Upcoming Events

Just want to take a minute to thank everyone who has let me help them with end of life options. In the last 5 months we have talked to 100’s of people in the Southern Vermont and New Hampshire. It has also been nice to know that people as far away as California asked for our help.

This is also a good time to let the local area know that I am speaking at a death workshop at Emmanuel Retreat Center, Church St.  Bellows Falls, VT.  The program is a all day event. Lunch will be served. The program starts at 10am on November 22, 2014. Preparing for the Inevitable will be a informational look at end of life. The minister from the church and myself will look at a number of issues. More on that in the up coming months.

Thank you again for letting me help your family with the information you need, when you need it most. As always, 802 353-0021 if you need my help.

 

 

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Irish Sporting Page……….

I have been following the obituary page a little here and there as of late.  As a funeral director I use to look daily. I would look  to see if someone we knew had died and gone to another funeral home. Funeral homes live and die by the “Irish sporting page.”  The funeral home would count the obits and keep track of where all of the calls went. This is by no means an accurate way to track a local market.  As a funeral consultant I noticed a few trends that I want to comment on.

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1. Obits written by a family, without mention of a funeral home, seem to far out way the traditional obit with a funeral home tag at the bottom. A lack of tagging by a funeral homes means a funeral home probably had nothing to do with the services.   It is evident that more families are making their own arrangements without a funeral homes involvement.

2. The tags from funeral homes are getting bigger and more elaborate. Corporate funeral homes always have the biggest. It bothers me that family owned businesses try to emulate the corporate funeral homes as far as logos go. I find them tacky and an expense the family does not need.  Oh by the way, YOU are paying for the logo to be displayed at the bottom of your loved ones obit.

3. Obits written by funeral homes are the most boring, stale, insipid, uninspiring bits of opus I have ever seen.  I to am guilty of penning my fair share of space filler on the obit page. Trust me, I wasnt trained that way, it just kinda happens after doing the same thing over and over again. I always enjoyed a family that came to the arrangements with a rough draft or better yet, an obit written by the decided.  The obits that are written by the family have character.  They tell the story.

obituary newspaper section illustration design

Over all it is nice to see that families are taking back end of life services.  Families that I have talked to are finding it very healing to be active in the process.

 

 

 

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The Uncomfortably Slow Death of SCI in Vermont……

Another ad on the front page, another pathetic attempt to save a dying corporate funeral business. The Brattleboro Reformer has another sticker add-on the front page of their paper advertising  a “complete traditional funeral” for $4,695*.  For someone who knows very little about funeral service, this looks like a great “deal”. I can tell you from experience this is not the deal you are looking for.IMG_2932

Working as a advocate  for the funeral consumer, I have spent a lot of time collecting general price lists from all of my local funeral homes. Some are a page long, others are 15 pages. All 5 of the 15 pagers come from the same corporate funeral homes. All 5 of them are very similar in verbiage and price. The difference between those 5 and the rest of the states funeral homes is defiantly price.

The sticker on the Reformer has a list on the back gives a list of what you are getting for $4,695.  As someone who has planned thousands of funerals, I can vouch that the list is complete. Cash advances are never included and are always added to the final total. When market share or averages were dropping, price slashing was the first step. When I worked for the corporations they would never include a casket or a liner in a sale, unless things were desperate. Now mind you the casket included is cardboard cloth-covered.  Not for everyone, but meets the requirement. The liner is a requirement of the cemetery and the cost is minimal to the funeral home. The reasoning behind offering the least attractive casket or liner  is to entice the family to op out of the packaged merchandise for a more expensive models.

The corporate funeral homes will charge a family 5-6 times the price they paid for that casket and liner.  When you take a look at the price list for the corporate funeral businesses and total same services at full prices, you come up with a $9000 +/-  funeral.  Thats a 45% savings. That is roughly a 5 thousand dollar difference.  I don’t know any local businesses who could offer that percentage of saving and stay afloat for very long.  Not any local family businesses could offer that much of a discount and still break even.liner

As a corporate funeral home they have the ability to lower prices when they want with little affect to the corporation as a whole. As the corporate funeral homes continue to struggle in Vermont they will continue to do what ever they can to survive. The word from the funeral industry and a handfull of directors from Vermont is they would do anything to unload all of there Vermont holdings. This might be a good reason why they are having informational seminars and lunches at the local American Legion or Holiday Inn. Sticker ads on the front of papers reaks of desperation.sleezy

After I saw the first sticker add, I kept my eye open for more.  Ker Westerlund has been publishing these a couple of times a week for the last few weeks. I also noticed that the days when Ker Westerlund was not advertising there were advertisements by a number of  local businesses. There was the ad by the car dealership advertising lowest prices of the season. The ad says “no body can beat our deals.” They listed at least 10 cars on the back of the sticker at crazy low prices. I saw a sticker add for a woman’s clothes store who was going out of business and everything had to go. 

I would like to say that one of these ads is not like the other.  But it is so not true.

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See Reverse for Details……..

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It looks like the corporate funeral home is in the media again. This time it is not about mass graves in TX. It is not about there habitual practice of overcharging and taking advantage of the grieving. This time they paided for it, and its on the front page.

On the front page of the Weekend Reformer, Ker-Westerlund funeral home has placed a sticker on the paper asking you to talk to them about a 4,695 dollar burial. That seems to be a little different than their national average that hovers around $10,000. Another interesting point is the fact that this go around with the free luncheon and free information, they are still not using there corporate logo.   I blogged about this a few months ago and you can see the difference in the adds. The older add was at least on the front page, the new add is a sticker that has information on both sides. If your selling cars, or offering a rebate on batteries the sticker thingy might work, for funerals, not so much.

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As a past manager for corporate funeral homes, these meetings are lead generators for the pre need sales people. It also shows that the corporation is losing market share in the area. The last informational talk they had was a few months ago. It was held at the Legion in Brattleboro. They promised along with lunch you would get all the information you needed on green burials.  I have heard that they could of saved some money by holding it in a phone both. The most recent add offers 2 luncheons. One in August and one in September.  These are set up for your convenience.  If you miss the first one they want to make sure you can join them for next. When an area or region of a corporate funeral company starts to tank, the lunches usually follow. If the company continues to lose market share the next step is buying up the competition.

If you cant beat em, buy em. This is the motes operand i of any corporate funeral company who is losing ground in a area. In Vermont there is still some opportunity for corporate growth. When you think about the locations they own now, some of the surrounding funeral homes are ripe for the picking. The money offered by the corporations is always better than good.  They pay with cash and they keep on the employees for a seamless transition. Money is king but as a funeral director I was looking to help folks. I found the hardest part was asking for money which alot of folks didn’t have.  Maybe my view is skewed.  The fact that a funeral director would sell out to a conglomerate, knowing what all of us know, is ludicrous.  Hard to believe the almighty buck outways the years of service to a community.

Local family run funeral homes are disappearing rapidly. The corporations realize if they buy groups of funeral homes in the same area, they can charge what they want. Talk to your local funeral director, ask if they are local and if they are going to stay that way. Back to the informational luncheons offered by Ker-Westerlund in Brattleboro, save your time, save some aggravation and talk to your local funeral director about anything funeral related.river pic

You can always call me and I can lend a hand.  (802) 353-0021

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Sign z papers……….

bad-salesman-31It seem that the VT corporate funeral company is at it again. I found a flyer in the coffee house that was announcing a “funeral workshop” at the Holiday Inn Express in Brattleboro. I have said it before and I will say it again, on August 19th and September 23, take some time to clean your sock draw or sort your holy cards. Do anything but attend a corporate funeral event.

I have blogged about this in the past.  These “‘informational meeting” always are nothing more than pre need sales opportunities.  They will give you all the information you need to pre pay a funeral by putting your money in a non refundable funeral account. The only people who are getting anything out of this meeting is the corporation. Once they get your address and phone number they will chase you down to try and sell you a funeral. Pre paying a funeral is a no win situation for you or your loved one.

Dont be fooled. Save your self a lot of time and months of annoying phone calls and letters.  Stay home on August 19 and September 24. Do not support corporate funeral homes. Shop local, buy local, be local.

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What do a Super Market and a Funeral Home Have in Common……

Another article about mass graves in Texas.  The funeral home in question is owned by SCI. SCI is the largest funeral home/cemetery owner in the world. Currently they control 12% of all the funeral business in the US.WRS LOGO 2013 image (2)

This company owns funeral homes all over the country.  Some carry corporate logos while others have nothing that identify’s them as corporate owned. Think about who you are doing business with. Giving your money to a corporation is like robbing from your neighbors. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

This article about the Demoulas company, a family owned grocery store in MA, holds true for many once local funeral homes. “In almost any other company, in almost any other situation, that would’ve been it. Beloved CEO is ousted and replaced by “consultants”. Wages and benefits are subsequently cut and prices are raised. Customers have to deal with a more expensive product and employees have to deal with working for less money and compromised benefits. Maybe there will be a strike; maybe not. Typically, it will stay business as usual.” Replace CEO with “local funeral home owner” and that sums it up.

Ask your funeral home who they are owned by.  Corporate funeral companies are continuing to buy up local funeral homes at n rate. Locally in Vermont, SCI will continue to court local businesses. Just because Mr. Jones has always run the business does not  mean he is still the owner. Corporate funeral homes will hire the owner and staff for an additional 5 years or so just so the public wont know that anything has changed.

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Local business is important in today’s economy.  Do not do business with a corporate funeral home. The savings and piece of mind will help you get over the additional 10 minutes to drive to a locally run, family owned business.

 

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Who Would Let This Happen………

Two stories that come together and both are downright disgraceful.  Are there humans that would allow this to happen under there watch?Is it just me or is this not the same as mass graves in Germany during WWII or more recently mass graves in Syria and Afghanistan? I’m not sure how someone in the funeral industry could allow this to happen.  When you went to the cemetery with a stack of bodies in the back of your vehicle, did you not think maybe you were doing something wrong? When I think of the people I graduated with from Mortuary School, I can not think of one funeral director that could allow themselves to get caught up in this situation. 10584060_696199337083459_466924987573999740_n The most recent article comes from The Boston Sunday Globe dated July 27, 2014. The article is front page above the fold. The article is long. 5 Pages of the truth.  There are numerous stories inside this story. 6000 immigrants have died crossing the border sense 1998. Out of those 44 % are unidentified. Identified or not all of theses bodies will have to be buried.  The disregard for dignity during death started when the dead were first encounter.  Lack of trained personnel, no medical examiner, and uncaring medical workers who did not follow procedures to help identify these people. 1508536_696199323750127_6328204985740668608_n This total lack of dignity is the  responsibility of so many. Lori Baker gets it right when she says “It’s a total system failure” Baker is in charge of the most recent dig in Falfarriers TX.  Bodies stacked in graves, some in body bags, some wrapped in sheets, multiple bodies in trash bags, all blatantly mishandled after being claimed by a funeral home. The actions of the funeral directors, funeral homes, and funeral home owners, are unconscionable. All involved  should be immediately suspended from any further business until a complete investigation can be conducted. The other article is here. I recently wrote a blog about the situation in Texas and SCI’s continuing trouble serving its families in a dignified manner.

Heads need to roll and someone needs to be held accountable.  The guy at the cemetery, yes. The guy at the funeral home, yes.  The owners of the funeral home, definitely. This is much bigger than an oversight or a poor decision by a single funeral director.  This is about folks in a multibillion dollar company thinking this is OK. Everybody in the organization knew about this. As a general manager of this company, I know first hand that they counted every dollar that came in the door and knew exactly where it came from.

This is pathedic. The fact that it is not the first time ensures that it will not be the last.

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