Did you know that there’s a Walmart of death care? That’s often a comparison used to describe Service Corporation International, which uses the public-facing brand Dignity Memorial, and operates more than 1,000 funeral homes across the country. That kind of economy of scale should mean Walmart-style discounts, right? Only a recent price survey shows that SCI-owned funeral homes charge more than their independent counterparts. [More]
The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule is a bit of consumer protection that one doesn’t think about much unless until shopping for funeral services. Fortunately, the FTC sends undercover investigators out across the country to check whether individual funeral homes are treating customers in a way that complies with the rule. [More]
Caskets: they’re boxes that we use for a funeral service and maybe a wake, then either stick in the ground or burn up. Why do we spend so much money on them? More importantly, why are 95% of all caskets used in the United States made in this country when everything from the device you’re using to read this post to the sweater I’m wearing right now was made in China? [More]
Douglas, a reader of the New York Times’ “Haggler” column, decided to send flowers with a lighthearted message to his grandmother’s funeral instead of attending. He sent them through 1-800-Flowers, dictating his message for the card to the customer service representative who took his order over the phone: “FAR WELL GRANDMY YOU HAD A GOOD RUNS.” Wait, that doesn’t sound right. [More]
The convenience of a drive-thru window is obvious, but one usually thinks of banks or fast food chains that use them for the ease of customers on the go. And not, as one funeral home is doing in Michigan, a drive-thru viewing window for visiting the deceased. But then again, why not?
It can be a real shock to hear about the sudden death of someone you know. So shocking that you might let your guard down and immediately seek more information. That’s what some fraudsters are counting on. They send you an e-mail entitled “Passing Of Your Friend” that looks like a legit notice from a funeral home, but is neither. [More]
Most e-mail scams try to take advantage of consumers’ curiosity, which is why phishing messages promising sex and/or porn still dominate the scam spam landscape. But some online jerks are trying to tap into an equally primal, but less crude, instinct by sending out fake funeral notices in the hope that people won’t be able to keep themselves from clicking away. [More]
People talk about the death of shopping malls in America, but it may be death that is breathing new life into some of these retail relics. [More]
When I die, I don’t want a traditional funeral. I want a party where my guests can laugh about me, have a few drinks and not be so darned sad. And it should be on a beach. With a Tiki bar and a mix of loud, loud classic rock and Bob Marley on the sound system. [More]
If you don’t want anyone to pay attention to a piece of news, be sure to put out your press release just before the biggest holiday of the year. On December 23, the Federal Trade Commission released the news that it has given its blessing for the largest company in America’s “death care” industry, Service Corporation International, to go ahead and acquire the second-largest company in the same business, Stewart Enterprises, Inc. [More]
A traditional Jewish funeral and burial occur soon after death, and is simple, avoiding many of the excesses of the American funeral industry. To make planning easier and simpler, Jewish groups in the nation’s capital have an agreement with a local funeral home: all of the services for one set price for members of any affiliated organization. Thanks to the Service Corporation International-Stewart Enterprises International merger, that agreement is at risk. [More]
In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission enacted the Funeral Rule, a set of consumer protection guidelines for U.S. funeral home operators covering everything from pricing transparency to casket-handling fees. And every year, FTC investigators go undercover to spot-check the funeral home industry to see if folks are abiding by the rules. According to the latest report, a significant number of them are not. [More]
It’s a good idea to lay out your plans and wishes for your funeral ahead of time, either in writing or with a trusted funeral director. It keeps your family from second-guessing some very expensive decisions at the same time they’re grieving. [More]
Back in 2008, Service Corporation International, the nation’s largest funeral-service company, made a bid to acquire the second-largest company, Stewart Enterprises Inc. The smaller company rebuffed its suitor, but reconsidered after an offer this year. The two companies will now form one large mega-death-services-corporation just as baby boomers are about to consider planning–and more importantly, pre-paying for–their funerals. [More]
Eight years ago, a woman in Connecticut buried her late husband on their 8-acre property, where previous owners had been interring the dead for generations. But her subsequent attempt to make sure this was all okay with local authorities has led her on a legal wild goose chase all the way to the state Supreme Court — and now all the way back to where she started.
Elizabeth missed her grandfather’s funeral because of a broken seat belt. Well, that’s not entirely true. United Airlines claimed that there was a broken seat belt on the plane she was supposed to take from Chicago to Savannah, then kept pushing back and ultimately canceled the flight. By the time they finally canceled the flight, there were no more flights to Savannah for days. A broken co-pilot seat belt and a massive customer service failure is what kept Elizabeth and other passengers in Chicago.
A couple in New Jersey thought they had made the final payment on their prepaid funeral arrangements 30 years ago. That is, until the cemetery called to tell them they still owed more than $2,000 if they ever hoped to actually be entombed in the crypt they had purchased.
If the responsibility has fallen on your shoulders to close up the accounts and cancel the contracts of a loved one who passed away, it can be a painful, slow, and confusing process. Here are 9 tips to make it go smoother.