Archive | December, 2008

Your Funeral Guy: Corporate Funeral Homes-Use These Folks If You Must.

31 Dec

Generally I do not refer folks to a corporate funeral home. Sometimes however they are the only one in town. You can have a lower cost funeral at some corporate funeral homes. Choose this one first but only if your choices are limited.

Stewart Enterprises is the best choice. Presently I have no connection with Stewart Enterprises or SCI. The Funeral Industry as I have mentioned does not have a good reputation. Within the Funeral Industry SCI, Service Corporation International is known for it’s aggressive sales tactics. Please note. SCI and Stewart Enterprise Facilities are most often located near each other and are fierce competitors.

Here is my comments on Stewart Enterprises.

As a former employee of Stewart Enterprises I must say their focus was always on better service.

On the cemetery side there has been difficulties.I observed this first hand. However their tactics were never as brutal as SCI which I have witnessed.

In funeral arrangements their concern was for the family. Walking out of the arrangement conference I heard how did you help that family? Rather than How much did you sell?- the mantra of others (i.e. SCI) and companies I worked for.

Stewart has strict guidelines and standards for employees, and as an arranger I had access to family reviews of my own arrangement and service skills.

Yes they have good goals now. It appears that hiring a cremation specialist is a move towards a focus on giving great service on all types of services even those with less profit margin.

Lower cost funeral alternatives, a rising trend around the country are quickly being requested by the public. This continues to present itself in these difficult economic times.

Strategies for the days ahead appear to be well thought out. I need to mentioned  two consistent problems.

Problem #1 is preneed difficulties.  Please do not purchase a preneed policy especially from a funeral home. It appears that it will not take you to a lower cost funeral.  Being on the inside I saw instances of preneed fraud, which they skillfully dealt with and kept quiet and out of the press.

Problem #2 is executive and employee exchange with SCI. Focus often changed when these exchanges took place. Lower turnover will help this.

If they manage to handle more lower cost funeral deals, Stewart Enterprises will continue to survive and show growth in the recession.

I mention this so you can shop intelligently for a lower cost funeral. Be careful though Stewart Enterprises have a significant population of SCI people.

If you do not want to take my word on  SCI’s blame it on the customer attitude check out this snippet:

“”Was it that Stewart Enterprises, Inc. (NASDAQ:STEI)was too unreasonable in insisting that Service Corporation International(NYSE:SCI) accept all financing risk in the transaction, as SCI claims? Or was it the declining state of the credit market, as Stewart claims?

Clearly SCI blamed Their Customer Stewart Enterprise. This attitude  carries down to the funeral director level.

Check out an article on this subject now by Laura Cadden.

On the Flipside my experiences with SCI and Stewart Enterprises  led me to write the lower cost funeral book.

Insider's Tips to the Low Cost Less Stress Funeral

Rest in Peace: Insider’s Tips to the Low Cost Less Stress Funeral

Remember to come in under the average cost of a funeral($8000.00 USD+) you generally need to avoid corporate funeral homes.

Blog by Your Funeral Guy.

Your Funeral Guy:Do not Mourn Your Funeral Cost

30 Dec

“Please Do not Mourn your Funeral cost. Be Sure to Mourn Your Loved one Instead.” –Your Funeral Guy and Author. The death of a loved one is often a shock . Often the sticker shock of  a funeral adds to grief. I have stated that the average cost of a funeral in 2008 was $8,000+ USD.

A funeral is in one sense is  a must have product. In order to show respect to your loved one folks around the world are compelled to have a funeral. In order to assist the grieving process a funeral is a necessity.

The first step in addressing the cost of a funeral is to shop around. Some call it comparison shopping. The Funeral Industry makes this complex with their GPL or general price list.

In 2008 I have addressed Five things you need to know before shopping for a funeral shopping for a funeral.

They are :

1.The basics of the funeral process.

2) The two contracts at every funeral.

3). The basics of the funeral rule.

4). The No Decline Basic Services Fee.

5. How to Read a General Price List (GPL)

In 2009 you will find  Five things you need to do when shopping for a funeral:

  1. Interpreting the GPL
  2. Shop by Phone
  3. Shop in Person
  4. Shop alternative sources
  5. Shopping internet sources.

Recently I found one of the great funeral cost articles on “Shopping for a funeral” in  2008:

“Here’s a little test of your frugality: What frightens you more? A) Dying. B) The price of your funeral.If you answered B, congratulations and welcome to“…..your lower cost funeral.

Check out the full story here.

With no disrespect, just because you are dead does not mean you have to stop shopping.

Blog by Your funeral Guy, Funeral Director,  Author.

Your Funeral Guy: Best Way to Come in Under the Average Cost of A Funeral

28 Dec

The best way to come in under the average cost of a funeral is to find a lower cost funeral home. These are growing fast in the funeral industry.

Those funeral homes that are hanging on to traditional funeral cost are running into problems. Those that offer lower cost funeral options are finding a measure of success. A contributing factor here is the economic downturn.

A Funeral like groceries is a must have product. Just like groceries you can find lower cost options.

In a recent interview with a National United States News Magazine I stated that lower cost funeral homes are doing well and that those funeral homes sticking to traditional services and costs are having a harder time.

According to a recent article in Ohio, those funeral homes with lower cost options have sales that are actually up in this economy.

Snippet: “‘While people can’t avoid death, they can choose to spend less on a funeral,” said Ren Newcomer, owner of Newcomer Funeral Homes and Crematories, a low-cost national chain with an Akron location.His business is up 9 percent this year, a jump that Newcomer attributes to the economy. The average cost of a funeral in 2006 was $7,300, while the average cost at Newcomer is $4,500, he said.”

Please check out this article.

The Funeral Industry sometimes encounters less risk because of life insurance policies. There is often a trick employed with life insurance policies at the funeral home. Funeral Directors have a form that makes them the first beneficiary. Many times they will say “purchase the best the life insurance will pay for it.” This will not take you to a lower cost funeral.

Make sure you remain the first beneficiary, then pay the funeral director.

Blog by Your Funeral Guy, Author, Funeral Director.

Your Funeral Guy: Stewart Enterprises Shows No Profits.

27 Dec

Stewart Enterprises shows no profits in 2008. This is not a good sign for lower funeral cost. Odds are the second largest funeral  corporation will raise your funeral cost in 2009.

“NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 19, 2008 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Stewart Enterprises, Inc. (Nasdaq:STEI) reported today its results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended October 31, 2008.The Company reported a net loss from continuing operations for fiscal year 2008 of $3.7 million.”

If you use one of the Stewart Enterprises Funeral Homes in 2009 you most likely will encounter higher funeral costs and expenses. Remember most Corporate Funeral Homes still carry a family name.

It is extremely important that you ask “Is this a corporate funeral home?” when shopping for a funeral. Corporate funeral homes usually charge more for a Funeral. There are exceptions. Sometimes Family run Funeral Homes Charge more. There are also exceptions I have worked for low cost funeral homes as well as high cost funeral homes at Stewart Entrprises International. It is important to investigate closely when shopping for a funeral home.

Note: Stewart Enterprises gained some profits on the funeral side of their business but lossed on the cemetery side.

Losses were a direct result of (SCI) Service Corporation International  (Largest Funeral Corporation)  pulling their offer to purchase Stewart Enterprises. This was reported on October 9th 2oo8.  At that time Stewart Enterprises stock plummeted.

The bottom line the scenario brings chaos to the Funeral Industry. It is already an industry that consumers are shaking down.

Blog by Your Funeral Guy.

Check out an article on this subject now and Laura Cadden’s interview with the CEO of Stewart Enterprises.

Your Funeral Guy: 5 of Five Things You need to Know Before Shopping for a Funeral

26 Dec

Five of Five  things You need to know before shopping for a funeral to lower your funeral cost. One of the  main things to know is how to read a general price list. The Average cost of a funeral in 2008 is $8,000+ USD. In order to come in under the average cost of a funeral one needs to be able to read, understand and compare general price lists.

As mentioned in an earlier post the basic services fee or indeclinable  fee is the key price point and key comparison point in the general price list.

Funeral Homes are required by law to give you a General Price List any time you visit a funeral home. If you request the information by phone they are required to give you the information over the phone. Under the funeral rule they do not have to mail it to you. Many a Funeral Home will mail you a GPL or a General Price List out of courtesy. There are  Sixteen items required on the General Price list  under the Funeral Rule, Nine main ones are listed here.

  1. general services fee
  2. embalming cost,
  3. cost of transferring your loved one to the funeral home,
  4. price of a visitation
  5. cost of funeral or memorial service
  6. cost of graveside services
  7. the cost of use of  funeral vans, hearse, cars and all other funeral vehicles
  8. Other offered goods and services. (caskets, urns, video tributes, guest, memorial books & cards associated with the funeral, webcasting, flowers, etc.)
  9. Funeral packages(funeral packages generally lower the price of some items and raise the price of others.)

In addition according to the Federal Trade Commission or  FTC  certain disclosures to aid in price shopping must be made.

  • Anyone must select only the goods and services desired
  • Consumers must be notified that Embalming is not required by law ( and only certain special cases)
  • A “general  services fee” will be added to any items purchased
  • “Alternative containers,” such as those made of cardboard, pine or other products  are available for direct cremation
  • A Casket Price List is available for all who come into the funeral home
  • A Vault price list must be available to the customer(public)

These requirements are for funeral homes not all merchants in the funeral industry.

In the future we will consider Five Ways to Shop for a Funeral:

  1. Interpreting the GPL
  2. Shopping by Phone
  3. Shopping in Person
  4. Shopping alternative sources
  5. Shopping internet Sources.

Remember all funeral directors do not follow the funeral rule, the law.

This has been Five of Five  things You need to know before shopping for a funeral. The basics of the funeral process.2) The two contracts at every funeral. 3). The basics of the funeral rule. 4). The No Decline Basic Services Fee. 5. How to Read a General Price List (GPL)

Blog by Your Funeral Guy, author, funeral director

Your Funeral Guy: Will The Funeral Industry Demand a Bailout or Did They Get One?

24 Dec

Funeral Directors may have to ask for for a funeral cost bailout. It is quite evident that folks around the USA are asking for the lower cost funeral.  It can be said that some funeral directors already have received a funeral cost bailout.

A bailout to the Funeral Industry will contribute to the distrust of Funeral Directors. The Funeral Industry has had some credibility hits this Year. The Illinois Funeral Directors Association IFDA Preneed Trust Mismanagement Debacle, The National Prearranged Services Scandal  and a recent Neptune Society Scandal in Colorado.

NFDA Secretary Randal Earl stated that this is the worse time for funeral directors in  over 30 years. Now what was happening over 30 years ago is quite a mystery. Thanks to and according to the Guardian Newspaper (UK) reporting from New York.- New York Funeral Directors may be asking for a bailout on funeral cost in the near future. In the article specific industries are named that may need a bailout.

“Bereaved relatives are cutting back on the size and scale of send-offs as they worry about the cost of elaborate services. Traditionally, a typical package included a viewing of the body, a funeral and a graveside service. As times get tough, many people leave out the viewing, according to Randall Earl, secretary of the National Funeral Directors Association.”

We had a slowdown in the early 1980s. There was some effect then, but nothing like it is now,” said Earl, who runs a funeral home in Decatur, Illinois. He balked, however, at the idea of getting a handout from Paulson’s fund. “I would not like to see that happen,” he said. “The funeral profession, for the most part, are small business people who are entrepreneurial in their own areas and they’ve come through tough times.”

You can check out the full  article here:

Maybe the Secretary of the National Service Directors Association got a bailout already. His Funeral Home as part of the Illinois Funeral Directors Association got a bailout.

Here is why:

The Funeral Industry had a bailout on Dec. 5th 2008. Like all bailouts there is a condition.

Merill Lynch was purchased by the Bank of America and it went through on DEC 5th 2008. Recently the IFDA Preneed Trust was taken on by Merrill Lynch Bank and Trust. Merrill Lynch became the trustee of the IFDA Preneed Trust on November 3rd, 2008.

The IFDA Mismanaged the IFDA Preneed Trust and the license was removed by Comptroller of the State of Illinois and taken away from the Illinois Funeral Directors Association. The Reason for this was a 40 Million Loss plus of funds in the IFDA Preneed Trust. This happened in February 2008.

In November I questioned the wisdom of Merrill Lynch as trustee. Merrill Lynch has long had history of being invovled with troubled assets.

Bank of America was bailed out by the US Treasury to the tune of 25 Billion USD.

Bank of America appears to have accepted the IFDA Preneed Trust, trustee agreement with Merrill Lynch.The almost 300  million trust fund will be bailed out. This means the funeral industry got a bailout via Bank of America and Merril Lynch. The US TREASURY BEING THE ORIGINAL SOURCE.. Note The bank of America could still reject the IFDA agreement with Merril Lynch. One could say that the bailout may have a condition

Maybe the Secretary of the NFDA already had his bailout with the condition of course.

By the way I believe the Funeral Industry needs regulation not a bailout. Just like Wall Street there was essentially no regulation in the Funeral Industry under the Bush Administration.

Blog by Your Funeral Guy, Funeral Director, Author

(update Dec 26th  Here is what the Bank of America says about this: There must be full shareholder approval: “The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2009. It has been approved by directors of both companies and is subject to shareholder votes at both companies and standard regulatory approvals.”

The Link is here:

Your Funeral Guy: Holidays Tough on Funeral Cost.

23 Dec

Quite often the holidays are tough on Funeral Cost. Last year many friends admonished me not to blog on the lower cost funeral. It is an inside secret among funeral directors that the holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years day  are the busiest time of year for the funeral director.

This year because of the economic down turn folks have been turning to the low cost funeral. This is one reason I am continuing to blog.

Last year several friends, bloggers and acquaintances all experienced what Funeral directors know well. The sudden death scenario of the holidays. Is it the stress, do people just give up? Drunk Driving?  There is much speculation.

Here is why I am continuing to blog.

The sudden death scenario at the holidays can affect  anyone. I pray that it does not come to your family at anytime. If you need help with funeral cost be sure to find it. My best to you.

Have a good holiday.

Your Funeral Guy.