Dec 1, 2007

Pre-need? No Need

An article in this month's AARP The Magazine caught my eye. It was about people who have been ripped-off in pre-need funeral scams. Evidently, some people who prepaid for their funeral in the 1960s and 1970s are being required to make big payments now, to get those contracts honored. There are a couple of excuses cited by funeral operators in the article for the additional costs. Reason one is that some unscrupulous funeral operators stole the money, rather than putting it into escrow. The second is the rising cost of funeral stuff, due to inflation. Reason two is bogus, because the money should have been put into escrow in an interest-bearing account. Assuming even modest returns, the rise in value should have easily outpaced inflation. Besides, since a funeral is a high profit business for the funeral home, they have a big margin to play with. I'm forced to conclude that the problem boils down to garden-variety thievery. Years ago we got a visit from a yahoo from the local Catholic cemeteries, trying to hustle us with the need to pre-buy some cemetery plots. Someone we knew sicced this fellow on us. I have always been reluctant to buy something before I need it, heck I don't even buy underwear in advance. In about 1975 when this occurred, I was earning about $250 per week and had three kids to support, so a lot of things took precedence over a funeral plot. This guy had less than no chance of selling me one, but of course he tried and tried. His first line of attack was to convince us that cemetery space was going fast. I suggested to him that full cemeteries are a societal problem, not a Merle Sneed problem. Since I was going to be dead at the time of my need, it was up to society to figure out what to do with me. I'm not that good a citizen. He lunged and I parried for a while, frustration building on both sides. Finally, I told him my plan was to get myself compacted in a trash compactor and left at the curb for pick up. He slammed his book closed and stormed out, vowing to come back when, "you can take things seriously." He's still waiting. I don't get the whole traditional funeral idea, but every family has their own traditions and norms, so to each his own. I am really put off by the notion that anyone should make a huge profit because someone else died. When our little Christian and his dad died in 2002, the single largest cost was the obituary notice. The creeps at Tucson Newspapers Inc. charged $1100 to run the notice for three days. That is inexcusable and predatory, at least in my opinion. The Sneed version of a funeral is to have the body cremated and to have a simple, yet dignified service to honor the deceased. It is simple and no one has to worry about the economic burden of a full-blown funeral, in the traditional sense. Glad I was able to brighten your Saturday. Things in this blog represented to be fact, may or may not actually be true. The writer is frequently wrong, sometimes just full of it, but always judgmental and cranky

9 comments:

d. chedwick bryant said...

I just want to be cremated--that is pretty much the way my family goes. We have lots of fun little urns around.

I had no idea OBITS were so pricey. that is a big rip off. It would be cheaper to hit up a reporter to do a human interest piece about your departed loved one.

Some people think cremations are bogus, and you can get the wrong ashes, but my uncles/cousins ran a funeral home/w/crematory until 1990, and they were extremely respectful and careful with the whole procedure and the identity/boxing/storage. I would assume that most people in the business have the same integrity. I think a lot of people opt for cremation because funeral homes are going out of business as small towns can no longer support 2 or 3 funeral homes.

Anonymous said...

I am going to be cremated and my ashes spread around my back yard along with my dog's ashes. I don't want to burden my son with an urn and I am not paying some stupid funeral home outrageous fees to store me for all eternity.

Julia said...

I agree with you. When my dad died we had him cremated. All his life when the idea of funerals came up he said he found it creepy to look at their dead bodies all covered with makeup encased in a suit they probably only wore to weddings and other peoples' funerals. My mom could have afforded something fancy, but one thing she did right was refused to feel guilty about not doing it. He was cremated and placed in the cheapest box they had. In my opinion they were making a profit on that box if they sold it for $10. It looked like heavy, waxed cardboard! She had to spend $100. We didn't need to keep the box because we all decided to take him to the mountains and scatter his ashes in a river that he loved. I plan to take my mom to the same place if I'm still around when the time comes.

Chedwick University said...

Snow Day!

Kurt said...

Don't the funeral homes have a contract to fulfill re: pre-need funerals? I assume they did the math and realized they could make more money by selling plots decades in advance. If they miscalculated, that's sort of their problem.

Latin & French Studies said...

parler de la mort est morbide, non ?

Prof. Montblanc

Steve said...

I agree with Kurt. Seems like they would have to have upheld their end of the bargain by contract. Someone needs a lawyer!

I read an article the other day that said the rising rates of cremation are causing problems for funeral homes, which don't make as much money from them as from traditional burials.

Virtually everyone in my family who has expressed an opinion has opted for cremation.

d. chedwick bryant said...

I prefer urns to Hummel figurines.

Terri@SteelMagnolia said...

Hey... we were in AARP magazine the month Kevin Cosner was on the cover... we had a full page picture...

BUT THEY JACKED THE STORY UP COMPLETELY...
THEY COULD NOT HAVE GOTTEN MORE STUFF WRONG...
I WAS SOOO MAD.. I SPENT SOOO MUCH TIME ON THE PHONE CLARIFYING STUFF.. AND NONE OF WHAT I SAID WAS TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT.

They blamed it on all kinds of editor changes...

blah blah blah