Phone several funeral homes and have them have a price list waiting for you to pick up. Don't be surprised if they volunteer one of their salesmen (Grief Counsellors, they're called nowadays) to "go over it with you in case there are any questions." Then expect a sales pitch. While at the funeral home, ask to use their restroom. Check the toilet paper and tissues. If they are single-ply, slick, industrial quality .. LEAVE! If they will cut corners on tissues and TP you can bet they'll cut corners on everything else. You can also get the prices by phone, but without reading the actual price list and the fine print you cannot possibly know what you're buying, or whom you're actually dealing with. Send your friend to collect the lists if you don't want to run the gauntlet of sales personnel.
Expand your search, but be careful.
Beware the Corporate-Owned Funeral Homes
Don't expect the conglomerate-owned businesses to advertise* their affiliation or ownership out in the open, you have to read the contract to find any mention of SCI, Stewarts, etc. And if you do, it's my opinion you should go on down the road to another establishment. With their bulk-buying power these giants get many of their goods at nearly 25% less than their independantly-owned counterparts, and yet their prices are grossly inflated. Per a contact at MONEY Magazine who'd studied both the NFDA data and the corporations' SEC reports, SCI reported four-times as much profit per funeral as independants.
*New York recently passed a law requiring funeral homes to state their ACTUAL OWNERS in their ads and signage. This law was fought bitterly by the corporate death care industry, but the consumer finally won one. Good work New York! Wouldn't you like to know who you are doing business with? Let your legislators know this, but don't be surprised if restrictive industry-friendly legislation is already 'bought and paid for', as is the case in many states.
Beware of 'Package Deals'
A List of the Most Consumer-UNfriendly States
A couple of years ago, a piece of gravel cracked one of the front signal lights on my car. I called the dealership and was told I could buy just the LENS for $129.50, but that the lens came as part of the 'Replacement Package' including ALL the parts and cost $159.40! Luckily, there was an independent after-market parts place nearby, and I found the lens for under $10.00, but What if I wasn't ALLOWED to buy from an independent dealer? That would be what is known as 'unfair restriction of trade', but is the law of the land in several states where only licensed funeral directors are allowed to SELL caskets.
Per the Federal Funeral Rule Legislation, however, you can BUY a casket anywhere in North America, from anyone you wish, and have it delivered directly to the funeral home. And, the funeral home is NOT allowed to change its prices or charge you any sort of 'handling fee' if you buy the casket elsewhere. If you live in any of the following states and want a better price on a casket, call us. We'll put you in touch with someone who can deliver and save you about HALF the funeral home prices.
Alabama (home base of Stewarts)
Minnesota (tell Jesse V. about this!)
Oklahoma (even their Supreme Court seems to be sold-out)
Tennessee (Recently their restrictive laws were overturned in court, despite the fact that several of the legislators including their Speaker of the House have funeral industry ties)
Virginia (Possibly the WORST state of all in caring for consumers. Must buy caskets from a funeral director. Finally got around to regulating cemeteries, only to appoint as their 'Consumer Representative' on the regulation committee a freshly-transferred employee of SCI!)
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