Do you know that of the many funerals that are arranged each year in the United States, a woman is 70 percent more likely to be exploited than a man? Of that statistic, that 25 percent of the time, the woman is under 25 years of age. Since the funeral industry knows this they tailor their services, goods and their vocabularies to take advantage of women. You can identify the indicators that the funeral industry is taking a more mercenary approach in dealing with women. Two classic examples of this phenomenon follow.
A major funeral industry corporation held a marketing conference a few years back, and included on their workshop list “Recognizing Women’s Accessories and What They Indicate in Economic Potential.” Per the anonymous donor of this information (who claims to have attended), this was a seminar on recognizing product lines like Gucci, Aigner, L. Vuitton, etc., so the ‘grief counselor’ who first met with the woman would know immediately about how much she could afford in the way of goods and services. As part of my research, I trained as a grief counselor (not to be confused with a licensed therapist, who offers grief counseling after the funeral), and it entailed a total of four hours of training, and three of those were devoted to wringing more money (and commission for me) from emotionally crippled customers.
Another far more blatant example came from another marketing seminar allegedly held in the Midwest two years ago. A workshop entitled (I’m not making this up!) “The Power of Words to Heighten Emotion: If you can get them crying, you can get them buying!” This was a workshop on words and phrases one could use to play on a women’s emotions, to bring out guilt, sorrow, etc., in order to convince women to ‘trade up’ to more expensive goods and services.
The names of CASKETS, burial vaults, and even URNS are the result of testing with female focus groups. Such euphemisms as “protective” caskets– indicating they have a waterproof rubber seal for which the funeral director pays an average of $12, then jacks the price of the casket by $1,000 or more over its “non-protective” counterpart–have become the common coin of this industry. Casket interiors are now given designer names as well.
In short, women are being systematically targeted and exploited and all under the guise of caring, or “just trying to do what [the deceased] might have wanted.” Funeral directors invariably say it’s “just marketing.” And it is, but where does shrewd marketing bleed over into predatory behavior? For me it was when a widow in Texas wrote to tell me that when her husband had died–following nearly a decade’s decline with Alzheimer’s–she took her husband’s papers with her to the funeral home, including his lone insurance policy for $12,000, and walked out of the funeral home with a funeral costing $12,000 to the penny. Think it doesn’t happen? Ask around.
The average funeral in the United States is rapidly approaching $10,000, when in fact it can cost several thousands less if one just knows what to say, what to ask, and whom to call at vital points in the arrangement process.
Please visit the Funeral Help Program website, where you can download the software version of The Affordable Funeral to have handy should you need it. You’ll also learn a few things that’ll make you a smarter arranger when your time comes. And it does come, for us all.