You walk into a funeral home and what do you find on the price list? You find that cremation is priced at pennies while burial is in the thousands of dollars and up. In fact, the gap in pricing continues to grow between cremation and burial as funeral homes use ever decreasing cremation prices as a loss leader to draw in customers and grow their brand recognition while at the same time raising burial rates to offset their financial losses.
Daniel Isard argues in the July 2017 issue of The American Funeral Director, “[funeral homes] should price cremation to cover overhead, just as we do for burial. We should not tax our burial customers to pay for the discounts given to our cremation consumers. You can’t tax the 49 percent to offer discounts to offer discounts to the 51 percent.”
While cremation customers might not mind that their cremation is being subsidized by burial customers, they would care if they realized that with upwards of 70% of families choosing cremation, that many funeral homes no longer have enough burial customers to subsidize their lower cremation rates and are having to find ways of cutting costs. Some funeral home owners and staff work full-time jobs outside of the industry and only open the doors of their funeral home when they are called. Others use cremation mills, leverage the emotional vulnerability of their client families to oversell products they do not really want or need, illegally solicit customers at or near death, or find other ways to make their lower cremation prices sustainable.
And burial customers, well they should care that they potentially subsidize the cost of someone else’s cremation. Burial customers are seen as the funeral home’s “cash cow” and funeral directors often leverage the emotional vulnerability of their client to oversell them products to increase the burial cost and bring in more revenue to offset their cremation losses.
At Putnam, cremation is priced as Mr. Isard suggests – fairly and in a way that makes us sustainable in a world of ever increasing rates of cremation. Our role as a funeral director and cremation advocate is our full-time job. We own the only crematory in the Highland Lakes area and only cremate for Putnam client families. At Cremation Advocates by Putnam in Marble Falls, Burnet county – our focus is on cremation and we are the area cremation experts. Turning to Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory in Kingsland, Llano county, in addition to being the area cremation experts, we are also able to offer a burial package that includes services in the option price at a lower cost than any other area funeral home – simply because we do not underprice cremation. No longer do you have to feel forced into cremation because of the price, you can choose it at either of our locations because you want it and you want our level of service. And no longer do you have to choose the minimum or “disposer” level to afford burial – with Putnam Funeral Home and Crematory, you will find that burial includes the Putnam service pledge and visitation and service options as an affordable choice. There is only one opportunity to do this right, so whether you choose burial or cremation, do so for the right reasons and do it with Putnam.
Knowledge, quality, service, personalization, legally compliant, going above and beyond, time spent with the family – these are the qualities that people take for granted that they will receive when choosing a funeral home or crematory. However, there appears to be a race to the bottom in the funeral industry that is negatively impacting the ability of funeral homes and crematories or cremation providers to meet these expectations and many families are walking away from the burial or cremation of a loved one – disappointed.
With on-line options touting cheap cremations and some funeral homes BOLDLY UNDERLINING IN ITALICIZED CAPS THAT THEY WILL PRICE MATCH, it is clear that the funeral industry incorrectly believes that the number one priority to someone shopping for a funeral home or crematory is price. And by trying to be the cheapest, many in the funeral industry have initiated a race to the bottom by cutting corners. Some families tell stories of illegal solicitation efforts, of being offered “Factory Second” urns, being rushed through their initial meeting, receiving the cremated remains of their loved one in the mail, or not being provided options for a service or help with insurance or the option to purchase death certificates, just to name a few.
The final disposition following a death is just that – final. Families only have one opportunity to have it done right. There are no do-overs. So while consumers and funeral homes have been trained to buy and sell solely on price, the race to the bottom, to be the cheapest, has the potential to leave a family bereft and unhappy with how the final disposition of their loved one has been handled.
What can you do to ensure that your expectations are met? When shopping for a funeral home, crematory, or cremation provider, look beyond the price. Ask yourself, what am I giving up by going with the cheapest option? Am I missing out on using a local business who hires locals and volunteers time and money to the community? Am I missing out on knowledge, or quality, or service? Am I using a funeral home that engages in shady or illegal practices or finds other ways to cut corners? And if a funeral home is visibly cutting corners, how might they be cutting corners with my loved one when I am not in the room? Am I missing out by using a funeral home or cremation provider that really cares and is going to take time with me and help me build a positive foundation for grief? Am I using a middleman who is going to ship my loved one hours away to be cremated?
In other words, look beyond price and ask questions about what makes a funeral home or crematory or cremation provider different and ask questions about things that are important to you.
You can no longer expect a certain level of service when contracting a funeral or cremation – the race to the bottom, to be the cheapest, has created an environment in which funeral homes and cremation providers are doing whatever they can to cut costs, doing whatever they can to provide a consumer with the cheapest funeral or cremation out there, when maybe what the consumer really wants is for their loved one’s funeral or cremation done well and done right.