Charles Cowling

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It’s not just Donald Trump who gives Americans an undeserved reputation for dangerous lunacy. Restrictive practices in the US funeral industry have been doing that for years.

In Alabama the owner of a natural burial ground is currently fighting the state law that allows only licensed funeral directors to sell coffins. The burial ground owner, Sheila Champion, said: “I could make you a cedar chest and sell it to you all day long as a piece of furniture; however, if you call me and ask me to make you a coffin using the same pattern, I could be prosecuted.” – here

Fighting her corner for her is the fearsomely libertarian Institute for Justice which, in 2013, fought for the right of St Joseph’s Abbey to sell their monk-made coffins to the public. It took them 6 years – here.

Over in Poland the coffin maker Lindner – famous for its naughty calendars – has brought out a naughty flat-pack coffin and it’s (according to the Telegraph) been damned as unethical by the Polish Chamber of Funeral Homes on the grounds that “Treating a coffin like an ordinary piece of furniture or a DIY-cupboard from a shop undermines respect for the deceased.”

Here in the UK hardly an undertakerly eyebrow is raised any more if a client says they’re buying their own coffin on the internet. Some of them are paying more than the FD would have charged them. In Nottingham, AW Lymn charges nothing (zilch nada) for a cardboard coffin.

Last week here at the GFG-Batesville Shard, where we’re all working our butts off to impress the new gaffer, we received an email from someone who can’t get hold of a woodchip veneer coffin for anything like as little as £150. We’d like to help her, and anyone else who wants to buy an inexpensive veneer coffin. What’s the cost price of these nowadays? Sixty, seventy quid? Any coffin maker out there willing to keep us supplied, please get in touch.

 

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Charles Cowling
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Charles Cowling

Clare, thank you so much for this learned insight.

Charles Cowling
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Charles Cowling

Michael, your erudition knows few bounds.This case is an object lesson in how regulation in the interests of consumer protection can go awry.

Michael Jarvis
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Michael Jarvis

I’m not too sure about erudition, Charles, but I will admit to being drawn to the quirky fact like a moth to the flame. Here’s a good pub quiz style teaser on the subject of American oddities: Which state prohibits private land (i.e. home) burial unless you own an island ?

Michael Jarvis
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Michael Jarvis

Alabama is one of a handful of US states which takes this position, although they are far from being the most entrenched. While it’s true to say that only licensed funeral directors may sell coffins in Alabama under Statute Title 34-13-1, there’s nothing to stop families making their own, nor from purchasing one elsewhere, out of state, and having it shipped in. The legislation in all these ‘protectionist’ states is broadly similar and reserves the right of supply of funerary items to licensed practitioners. However, the giveaway that the intent is for the mercenary benefit of the trade rather than… Read more »

Clare
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£60 £70 quid plus vat plus delivery plus fitting out inside if required… so probably up to £150 trade unless you’re the big corporates who make their own for a lot less.

David Holmes
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I would say the purchase price for a typical 5’10 x 20 mass produced oak veneer or foil coffin is around £100, larger sizes cost more. Remember too that this is plus interior fitting, delivery and an engraved name plate? They take up a fair amount of storage space, for which we FD’s pay rent and rates. A typical funeral director’s selling price of £250-325 doesn’t seem too steep to me?