10 facts funeral directors don't want you to know
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4. Seeing your loved one prior to burial without
the benefit of embalming will not leave you with unresolved grief
"This is a myth," notes Slocum. "There are no objective
studies that bear this out. Embalming is an incredibly invasive
process -- there's nothing gentle about it. It's strictly a temporary
cosmetic and preservative process."
"If more people knew what embalming entailed,
they would not choose to do it," says Slocum.
5. Sealed caskets cannot preserve a body.
Sealed caskets cost hundreds of dollars more than unsealed caskets,
reports FCA's Slocum. "It actually costs the casket manufacturers
only about $12.00."
But the idea that a casket can protect or preserve
the body is "absolute rubbish." Sealer vaults likewise
offer no advantage except to the income of the funeral director,
6. A funeral provider may not refuse or charge
a fee to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.
The casket is the single most expensive item in a traditional funeral.
In a 1996 survey, the AARP found the average price of a casket to
Traditionally, caskets were sold only by funeral homes,
but today cemeteries and retailers sell caskets. You can even purchase
one on the Internet. You can also use a family built one if you
choose. Caskets are available in many styles and prices and can
be made from metal, wood, fiberglass or plastic.
According to the federal "Funeral Rule,"
it is illegal for a funeral home to charge a "handling fee"
if you wish to bring in your own casket from an outside source.
7. You don't need to spend more than $400 to $600
for a modest casket.
Since a casket is one of the largest expenses of a funeral, reduce
your expenses by shopping around.
If a funeral home is charging more than $400 to $600,
you can bet there's a 300 to 500 percent markup, says Slocum. A
casket that is listed at $1,295 at the funeral home might wholesale
for $325. That same casket is probably available from a casket retailer
To discourage customers from choosing less expensive
caskets, low-end merchandise is often ordered in ugly colors by
funeral homes or is stored in an out of the way place, he says.
If the price and basic design of a modest casket appeal to you,
ask what other colors can be ordered. Usually a funeral home can
get a more attractive replacement within hours.
8. You do not have to buy the whole bundle of services.
Many funeral providers offer various "packages" of commonly
selected goods and services that make up a funeral.
"Consumers have the right to pick and choose
which services they want without buying a whole package," stresses
"You can tell the funeral director, 'I want the
first three but not the last two.' In the past there was no way
to unbundle the services, and consumers got soaked because they
didn't know any better," she says.
9. You can plan and carry out many things on your
own to honor your loved one without paying for services from a funeral
Having a memorial service at home, your church, a park or the community
center is one way to save money, suggests Diana Evans. You could
print memorial cards on your home computer, decorate the room with
pictures or items suggestive of your loved one, like fishing poles
or needlepoint, and have friends and family tell stories about your
"It not only saves you money, it's more personal," she
10. Local funeral and memorial societies can help
consumers find ethical establishments and often negotiate discounts
for their members.
The Funeral Consumers Alliance has 115 chapters in 46 states around
the country. They used to be called funeral and memorial societies.
These groups are run by volunteers and will have information on
local funeral homes as well as price surveys that can assist the
consumer in comparison-shopping for services.
The more active groups have also negotiated discounts
with local funeral homes. To find a group in your area, check out
link to the directory of consumer groups across the nation.
Ellen Goodstein is a freelance writer
based in Florida.