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Are Funeral Directors too Pushy?

Are Funeral Directors too Pushy?

Funeral directors are often a maligned group, accused of greed, insensitivity and questionable ethics. Just type “pushy funeral director” into any search engine, and you will certainly be treated to dozens of stories written by funeral home clients who believe they have been cheated, lied to, misled or otherwise abused by a funeral director in charge of final arrangements for a loved one. In fact, many a funeral consumer group in the United States has been formed by disgruntled souls disenchanted by an experience with a funeral home their family hired. And entire laws have been pass by Congress (and many state legislatures) intended to protect consumers from abuses that funeral directors have shown themselves to be prone to in previous decades.
While it is certainly true that not all funeral directors practice questionable ethics and heavy pressure sales tactics, evidence is sufficient for consumers to beware. And funeral directors who are resistant to precautions of wary clients are probably best avoided. This article summarizes some of the problems customers have reported with funeral directors, offers a few tips for how to know when your funeral director is a bad one, and provides some advice for how to get help if your director comes across as being too pushy.

Stories Abound

More than one internet reviewer has said a trip to a funeral home feels much like going to a car lot. Funeral directors have been known to show their clients their most expensive caskets first and offer the least expensive varieties as an after thought, almost as if to say, “Oh, you might also consider this style too, but, actually, no one else ever buys those” even though consumer statistics regularly report that, when it comes to caskets, families tend to prefer the no-frills variety. Funeral directors, or other sales reprentatives working for funeral homes, will often argue against this trend by reminding a family member, “you want only the best in honor of your loved one, correct.”
Likewise, some funeral directors have been reported to be very suspicious of customers who insist on purchasing goods such as cremation urns, headstones and caskets from other retailers – often at a fraction of the cost the funeral home would charge. “We take our commitment to quality very seriously,” is a common line for funeral directors to use when trying to justify their higher prices. Careful consumers will often discover that the product they see on display (or advertises in a catalog) at a funeral home is the exact same product that a non-funeral home retailer offers for hundreds of dollars less. In other words, there is often no difference in quality. The only difference is the retail price. Customers would do well to remember that they always have a legal right to purchase their funeral goods from any source, and they may not be discouraged or charged a special service fee by their funeral director for doing so. Funeral directors have a vested interest in keeping customer ignorant about their legal rights on this matter, and families should be prepared for even the most congenial of them to do so.

What Funeral Directors are Supposed To Do

A funeral director is required by federal law to be very upfront about his or her charges for the services he provides and products he sells. All business activity in a funeral home centers around a federally mandated “General Price List” that shows exactly what services the funeral directors provide and the prices charged. Before any work can legally begin on a loved one’s arrangements, funeral directors are required by law to obtain a family member’s signature on a contract clearly stating what services are to be delivered and what payments will be made. Any funeral director who proceeds on a case (say, for example, after being called by an outside party such as a nursing home, hospital or even pastor) without this required contract may very well be breaking federal law and, at the least, should be treated with suspicion.
Customers should keep in mind that funeral directors have been known to offer illegal commissions (aka kickbacks) to nurses, clergymen, and others who often have need to call for a funeral director on behalf of their clients. Such dubious agreements are certainly not in keeping with a grieving family’s best interest and care should be taken to assure that your funeral director is not partaking in such practices. If a funeral director arrives at a death to which he has not been called by a family member, the best course of action for a family to take is to simply dismiss him from the case immediately and call another funeral director. You may also wish to inquire as to who called the first director, as it is clear this was likely an attempt to collect an illegal commission. Funeral directors should always wait for a family to call them to action.

How to Get Help When Dealing With a Pushy Funeral Director

In today’s technologically-crazed world, the first reaction of many people who have dealt with a funeral director they believe is too push is to simply tell their story, immediately, via Facebook or Twitter. This is likely a mistake. Since a death in a family is usually an emotionally trying time, minor disagreements or miscommunications can potentially flare into significant battles that only lead to more heart ache for all involved.
The best recourse to take when working with a pushy funeral director is to simply hire a new director. This must be done quickly into the process of arranging a funeral, or a memorial service may end up being delayed.
If circumstances make hiring a new director impractical, consulting a lawyer is often the next step that family’s pursue. But this also can lead to more trouble (and expense) than is necessary. Consumers should always remember that plenty of funeral consumer groups in almost every state have the experience and resources to help resolve just about any dispute one may have with a funeral director. Another great source of help is the company that makes or sells any product that a funeral director may be discouraging you from buying for your funeral. A quick call to a third-party retailer’s customer service office explaining one’s story of trying to do business with a pushy funeral director will often result in a firm-but-polite call to the funeral home that will help smooth things along for the grieving family.
In summary, families who are searching for a funeral director to lead their loved-one’s memorial service should take solace in knowing that pushiness is not a universal trait among funeral directors. But they should be ready to take defensive action should they encounter it during these trying times.