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Funeral SCAM Of The Month!

As a service to the general public, the Funeral Help Program offers insight into some of the shadier deals going down out there in the funeral industry. Please bear in mind that, for the most part, these are isolated incidents and not an overall indictment of the funeral industry at-large. If YOU have something to contribute, please e-mail us a brief synopsis of what happened, what it cost, and suggestions on how our readers can avoid being taken the same way. You can remain anonymous, if you like, or we'll be happy to include your name and/or a link to your e-mail for reader's questions. Just click on the appropriate text/icon at the bottom of the page.


        My husband died very unexpectedly 6 weeks ago in Cleveland,
      TX. at 43 yrs. of age. There are only 2 funeral homes here, both
      owned by the same huge corporation [Loewen]. We have 2 small
      children that heard him fall when he had his heart attack, therefore
      you can see what kind of state I was in when I went to the funeral
      home the next morning to make arrangements. 

      I thought the arrangements would take approx. 30 min., instead of
      the 3-1/2 hrs. it took, by which time I was begging them to let me
      go home. But no, I had to go out to physically pick a cemetery
      plot because of state law (so they said. I would really be
      interested in knowing if Texas has such a law). 

      I only have one receipt the funeral home gave me. The first charge
      on it is for professional services of $1,990. Embalming was $525,
      dressing & cosmetology $225, visitation $255, funeral ceremony
      $425 (this was held at the church we attend, but the funeral home
      said the price was the same whether it was held there or
      elsewhere, that doesn't sound right, does it?), transfer remains to
      funeral home $125 (they told me that the county paid for
      transportation and autopsy fees, doesn't that sound like a double
      charge?), hearse driver $275, Flower van & driver $95,
      casket-18 g. Ocean Blue steel crepe lining $2,095 (it was one of
      the least expensive in the casket room they just threw the doors
      open in and told me to browse and find what I wanted; luckily my
      brother was there to catch me before I hit the floor from the shock
      of being thrust in the midst of a room full of caskets), concrete box
      $425, memorial register $25 (the little book visitors sign in),
      memorial cards $25 per 100 (I could have done a much better job
      on my computer if I had been able to at the time), death
      certificates $18, for a grand total of $6,503. 

      But that is not all, I signed an insurance assignment to them for
      $9,097. So apparently there is $2,594 worth of cemetery
      expenses. I know the plot was $895 and I bought two apparently.
      I don't know what the rest is for since I received no copy of a
      receipt or price list on this portion of the bill. I bought these plots
      next to a friend of mine that bought hers less than 2 yrs ago for
      $395 ea. All the cemeteries and funeral homes in a large
      surrounding area have been bought out by some huge corporation
      that has apparently more than doubled all prices. The cemetery
      said the only way to get a plot cheaper is to buy pre-need and
      save $200. They didn't seem to understand that I am not dead yet,
      therefore mine is pre-need and I want it for $695. I asked them to
      just take the $895 for my plot off the bill because I did not want it,
      but in a couple of weeks I may buy one Pre-need for $695. They
      said I couldn't do that because they knew who I was now. 

      The cemetery sales mgr. and a sales rep. came out 2-1/2 weeks
      after the funeral for a "condolence" call, but which was actually to
      sell a headstone. They called me the next week with a price for
      what I wanted of $2,700. They called back the next week to tell
      me they had gotten a new price list in and all the prices had gone
      up. That was basically the final straw. I proceeded to tell them
      exactly what I thought of their rip-off ways when people couldn't
      think about what they were doing, or signing. The lady hung up on
      me and I haven't heard from the people again. 

      I just received their check from the life ins. 2 days ago, made out
      to me and Pace-Stancil Funeral Home. I haven't taken it by there
      yet, because I want to know what my legal rights are and if I am
      entitled to some kind of refund. These folks are legally robbing
      people while they are speaking so softly to you like they actually
      care, which is a crock. I am going to ask for a refund of $2200,
      the $2000 rip-off professional fee and the $200 off of my plot. I
      think that is more than fair. They made plenty of money from all
      the other overcharges, don't you agree? Please e-mail me back
      with answers or opinions, as I really need to take this check in to
      them next week before they dig up my husband and cremate him
      (that's what the cemetery rules say will happen for non-payment). 

      Ann R. Merchant

Previous Scams

"We arranged our mother's funeral through the local, S.C.I.-owned funeral home here in Texas, with burial in an S.C.I.-owned cemetery. At the funeral home we decided to purchase a nice stone vase for the grave, to serve in the interim until we purchased a monument. This vase was NOT cheap, nor was anything else associated with this funeral and burial.

Imagine my surprise when visiting the grave shortly after the burial, to find a chintzy substitute vase in place of the upscale model I'd bought! I contacted the funeral home and inquired what had happened, and was told they could not exchange the vase, because " . . . the company that manufactures it has gone out of business." Little did they know they had left the manufacturer's information slip in the vase!

I contacted the company and learned they had NOT, in fact, gone out of business, and that the customary retail for the vase provided is considerably lower than what I'd paid. I again confronted the funeral home and was told they would replace the vase with the model I'd paid for.

This episode made me leery of buying our mother's monument through the cemetery-associated stone yard, so I inquired elsewhere. Then I was told by the cemetery association that, should I buy a monument anywhere other than from them, I would have to pay $500 to have one of their employees observe the installation, PLUS I'd be charges additional Perpetual Care Fees to 'maintain the monument'!

Given their near-monopoly of the funeral business in my hometown, it is difficult NOT to do business with S.C.I., but I'd highly recommend to anyone with the option to go elsewhere." - - - Dallas, TX


"We live in a small town in the Midwest and our local funeral home has been here for several generations. In fact, the funeral director and I attended school together. This is why I never thought to question him when, recently, my older brother passed away and we underwent the arrangement ordeal. Then, when my grandson mentioned having read about funerals on the Innernet (sic), I went back and checked on the bills and asked some questions.

The total cost of the funeral home's part was $7186.40 and, since our mother's services two years ago cost $6800.00, I just assumed this is what they cost these days. Turns out we were charged a total of $140.00 for 'Use of Parking Facility' for two days, $150.00 for 'Shelter of Remains' whatever that is, $100.00 for 'Use of private lounge & supplies', and $420.00 for 'Additional Funerary Events'. I cornered my old school chum outside church last Sunday and asked him point-blank what was what.

At first he didn't want to discuss it there among our mutual friends and neighbors of the congregation, but I was insistant and had the bill with me. After I vowwed to read the thing item-by-item for anyone who wanted to hear, he began to explain.

The 'Parking Facility' charge, he claimed, was merely to offset fees regulated by state and government agencies that would, otherwise, cost HIM money. I question this, because this is a town of less than 3,000 souls and you can park pretty much where you like and his 'parking lot' holds at most twenty cars. Most just park along the street or across the road in the phone company parking lot.
Shelter of Remains charges were merely for having the body under the funeral home's roof, though I understand now that this is normally only charged when the body is stored beyond the normal stay of 2-3 days.
That 'Private Lounge' was a tiny kitchette with NO CHAIRS OR TABLE, just a coffee urn and a small table for snacks. Most folks got their coffee and went out on the front porch. Friends and relatives furnished all those 'SUPPLIES', including the coffee. Turns out I was charged $100.00 for use of the coffee pot and a box of coffee filters!
The Additional Funerary Events charge really threw me. We had bought, at the funeral director's suggestion, a 'Package' of services which, upon reading the fine print, included only TWO of these EVENTS. As I said, we're a small town and many of us work in surrounding cities so visitation is necessarily drawn out over the day to accomodate those who would like to pay their respects prior to the actual service. He charged us $60.00 every four hours (or portion thereof) the chapel was open for viewing! Seems the actual funeral was counted as one 'Event', and a private 'Family-Only' overnight vigil the first night was the other.

Now I understand that this was all perfectly legal, but I strongly feel I should have been made aware of these charges at the time we were arranging things. This has lowered my opinion of the funeral director and his entire business to the point I have changed my will and notified my children and sister that, when my time comes, I want to be cremated, and in another city at that, then have a simple memorial service at my church with my ashes present. Further more, I have repeated this information to everyone I've met at the beuty (sic) parlor, quilting club, etc ... We may be a little backwoods town and theirs the only funeral home in town, but that shouldn't mean we're just ripe for the picking!" -- Maude B., XXX, Indiana

A common occurrance seemed to be trouble with casket prices. A pair of sisters contributed this one;
Pauline and I had the misfortune of losing our husbands just five weeks apart this past spring. We live as far apart now as we ever have, about seven miles, so it was only natural we help each other out with arrangements. We each chose the same model casket, grave liner, and general services for our husbands. It wasn't until just recently that we got around to comparing bills. I'd paid $2650 for my husband's casket and, just seven miles away, Pauline had been charged $4790 for the identical item! Your advice about shopping around would have saved my sister over $2000 and, as a retired lady, she could use the money. -- L.J.S.

Editor's Note: Had either sister phoned the F.H.P., she could have bought the same casket for $650.00, delivered, and saved an additional $2,000. A lady in Los Angeles called for bids on a model her funeral home listed for $6200.00; our sources provided same thing for $650.

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SCAMs of the Month are selected from readers/browsers comments, letters, phone calls, and/or e-mail. No attempt is made to verify the details of these allegations, though the names of companies involved are not revealed. Selections are made based upon the commonality or uniqueness of the complaint. Contributors grant defacto permission for the FHP or any of its officers to cite submissions in future works/collections, in any medium, without payment to contributor in any form. Contents ©1996-2003 by FHP.

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