Why do so many funeral homes not display funeral prices on their websites? Surely, to complete the process of selecting a service, we need to know the price. And aren’t more of us discerning consumers now using the Internet as a valuable means to research a purchase?
The funeral industry calls the purchase of a funeral a “distressed purchase,” and rightly so. Often, families are dealing with death news and trying to objectively make funeral arrangements, a task nigh on impossible in a highly emotional state.
This can make families extremely vulnerable and extremely susceptible to a sales pitch.
More people are turning to online resources to assist them in researching funeral prices and comparing funeral services without ever having to deal with a face-to-face inquiry. In times of immediate loss, the anonymity of the Internet can offer a less invasive means to interrogate funeral prices and services.
So a funeral – what does it cost?
The funeral business is like no other business sector. It has for many years refrained from overtly disclosing price. This is not that funeral homes do not have a pricing structure; it is because they will tell you that they cannot give a “simple price” as “no two funeral services are the same.”
Be under no allusion that some funeral advisors are exceptionally well-trained sales professionals adept at using psychological tactics to elicit more spending from the funeral consumer.
It is what is known in the trade as “up-selling” – in other words, encouraging you to spend more than you intended.
The majority of funeral businesses actually do not promote their funeral prices, in fact, in some cases you may even struggle to get a definitive price. I have emailed funeral homes that do not disclose prices, only to have no reply, or a reply that asks me to call them for a price. Even a call to a funeral home does not always immediately elicit a price!
The other distinctly defining aspect of the funeral industry is that economies of scale work in opposition to the ‘normal’ corporate model. The biggest corporate funeral companies commonly charge the highest prices.
Whereas one would expect that with a greater purchasing and resource capability, the bigger the funeral company, the greater its ability to reduce its pricing. In many cases, a distressed family member may not even know that they are dealing with a corporate funeral home.
For some reason, the corporate funeral companies prefer to retain the ‘Mom and Pop’ sounding name of the funeral home they acquired.
Understanding the FTC’s Funeral Rule
The Federal Trade Commission enacted the ‘Funeral Rule’ in 1984 and further amended the rule in 1994 in response to concerns about how funeral services and products were being ‘mis-sold’ to American consumers.
In compliance with the funeral rule, all funeral homes must have a ‘General Price List’ (GPL) that itemizes all their individual funeral service prices and the varying costs of their funeral merchandise.
The funeral rule explicitly states that a funeral home must “give you itemized prices in person and, if you ask, over the phone.” However, publishing their price list on their website is not required.
Some funeral homes do publish their price list on their website, but unfortunately, this is more of a rarity than common practice.
For more information, see our article on ‘Understanding the FTCs Funeral Rule’.
UPDATE September 2023: The FTC is currently reviewing the Funeral Rule to consider changes. Largely, amendments to reflect new communication technologies and death care alternatives. You can read more about this in Changes to the 40-year-old Funeral Rule.
Do you shop without looking at the price ticket?
So why don’t more funeral homes put prices clearly visible in their shop window? It reminds me of that experience of walking into a very expensive boutique when you try to discreetly look at the garment label in hopes of gauging how expensive it is.
When you see that there is no price, you know you are way out of your league and try to retreat from the store before the attendant spots you! They don’t want to tell you the price before they have had a chance to do the sell on you.
And I have to say I have phoned enough funeral homes now to hear the same pitch. I ask “how much,” only to be subjected to an expansive monologue of how “special” their services are.
The funeral industry is slowly adapting to today’s price-conscious marketplace. Some funeral companies choose to do this by forming an additional ‘arm’ to their existing business with which to brand their “simple and affordable” funeral option. For example, Jardine Funeral Home of Strongsville, Ohio, also operates Cleveland Cremation, which offers a “Simple, Affordable & Worry Free” service at a saving of “40% of a traditional funeral home”.
This example reflects how a once-archaic industry is adapting to change and how those funeral professionals who understand that the current cultural and economic climates require are construction of their identities are helping their businesses move with the times.
Conducting price-conscious funeral comparisons online
If you are a consumer and are using the Internet to enlighten yourself as to how much a funeral costs in your local area, then if you haven’t already, try using the key terms “affordable” and “simple” in your search – you will find that there are funeral companies promoting themselves and are happy to tell you the ‘low’ cost of their services.
If you wish to locate your nearest low-cost funeral or cremation provider immediately, then visit DFS Memorials. The DFS Memorials network has taken the task onboard and located an affordable family-owned funeral company in every area to assist families.
If you are a funeral professional, does your website really help discerning price-conscious consumers today? Do you help your potential customers by enabling them to view exactly what your funeral charges are online? Or do you try and impress them with your credentials as a “fourth-generation” funeral director?
Personally, I wonder if dying is ever going to be the same again in America. The crippling economy has left some American families struggling to put food on the table. The upcoming surge of senior ‘baby boomer’ Americans are living longer and sometimes spending much of their savings on nursing care. This leaves many families with critically limited funds left to meet funeral expenses.
I expect that as more people make funeral arrangement decisions borne out of cost and simplicity, the funeral industry will have no choice but to demonstrate increased price competitiveness.
- Understanding the FTC’s Funeral Rule and how it affects your rights when arranging a funeral
- How To Save Money Arranging A Funeral
- How many funeral homes are creating a new cremation arm to optimize the market place