Don’t expect Dignity to solve funeral poverty

Yesterday we let the interns loose on the blog and they impulsively passed on an appeal to readers to write to Mike McCollum of Dignity plc and ask him to do his bit in the fight against funeral poverty.

What they conspicuously failed to do was identify a single reason why Mr McCollum and Dignity should feel any moral obligation whatever to alleviate funeral poverty. Is anyone clamouring for Harrods to eliminate the need for food banks? Or for Waterstones to supply the children of needy families with Penguin Classics?

Sure, a great many people feel the big six energy companies should be doing more to alleviate fuel poverty, but this goes with a conviction that the energy companies overcharge because the energy market is not free, open and competitive. The funerals market, on the contrary, is free to the point of free-for-all. Dignity sells its funerals at a premium. Is a Dignity funeral the MacBook Air of funerals? Is it a high value product? Don’t answer, it’s irrelevant. People buy them, end of. They can buy cheaper if they shop around.

While Dignity ploughs its high-end furrow to the delight of its shareholders and the enrichment of Mr McCollum — that’s capitalism — there are hundreds of undertakers working with people who struggle to scrape together the price of a funeral. These undertakers are performing what is essentially a social service. They are decent folk who care, and they are beggaring themselves with tiny margins and bad debt. They’ve been bearing much of the brunt of the way things are since the shrinking of the Funeral Payment. By doing so, they’ve arguably been doing no more than postponing a crisis at their own expense, putting off the day when, as a country, we are compelled finally to sit down and sort this problem.

Because, we remind ourselves, the Funeral Payment was brought in (by a Tory government) to enable everyone to buy a decent funeral. We have such a long history in this country of state subsidy for funerals that it has become an automatic expectation — a right. If that has now changed, then the government has a duty to register the change and explain it. You can’t just pull away a prop and expect people with no money to carry on as if it were still there.

Nor can you expect undertakers to perform a commercial service at a price which prevents them from making a living commensurate with the value of that service. Good undertakers offer a high value service and deserve to make a decent living. It is folly and distraction to expect them to take one for the poor. If Dignity lowers its prices, does that make its funerals affordable? No. If it subsidises low-cost funerals at the expense of its wealthier customers, is that fair? Of course not. The cheapest undertaker in the country cannot provide an affordable funeral for someone who qualifies for a Funeral Payment. So while it may give passing pleasure to have a go at the fatcats, let’s not mistake righteous indignation for impotent fury.

And while we’re about it, let’s stop wilfully missing the point. Two factors which inflate the cost of funerals can easily be addressed. First, cremation can be carried out much more efficiently. Second, we can start re-using burial plots. To do so wouldn’t make funerals affordable for all, but it would make a decent-sized dent. Squeezing the undertakers, on the other hand, won’t make a blind bit of difference. There are enough already working for next to nothing.

The root cause of funeral poverty is political. The impact is social. The solution needs to be radical and will not be advanced by waving a bleeding stump at Mr McCollum.

No mandate to deny bereaved choice

Guest post by Wendy Coulton of

I was grateful for  the opportunity to present evidence to the Plymouth City Council ‘scrutiny review’ of its policy and services regarding Public (funded) Funerals in my professional role as a Civil Funeral Celebrant.

In the light of significant budget pressures it is to be expected that council services related to funerals such as crematorium services, cemetery management and bereavement support will be reviewed. However reduction of costs to run these services must not be at the expense of compassion and dignity towards the deceased or the bereaved. There has to be a baseline where councils accept that there is a social responsibility and cost to be borne if we are a caring society. The questions being considered in Plymouth centred mainly around choice. For example, how much consultation and choice should next of kin have if they are unable or unwilling to pay for the funeral and the public purse will be funding it?
The point I made to the review panel of elected councillors was that the council and its officers do not have the legal or moral mandate to deny any one the opportunity to be consulted about when the funeral is to take place and be informed of the funeral service so they may attend. Nor should they deny the choice of burial or cremation if next of kin can be traced and consulted. At the moment the council only provides a burial for public funded funerals in all circumstances. If they do not consult or inform they are discriminating against people because of their financial circumstances which may not be of their choosing or design. And it begs the question why would you deny someone consultation or information?
Their policy should not be cynical and judgmental. Yes there will always be people who walk away from their responsibilities but increasingly economic hardship is genuine in this country and people struggle to pay for a funeral. Not everyone who has to ask for state assistance for funerals wants to and it is a fact that most people make no provision for their funeral costs. Just as there is (finally) realisation that people need to plan for living longer and pensions etc, there should be a government sponsored campaign promoting financial planning for funeral costs. The recommendations of this review will be published in April.

Funerals, who needs em?

When England first played Scotland, on 30 November 1872, both teams employed formations that would raise eyebrows today. Scotland went for a cautious 2-2-6 while England employed a more swashbuckling 1-1-8. The game was all kick-and-rush in those days.

Kick-and-rush. It’s how businesses, anxious to futureproof themselves, respond to prophecy. Some bright spark peers into a crystal ball, dreams a dream and holds up a trembling finger. No matter that their vision is little more than a projection of their wishes and values, everyone rushes towards it.

Remember the Baby Boomer Hypothesis which held that, just as baby boomers reinvented youth culture, so they would reinvent death culture? Pretty much everybody bought that, including the entire advisory council of the GFG. The theory was that these free radicals would reject bleakness and embrace creative, themed, personalised, sometimes iconoclastic celebrations of life. The good news for the industry was that there would still be good money to be made from funerals so long as undertakers made the switch from cookie-cutter to bespoke; from being po-faced solemn-event planners to bright-eyed party-planners adding value through accessorisation and offering concierge-level service and red-carpet delivery. Pretty much the package Alex Polizzi tried to sell to David Holmes in The Fixer.

It’s not happening, is it? And as we take that in, we reflect that baby boomers have, yes, always been insouciant about what went before and unsentimental in their rejection of it. They’re re-inventors, not renovators. And they’re not all going the same way.

The evidence seems to be that baby boomers are increasingly asking themselves what good a funeral would do, really. More and more of them see little or no emotional or spiritual value in the experience. They’re not all rejecting them out of hand all at once. Some are dressing trad funerals up in a gently creative way with wacky hearses, jolly coffins and startling music choices. But on the whole they’re whittling them down. The reasons are complex and we’ve rehearsed some of them here before.

Dissatisfaction with the value offered by a funeral is probably most widely evidenced in the near-universal belief that funerals are too expensive — ie, they’re not worth what they cost. The strength of this rejection of funerals is evidenced in people’s unrealistic incredulity that a basic funeral should cost much more than having an old washing machine taken away.

Read the comments under any broadsheet article about funerals. The evidence of rejection is everywhere. If the effect of a funeral is to leave you feeling, next day, beached and empty, that’s not surprising. A funeral is supposed to fill a hole, not leave a void. Here are some recent comments in a discussion forum on Mumsnet, of all places:

My MIL has said … she wants the absolute bare minimum in terms of coffin and cremation. No service, no ‘do’ afterwards. Then she wants close family to either go somewhere nice for the weekend together. 

I had it put in my will that i don’t want any sort of funeral when i die. I think the money funeral directors charge for the most simple of services is utterly abhorrent

[My mother-in-law] died recently, she didn’t care what we did by way of funeral (I think her only words on the subject were that we could drop her off the pier for all she cared…)

My uncle didn’t want a service – he just went straight to the crematorium.

I wouldn’t want to burden love ones with the cost, I have life insurance but would want the cheapest option

It is criminal how the respectful disposal of our loved ones has turned into a million pound industry!

I have left strict instructions that I am to have no funeral service and I have made sure everyone knows about it. It is written in my will and my family would never go against my wishes. They know how strongly I feel about it.

Immediate cremation, ashes in a simple box and then take me down our local and stick me on the bar whilst everyone has a quick drink. Next day, throw my ashes in the sea at the place I grew up in as a child. That will do. No order of service with dodgy photos and poems, no wittering on about my life and no-one failing miserably to pick out my favourite songs. Boo hiss boo.

I am a crematorium manager, and can confirm that plenty of people choose to have no funeral service.

I just don’t get the whole thing. I’ve only ever been to one funeral that was really a lovely rememberence and not out of duty of what they thought they had to do. I would much rather my family used money to go on holiday to our favourite place and remembered me there.

My FIL keeps saying he doesn’t want a funeral and wants to be cremated asap with no ceremony or fuss.

We chose not to have a funeral for my dad when he died. Cardboard coffin, cremation with no service. I think he would have been pleased but I tend not to tell anyone as I have some judgey reactions as if we were being cheap (was not relevant) or he was not loved (he was very much).

The Mumsnet discussion includes a few objections on the lines of: ‘To be fair, it’s not really about you. It’s about the loved ones you left behind, it’s an essential grieving process.’ But the overwhelming majority can see no good in a funeral.

This would seem to overturn the supposition that excellent secular funeral celebrants and empathetic undertakers would save the public ceremonial funeral by making it meaningful once more. But there’s a growing realisation that you don’t need to put a corpse in a box and tote it to the crem in blackmobiles, you can create a perfectly satisfying, private, informal farewell event with ashes. Direct cremation, already growing rapidly, looks set to skyrocket.

I know that there are lots of people who believe that reports of the demise of the funeral are exaggerated. They tell me to stop being so pessimistic, things are getting better. But I had lunch with Fran Hall, chair of the Natural Death Centre on Friday, and was struck to discover she thinks as I do. She said, “One day soon the industry is going to wake up and find itself dead”.

It’s possible that there’s no saving the funeral — it’s had its time. After all, it’s not just Britain that’s saying nah. But funeral people, overly focussed on commercial concerns, are putting up absolutely no concerted philosophical defence.

If the public, ceremonial funeral is worth saving, now is the time for the best in the business, from all walks of belief, to come together and be an influential voice in public discourse about funerals, much of which remains incoherent. If the emotional and/or spiritual health of the nation is at stake, who better to do it? Ans: among others, the people whose livelihoods depend on it. Come on, don’t go down without a fight. Do we really need funerals? If so, why?

Don’t all rush, I could be wrong, this may not be a Dunkirk moment. But crisis or no there still exists a pressing need to make a considered, rational and persuasive case for funerals — if, that is, you truly believe they do any real, deep and lasting good. Do you?

There are an awful lot of people out there who don’t. If you can’t demonstrate the purpose and value of your product, who’d want to buy it?

Fusion funerals: Cockneys, immigrants and Hackney hipsters

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

The story of T. Cribb & Sons is one of business resilience in the cultural quicksand of London’s East End. A family-run firm of undertakers since 1881, its heritage is Cockney: close-knit, white, working class communities celebratory of both their roots and the material trappings of wealth: pie and mash and the dogs coupled with a taste for pin-sharp schmutter. Their funerals have been summarised as Victorian music hall meets Catholic High Mass: undertakers with toppers and canes, horse-drawn carriages and extravagant floral wreaths.

With its vicinity to London’s docks, the East End has for centuries attracted immigrants, from the French Huguenots to Polish Jews, the Irish to the Chinese. More recently came the Bangladeshis, Africans and eastern Europeans.

Meanwhile, true Cockneys have upped sticks to Essex. Many a London cabbie will tell you how they cashed in the terraced house in Bow for an all-mod-cons Barratt home in Brentwood while opining ‘the East End ain’t what it was’. And you only have to watch TOWIE to see former Cockneys splurging their cash on smart clobber and wheels, along with Sex on the Beach cocktails and cosmetic dentistry.

T. Cribb & Sons, which started with a single parlour in Canning Town, has also branched out into Essex, buying up undertakers in Loughton, Debden, Benfleet and Pitsea. However, of its 1,800 funerals a year, half are now for non-whites, especially Africans and Asians in east London.

It’s introduced a repatriation service for west African immigrants who prefer to be buried back home in Nigeria or Uganda. It’s also attracted the British Ghanaian community, increasingly content to be buried in England and who, like Cockneys, have a taste for flamboyant funerals, sometimes beyond their means.

Attention to the needs of a broad demographic can also be seen in details such as a Hindu/Sikh washroom at Cribb’s Beckton branch, and the way it’s mindful to bring Chinese mourners home from a funeral by a different route, in order to ward off evil spirits. It even provides limos with the lucky eight in the number plate. Again for the Chinese, it offers a wall of small vaults for votive offerings such as sticks of incense. At £750 for a five-year lease on a vault, this service is being adopted by white Brits, too, showing how cultural influences go both ways.

T. Cribb & Sons is now courting the Muslim market, currently served by a few Bangladeshi undertakers attached to mosques. The showy traits of the Cockney funeral are theologically out of step with Islam in which dead people are swiftly washed, prayed over and buried. But as with most cultural melting pots, people draw on outside influences, whether integration is approved of or not.

For more on this subject, see The Economist here.  It’s a good read, rich in colour gleened from firsthand research. What it doesn’t address is the colonisation of former Cockney turf by middle class West Enders who have headed east for more affordable housing in areas from Stratford to now-trendy Hackney and Shoreditch. As these right-on Guardianistas grow older, might we see less emphasis on Cribb’s website on black-plumed Friesans, bling limos and lavish floral tributes, and more on wicker coffins, woodland burial grounds, ethnic-chic joss sticks and vegetarian catering services at the wake?

As The Economist writer says, ‘Undertakers thrive on the loss of their clients—not on the loss of their client base’. Meeting evolving demand is key. But you can see why some undertakers favour the big spenders. Flowers spelling GRANDAD: A PROPER DIAMOND GEEZER destroy the ozone layer? Gimme a break. Next you’ll be saying wreaths depicting the St George flag might upset the neighbours.

Be smart – follow the money

In all so-called advanced cultures, funeral practices are becoming less elaborate. All this talk of baby boomers reinventing funerals as bespoke, themed, accessorised, more or less lavish performance events can seem to make good sense — but baby boomers, who by now have buried and cremated many thousands of parents, ain’t, experience now tells us, buying in to all that. Recession or no recession, the dying express the wish to keep it cheap and simple; and those left behind seem content to fall in with that. When people fall into conversations about funerals, the proudest boasts are made by those who spent least. 

Where a funeral dwindles to its essentials — the body of a dead person and the body of people who cared about him/her —  there’s not much margin for an undertaker. But where the expanding market is the one for cheap funerals, that’s where an undertaker needs to hang out. You need to do more funerals for less to make your business pay, of course – if you can get em in the first place. 

So the earnings ceiling for an undertaker is getting lower and lower. This is especially evident in the US, where once comfortably-off morticians have been banjaxed by the rush to cremation. Growing impoverishment ought to act as a disincentive to new entrants. But the market in Britain remains saturated with undertakers because they are motivated by vocation rather than acquisitiveness. Altruistic people thrive on adversity; it strengthens their humanitarian resolve and enhances their sense sainthood.

Which is why the smart money is now increasingly going into crematoria and natural burial grounds of 20 acres+. Here profits remain fattening. Dignity and the Co-op are moving in bigtime. Bibby, the corp behind GreenAcres, is showing no interest in buying out undertakers. 

There’s a race on to buy out council-owned crematoria and build new ones – they’re going up everywhere. Here’s a bubble that’s going to end in rubble. Where low cost scores highest with consumers, and at a time when funeral poverty is stalking the land, it won’t be long before people wise up to the fact that the cheapest cremation provider is the one who cremates most economically by blazing round the clock 365 days a year (not 250 as at present) in a standalone plant with a viewing gallery set in a very few nicely appointed acres. There’s nothing to stop anyone from building one of these now. In the US they’re called crematories. That’s what we need: crematories, not more crematoria. 

By how much would efficient cremation bring down funeral costs? The US gives us some idea. You can arrange a direct cremation in New York for £860 including all undertaker’s fees. The cremation part of that comes to just £265. In Florida you can buy the complete direct cremation package for £525. In Maryland, using a particularly nice-looking crematory, you can buy the complete package for £618. And in San Diego you can do the whole thing for just £416 all in. 

Go figure, Bibby. You read it here first. Send us a bung when it all comes good. 

Good job

One in six UK households struggle to pay for a funeral.

UK funeral debt is worth over £130m and is rising. 

QSA seeks a funeral poverty officer to take significant steps to influence policy and practice in both government and in the market to help more people nationally who are struggling to pay for a funeral. 

This role will build on QSA’s award-winning work, Down to Earth, which helps people living on low incomes in east London to arrange a meaningful and affordable funeral.

 Quaker Social Action

Funeral poverty officer

£20,002 (28 hours per week)

More information/job pack/application forms at


Undertakers feast on misery, situation normal

There’s a story in the Scottish Daily Mail, 7 June, that exemplifies very well the misinformation and scaremongering that are characteristic of media treatment of funerals in the UK. Here it is: 

LOCAL authorities and funeral directors are making money out of family misery, with ‘the cost of dying’ reaching thousands of pounds in Scotland, according to a trade union.

The GMB union said funeral charges would come as ‘a real shock to many in Scotland’.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow councils charge about £2,000 for burials. Other councils are not far behind, with South Lanarkshire, East Dunbartonshire and Perth and Kinross all charging more than £1,500.

Even the cheaper option of cremation is almost £1,500 in Edinburgh and more than £1,000 in Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, Aberdeen and Fife.

Total UK funeral costs average more than £7,000.

GMB Scotland secretary Harry Donaldson said: ‘ Someone is making a lot of money out of people’s bereavement. At a time when the cost of living occupies most peoples concerns, it will be a real shock to many in Scotland that the cost of dying is so high.

‘Few people have any idea of how much even a simple burial or cremation actually costs.’

Here come the facts:

The average established funeral home owner earns between £30,000–50,000 a year. Have I got that about right? 

The cost of cremation in Edinburgh is, actually, £594–675.

The £7,000 cost is the one put about by Sun Life to frighten people into buying financial products.  It bundles all sorts of extraneous stuff like probate. The cost of a cremation funeral is way under half of that (with the odd dishonourable exception). 

Burial charges are the bargain of all time. What’s the real cost of a grave once you’ve factored in maintenance and mowing for ever? £14 million, anyone? 

The funeral industry isn’t great at news management, too often finding itself in reactive mode. Some players let the side down badly, too. Co-operative Funeralcare is in the news again today for burying the wrong bodyagain. Some funeral celebrants let the side down  too. If you’ve a few mins to spare, watch this promo film by an outfit called the Fellowship of Independent Celebrants. It may have a regrettable whiff of ‘making money out of family misery’. 

Undertakers overcharge, situation normal

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. 

Diabolical liberties, that’s what they’re taking

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.” Matthew 23:25

It seems appropriate to wax biblical in the matter of undertakers’ mark-ups for, verily, the people do tremble with ire and their eyeballs do start from their sockets whenever they discover that what they’re buying has got a little bit slapped on top.

These are the same people who readily accept that anything else they buy has been marked up to what the market can stand. Go to a restaurant. Price up the food on your plate. What would it cost you at Tesco? Call for the manager. Demand in a commanding tone to know why you are paying £25 for food you could buy for £4.83. The manager will speak of the cooking and the waitering and the washing up and the manifold overheads of running a high street premises. He may even conclude by saying, “If you don’t like it, cook your own or go to the kebab house on the corner.” He may even say something more direct. 

What’s the markup on anything? Answer: the normal retail markup is 50 per cent — ie, double the cost price. That doesn’t mean that an undertaker pays £100 for a coffin, charges £200 and takes £100 to the pub. Gross profit is what is left when overheads have been taken out. You’re unlikely to get much change from £100. Fashion goods, luxury items and Apple gadgets carry a much greater margin and no one gets into a moralising tizz about them.  

The cost of a coffin is no benchmark of an undertaker’s charges.  Cheap coffin = overhead cost absorbed by professional fee.

The best way to benchmark an undertaker’s charges is to get a quote for the job from your nearest Dignity plc undertaker and compare it with quotes from others. Seriously good value starts at Dignity minus £600. While you’re about it, take account of the value of great personal service. There is no reason whatever why an undertaker shouldn’t say “I charge more because I am worth it.” Let the market be the arbiter of that. 

Up in Scotland there’s a hoo-ha about the markup on cardboard coffins. One undertaker is charging £580. Scotmid charges £245. A Scotmid spokesperson said: 

“The cardboard coffins that we retail for £245, we buy in for between £80 and £100. Then we have other costs, VAT, delivery, we have to engrave the plate, line the interior, then we have to mark up the price as well. The cardboard coffins are not popular, we sell very few, and we have to mark the cost up or we wouldn’t be a business.” 

Scottish Conservative chief whip John Lamont accused funeral homes of “profiteering” at the expense of grieving families. He said: “This seems like a heavily excessive mark-up which would not be tolerated in other industries. Grieving families are probably in the worst possible frame of mind to spot this, and that’s perhaps why it happens. Funerals are not a cheap occurrence and with profiteering like this, it’s easy to see why.”

The use of the word ‘profiteering’ is highly subjective. Bereaved people are uneasy about the commodification of deathcare even though they don’t want to do it themselves. They think the normal commercial rules should be suspended. Well, they can’t be, not if you’re going to create a market for it. Even undertakers have to eat. You can’t have it both ways. 

Instead of berating undertakers for avarice and instilling in funeral shoppers a sense of grievance and entitlement, it would be far better for the likes of Mr Lamont to comment sensibly and urge consumers to shop around. As that Scotmid spokesperson said: “We have to mark the cost up or we wouldn’t be a business.”

Within a mile or two of any undertaker who is out to rip you off is one who isn’t. That’s the good news. Get it out there, Mr Lamont. 

Full story here

Another no-frills funeral service

There was a big splash in Saturday’s Daily Mail about a budget funeral newcomer to Funeralworld, Cremdirect. Set up in June 2012, Cremdirect has already performed 70 funerals at an all-in fixed price of £1750 and serves Manchester, Buxton and Macclesfield and environs. 

We called up the founder, Mark Roebuck, and put to him the sorts of questions anyone would want to know the answers to.

Mark, your background is the motor trade. What experience have you got of undertaking? Mark replied that he has a little, and he employs three staff with around 100 years’ experience between them.

We asked Mark about his mortuary. It’s in a unit at Compstall Mill on the outskirts of Stockport, next to a country park. There’s a good and proper refrigeration unit – no coldroom and racking. There’s even a small chapel of rest for those who change their mind and decide they want to visit – though the website makes clear that Cremdirect  does not offer ‘viewing facilities’.  He encourages families who want to visit to do so at the hospital mortuary, where Cremdirect can leave bodies until a day or so before the funeral.

Clients can make arrangements either in the office at Compstall or, as usually happens, at their homes. 

We asked Mark about his price and wondered if it might not be a bit on the high side by comparison with similar providers (eg Powell and Family Direct at £1497 and Richard Fearnley at £1397.) He puts it down to the cremation fee in his area – around £600. Another factor may be his refusal to use foil coffins. He’ll only use veneer. He doesn’t want his funerals to look cheap. He even has a Daimler hearse, so he’s clearly a bit of a funeral romantic.

Mark has been greeted warmly and supportively by the undertaking community in Manchester and has found local suppliers delighted to serve him. Or not, as the case may be.

Tomorrow, he’s on the Jeremy Vine show on R2. He sounded a bit apprehensive. This is a lot of publicity for a wee startup that’s not doing much different from a number of other firms serving the fuss-free market. Mark hasn’t courted any of this publicity; it just seems to have happened to him in the random way the media works.