Tell Me: Why Do You Choose a Funeral Home?
BY JODI CLOCK, NAVIGATING THE ELDER CARE JOURNEY…WITHOUT GOING BROKE! CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION WITH JODI AT JODICLOCK.COM.
Readers -- this is a call for action, if you will. As a funeral professional I am asking for your thoughts, feedback or recommendations for continuous improvement. We don’t know, if we don’t ask. As I sit here at my computer I find myself very perplexed. Most everyday, when I sit down at my desk to begin my day, I check my email. (This task in itself at times can take literally all day!) Like many of you, I have set “Google Alerts” to crawl the web and place key topics that I follow in my in box. This morning’s mailbox is unusually loaded with people who are frustrated with funerals, wedding planners who are attempting to add funeral planning to their expertise and entrepreneurs who have a new concept to send their loved one off in style. After reading each of the alerts, I find myself asking the obvious – why?
The next few paragraphs will contain random thoughts, observations and questions. As you read this article, please take a moment to reflect and respond either openly in the comment section at my blog here, email email@example.com.
Why do people choose a funeral home? Past history has told us, because that’s where their family always went. Today, this simply is not the case. Location used to be a primary factor. To some degree, I believe it still is. However, funeral homes, much like hospitals are a destination, typically not a place of convenience. Is price the determining factor? If price is strictly the case that begs some important questions that need to be both addressed and understood. (Please understand that there is no wrong answer.)
1. If price is truly the issue and there is no money, our funeral home offers a “no cost” cremation solution. We are the only funeral home in Muskegon County that offers this. The caveat is that the deceased must not be an IV drug user, have AIDS or any other contagious disease. The deceased also must have be found and pronounced death within 24 hours so the proper protocols can be taken. The family receives one death certificate. All transportation fees and professional services are of zero cost to the family. Anything above any beyond this, the family must pay for.
2. Do families feel that funeral homes are a rip off based on all the media hype? Probably to some degree. It only takes one disreputable funeral professional to place a stigma on what we do, to ruin it for those who operate an above board business. All industries have their “black sheep,” however, because we are in the death care profession, things are sensationalized.
Here’s a fact you should know. The funeral profession as a whole is highly regulated. Our profession has to uphold to numerous standards that are set by the Federal Trade Commission, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Music Licensing and Regulation, audits for pre-planned funerals, not to mention all the necessary insurance coverage and much more.
It’s fair to say that as recent as 15 to 20 years ago, funeral professionals made a comfortable living with an above average income. Today (2013) this is not case. Nobody, let me repeat nobody who is in this profession is getting rich. Not the casket suppliers, urn suppliers, the vault suppliers, cemeteries or the crematories. In fact, many companies have consolidated or gone out of business. Everyone who is in this business -- not just where I live, across the country -- are literally making just enough to cover their overhead, their employees’ payroll and benefits, with just enough left over to reinvest back into their business for improvements.
The real question should be, at what at point does a business stop operating with a fair profit margin and operate in the red in hopes that volume will make up the difference? Translation, a business can lower their price and create a price war, but is it worth the cost of going out of business? If a funeral home wants to operate on the “Wal-Mart” volume based method, their must be enough of the general population in the community they live in that is there is an abundance of individuals whose mortality is limited. Unlike Wal-Mart, funeral homes can’t dictate to their venders what price they are going to pay for their merchandise, insurance, vehicles and utilities. We have the same price increases as everyone else.
Muskegon seems to be segregated by choice, meaning that 98% of all African Americans patronage a funeral home that is owned and operated by African Americans. This frustrates me. I’m not sure how this norm can be changed.
Religion -- one could argue either side of that decision. In my opinion only, over time I think this norm will be less prevalent. Why? The baby boomer as a generation has a large segment that is non-churched. Take note, I did not say “un-religious.” A large sector of boomers tend to outwardly say they are spiritual and have their own personal relationship with God. Many people have prayer groups at their home and consider that their church. Conversely, those persons who actively participate in a church don’t want to have their services held at a funeral home.
Why is that? In fact, to be quite candid, many churches across the country have taken on the role of a “funeral home” and handle everything but the “dead” aspect. Some pastors tell us that they would prefer the funeral home be involved, others have actually hired people to assist with all the behind the scene action that is cumbersome.
Most families will honor their loved ones request by calling the funeral home that the individual wanted to go too. If the deceased had pre-arranged or prefunded their funeral 99% of the time, the survivors honor that decision.
Just for educational purposes, if a funeral plan is pre-arranged and even funded, the survivors do have the option to move that contract to another funeral home of choice. The consequence is that the guaranteed portion of the contract in terms of price is no longer valid. The value of the policy, meaning the amount of cash that the contract has grown to, is what the family has to pay or put towards a funeral. Pre-paid funerals legally must be 100% transportable within the United States, and many are also accepted in Canada or Puerto Rico.
In closing, I’m asking you to tell me your perspective on why people don’t want what funeral homes have to offer. I understand it’s not an expense that is tangible like a car or even a piece of jewelry. It can be an experience, and a memorable one, if you allow us to do what we do or share with us what you want. Funerals don’t have to be men in dark suits directing people. In fact, our funeral home employs more women then men.
Funerals can be festive. Stories can be shared. Any kind of music can be played. People can have that “pig roast,” motorcycle gathering, Irish wake or even a firecracker send off, they just need to ask. If it’s legal, within reason and you have the funds to pay for the necessary items – it can be done. The difference between what we do and what a wedding planner does, is we make it happen typically in 24 hours or within five days. While wedding planners have months, if not a year.
Today, many individuals have had one if not two wedding for themselves. There are no second or even third funerals for an individual. We only get one chance – why not let use help you make it one that is not a cookie cutter, fits your style and your finances. Please – talk to me!
What are your thoughts? I'd love for you to continue this dialogue with me! Please share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook, or my blog.
Visit one of Clock Life Story Funeral Homes' three locations at 1469 Peck St. in Muskegon, (231) 722-3721; 16777 Lincoln in Grand Haven, (616) 844-4200; or 3592 Pontaluna Rd. in Fruitport, (231) 865 6151. The clockfuneralhome.com website contains useful information about services, planning, Life Story products, and more. Information about sister company Clock Timeless Pets is at facebook.com/timelesspets. To purchase Navigating the Elder Care Journey…Without Going Broke! by Jodi Clock, go to Amazon.com.