors) we strongly believe that greater price transparency, combined with a willingness to embrace internet marketing, is crucial to the ongoing survival and prosperity of the independent funeral industry. Whilst it is true that some consumers continue to turn to the nearest, cheapest, or most familiar, firm when tasked with arranging a funeral, as the older generation (and its traditional buying habits) dwindles, we will see ever-increasing use of the internet as a means of ‘shopping around’ for best value and service. And this isn’t just confined to the funeral industry – you only have to consider the universal popularity of price comparison sites like Go-Compare and Money Supermarket to see the influence that the internet and social media has over the modern consumer.

    For those of you who, like the NFFD, support the notion of transparency and pricing fairness, please take the time to visit http://www.nffd.co.uk to read more about our range of tools and services.

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