Maybe this is why Dignity doesn’t have funeral prices online yet?

Fran Hall

    

        Price list from Dignity Branch 1                                                                     Price list from Dignity Branch 2

 

NAFD member Dignity Funerals hasn’t come out well in the recent CMA report, as we reported in our recent blog posts here and here.

Their share price has slumped as a consequence, at one point today dropping to a five year low of £7.51, as opposed to the dizzy heights of May 2017 when they were up over £25 each. That was the month in which Mike McCollum CEO sold a big chunk of his remaining shares (91,667 to be exact). We wrote about that here. 

It’s worth keeping an eye on Dignity’s director dealings. It’s good to see who’s doing well out of their hard work during their 3 year Transformation Programme. You can find details here

It’s heart warming to see that according to Dignity’s press release last week in response to the CMA statement, ‘The Group has committed to making the funeral prices for all its branches available online by the end of Q1 2019’.

But, why is it taking so long?

Well, it might be because the current Dignity pricing model wouldn’t look very good online.

Above, we show two price lists obtained from two different Dignity branches in London in the last few weeks. The branches are within 2 miles of each other.

One branch is located in an area that could be described as middle class, affluent and not particularly culturally diverse. Let’s call this Branch 1.

The other (Branch 2) is in an area with a far greater mix of different ethnicities and cultures, with many people that are generally less affluent for sure than the other branch’s clientele.

What difference could this possibly make to the prices charged by Dignity for the same service, using the same staff and vehicles, the same central hub storage? Remember, these branches are just 2 miles away from each other.

We don’t know. But there is a difference. A difference of almost £1,500 on the prices listed for their ‘Full Service Funeral.

Literally, 15 minutes walk to Branch 1 could save you £1,445 for the same service from the same company.

In case you can’t see from the photos, here are some excerpts from the two branches’ price lists:

‘Our Service to You’

Branch 1      £1,095

Branch 2      £1,705

Our Service to the Person who has Died’

Branch 1      £ 795

Branch 2      £1,045

‘Your Appointed Funeral Director’

Branch 1       £460

Branch 2       £720

‘Our Hearses’

Branch 1       £395

Branch 2       £720

‘Additional services’ are priced differently, as are coffins – the ‘Chiltern’, ‘Purbeck’ and ‘Glastonbury’ are priced at £440, £750 and £1,250 in Branch 2.

The exact same coffins, with the exact same names coming from the exact same coffins probably on the same van to the branch just 2 miles away are priced at £290, 495 and £995. So £250+ more. On top of all the other higher prices for the lower income clients. One could almost think there had been a deliberate attempt to take advantage of cultural differences.

The difference in terminology and inference in the content of the two price lists is marked too.

Referring to embalming, the price list from Branch 1 has the Embalming price listed under ‘Frequent Considerations’, and says: ‘Embalming is a personal choice. In some circumstances we recommend the peace of mind that embalming brings. We will discuss this service with you’. That’s quite nice and unobtrusive. And it is priced at £250.

Branch 2’s blurb about embalming has far more prominence. Embalming is listed as the third price, before ‘Your Appointed Funeral Director, positioning implying it’s something that is just normal to require.

And it carries a little more of an ominous overtone ‘We will ensure that every available care is taken to delay the natural processes that occur after death. However, as members of the National Association of Funeral Directors we recommend the peace of mind that embalming brings. You will be advised on this and we will require your consent.’

The price for embalming at Branch 2? Just £101. It’s the only thing that we found cheaper looking at the two price lists. Everything else was more expensive in the diverse, less affluent location.

So sorting the labyrinthine, location-specific Dignity pricing out to get prices online looks like it’s going to be time consuming for the men in suits in HQ. How can they make this work? 

Oh, and one last thing. Reading through Dignity’s self serving press release, we noticed the following quote from Mr McCollum, ““Dignity has committed to making its prices easily available for consumers by putting them online and believes that all operators should be required to follow suit to ensure greater transparency on pricing across the sector.”

Dignity as the leader that is taking a moral stance?

Excuse our French, but you have to be ****ing kidding Mr McCollum.

 

 

 

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Andrew PlumeFran HallKathryn EdwardsKevin CobboldLucy Coulbert Recent comment authors

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Andrew Plume
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Andrew Plume

Dignity Plc have today announced their Preliminary Results for the 52 week period ended 28 December 2018. Summarised details are here:-

http://www.dignityfunerals.co.uk/corporate/investors/news/press-releases/2019-03-13/1770/preliminary-results-for-the-52-week-period-ended-28-december-2018/

Their are some noticeable differences (when compared to the previous 52 weeks) – all showing a decrease – tomorrow’s media Business pages will almost certainly comment further

Andrew

Andrew Plume
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Andrew Plume

Hi Fran Your recent (letter in) response to the CMA (minus the attachments) has ‘found it’s way’ on to the web. I’m deliberately not including a link in case you didn’t authorise this. It has been ‘posted’ by a Government Department, I came across it accidentally Said letter specifically refers to the two Dignity Branches which you have referred to above. Your description of the Residents in the areas of the two Branches couldn’t have been stated more clearly, completely accurate too. Current average figures for Properties on the Zoopla web site show £734,808 for the Postcode for Branch 1… Read more »

Andrew Plume
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Andrew Plume

Dignity will now say that the website for each of their Branches include Prices.  However…….these are nothing other than ‘from Prices’ – Dignity are being economical with their wording.  There is a stark difference on line in how on line Pricing is being presented to ‘Internet readers’.  Here are three examples i.e. (1) from Dignity; (2) from a small Essex Co-op; and (3) from a highly respected Independent family business:- https://www.dignityfunerals.co.uk/funeral-directors/locations/england/hampshire/portsmouth/6-powerscourt-road https://funerals.chelmsfordstar.coop/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Funeral-Prices-2018-v2.pdf https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/901c39_430f9d1e4d2447ca85b8b0beff2863c7.pdf Given that Dignity appear to have large ‘Layers of Management’ and allied admin, this is a distinctly poor show from them. To me they would gain more… Read more »

Andrew Plume
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Andrew Plume

And this has now ‘found’ it’s way on to today’s ‘Mail on Sunday’:

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6636347/Boss-price-comparison-site-goes-war-UKs-biggest-undertaker.html

The Mail’s Personal Finance Editor, Jeff Prestridge’ has thrown his weight behind ‘beyond’ and part of his article includes this “……..Stories of bodies being left to decompose may not be everyday news but they pop up far too often for comfort, reminding us that rogues still plague the industry…….” – as far as I know this has been a Funeralcare/Funeral Partners ‘problem’ (sic) and not one originating from Dignity, although I may be wrong

Not a great for days for the mighty Dignity Plc, I suggest

Andrew

Andrew Plume
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Andrew Plume

During the past few days there have been some interesting developments from Dignity in commenting about their pricing. This is in response to on line posts from the Funeral comparison site ‘beyond’. Dignity haven’t taken this well (at all) and it seems only right to now post this on here: https://beyond.life/blog/no-dignity/ Now Dignity get very wound up if anyone should dare to criticise them, very wound up indeed and this is another example. Their letter from Steve Wallis (Commercial Director) concludes by stating that “…….the public is being significantly misled………” i.e. by the information regarding their pricing on the beyond… Read more »

Andrew Plume
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Andrew Plume

Well Dignity still haven’t updated their web site with what I would call a proper ‘price list’ merely a figure for the type of service required And speaking of ‘the Corporates’ per se, there seems to have been no movement in that direction either. However both Chelmsford Star and Scot Mid Co-op’s have full details on their respective web sites along the lines of what one usually sees from a decent Indy firm. Both of these are not part of the enormous Funeralcare and trade separately. I assume that because their respective ‘trading areas’ are very concentrated that they can… Read more »

ANDREW PLUME
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ANDREW PLUME

Since Fran started this post (and irrespective of any coincidence) Dignity’s share price has fallen further, from around 750p then to it’s lowest earlier today of 668p

Andrew

Kathryn Edwards
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Kathryn Edwards

Good work, Fran! It is in the long tradition of the GFG to flush out this kind of predatory pricing practice and expose it to the sanitising effects of daylight. It’s a pity that the general public remains (wilfully) ignorant of the counterintuitive fact that the independents tend to offer not only more devoted service than the cynical chains but also better prices, even despite the economies that can come from scale. Here’s an experience I had of a branch of the Co-op the other day. As the celebrant working in an unfamiliar geography, I saw that the size of… Read more »

Kevin Cobbold
Guest

Shocking! Well said, Fran. We are trying to scoop our chins off the floor at Mike McCollum’s call to others to put their prices online. Most independent funeral directors been doing it for years and he well knows that!

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Lucy Coulbert
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I am absolutely furious, disgusted, aghast, angry, outraged and most of all, unsurprised. The least affluent people paying a premium and getting into debt to pay a funeral bill yet those that may find it a little easier to settle an invoice pays less. I find it morally corrupt that Dignity have come out from the shadows in light of the CMA report trying to infer that they are pushing for regulation and transparency when in fact, they are the reason behind funeral poverty for a large section of society. If it isn’t the prices they charge as funeral directors,… Read more »

ANDREW PLUME
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ANDREW PLUME

Spot on Lucy and my apologies for not endorsing this earlier. I’ve just added a comment to an earlier post that I kicked off a couple of months ago, i.e. an ‘on line chat site’ re the business per se and the share price When I can (and hopefully this week) I will be producing some summarised figures confirming the total benefit(s) that have been received/paid to one, Mike K McC (as Chief Executive (and previously in his role as Finance Director)) and also to Andrew Davies who was the Operations Director before he recently retired. Given that the Director’s… Read more »