I prepared to secret shop by calling Josh Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance and we came up with a plan. Because a family has talked funerals all the time and were very conscious being kind to the earth, I wanted to shop for a simple, natural funeral. I decided that I would be shopping for my mother who was not ready to use funeral home services, but was interested in looking at the services of funeral homes in the area. I was ready. When I got to the funeral home the funeral director gave me right away a price list, fulfilling the FTC Funeral Rule.
Basic Fee was $2,215.00. This includes:
Time spent with funeral director and staff making arrangement for the funeral, consultations with the family and clergy, sheltering of remains, preparation/filling out of necessary notices, certificate, permits, obtaining authorizations/consents and coordinating with others involved with the funeral such as the cemetery, crematory and others, overhead expenses relative to the facility such as insurance cost, maintenance and utility, expenses, administrative and equipment. This fee for our Basic Service of Funeral Director and Staff will be added to the total cost of the funeral arrangements you select. This fee is already included in our charges for Direct Cremation, Immediate Burial, Forwarding of Remains and to Another Funeral Home, Receiving of Remains from Another Funeral Home, and Anatomical Gift.
Most businesses include overhead cost in the pricing of their services. It’s what we expect we are paying for when we go get our haircut or go out for dinner. We expect that within the price of the service or item we are paying for the upkeep of the establishments, and the salary of those who are serving us. In funeral homes, we pay this basic fee on top of the other services and products we need and use. This basic fee we cannot negotiate or refuse according to law, which is why we need to shop around before hand to see what we are willing to pay for the services we need for our loved ones. To me, this Basic Service Fee is a lot to pay for sheltering remains and filling out paperwork and calling the clergy and cemetery.
Let’s look at those services that already include the basic service price:
Forwarding of Remains to Another Funeral Home ($2,250.00
Receiving of Remains From Another Funeral Home ($1725.00)
Immediate Burial ($1725.00) (with a purchase of a casket from Funeral Home)
Immediate Burial ($1725.00) (with casket provided by the purchaser.)[This is great. I have found other funeral homes offer a discount on the price of the casket when you purchase through them. This in effect is a charge for purchasing your own coffin or shroud. According to law, we have the right to bring our own, casket or shroud to the Funeral Home and they not allowed to charge you for that. Other funeral homes get around that by giving a discount for their caskets if you purchase through them. I give this funeral home high points for respecting this law in this manner.]
Anatomical Gift ($1365.00)
He then took me into the casket room. I admit, I have always found that room very interesting. Maybe it’s the artist in me-I like function form. Here, he was very candid about vaults and informed me that vaults were not necessarily about protection and that he would be more than happy to sell me the lowest end vault because they were a cemetery requirement, not one required by law. He showed me a vault he used for Jewish burials. It was a plain cement vault with a hole in it to allow the elements to come in contact with the body. The Funeral Director told me the casket room was set up by the manufactures of the caskets, but I have to wonder. Caskets are traditionally an item that provides funeral homes with a good profit. This casket room was beautifully laid out. The most expensive caskets were located at the front of the room and the more modest caskets in the back. He was very open to use an inexpensive cremation casket for my mother, and I did not feel pressured into purchasing a more expensive coffin. I made it clear we were not interested in embalming, but that we wanted a visitation in the church. Unfortunately, he said that if I wanted a visitation or wake for my mom, that would mean embalming.
Now lets look at the other charges that would pertain to the funeral I was shopping for, a simple funeral with very little extravagance:
Cosmetology and Casketing ($225.00)
Hairdressing and Refrigeration Non-embalmed[what I like to call a regular body] ($100.00/day)
[By the way that is what sheltering remains is all about and should already be included in the Basic Service Fee, but would be added to the price of the Basic Service Fee if we did not embalm.]
The casket he showed me $900.00 [there were a few, I am using an average price.]
Transfer of remains to the funeral home ($310.00)
Hearse ($360.00) and a $2.50 charge per mile over 15 miles for all vehicles.
For the simple funeral my mother wants the cost would be over $4000.00 and with mileage and other items we had not considered maybe closer to $5000.00 when all was said and done. All she and those like her want is to remain natural in death, and to be buried without all the falderal in so many conventional funerals. Overall, this funeral director was courteous, kind, and very open to working with us, but not as far as having a natural body in a funeral with an open coffin, which is too bad. His was a very good law abiding funeral home, I just found the prices to be too high. Many more people are becoming interested in simpler funerals. When the market changes, maybe the industry will change along with them. I have heard that in places with access to green burial, funeral homes are more likely to work with families who make these kinds of requests. We have not even looked into the cemetery charges yet. That will come later.