retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Got the following email yesterday from MNB reader Lori Buss Stillman:

I loved your commentary on Titan Casket and the service they provide. It’s a smart glimpse into a market sector most consumers are uneducated about, and only engage with at a time when it is difficult to separate heart and head.

When my Dad was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2005, the doctors gave us only eight months to prepare for the inevitable. Part of my own grieving process was a focus on planning the best celebration of his life I could envision.

As I started to research, I was stupefied by the cost of a casket, not to mention the entire funeral sales program. I did some research on state laws, alternative options and realized I was legally able to arrange for a casket from a private company and not have to be subjected to the funeral home prices.

While I am embarrassed to admit I was willing to have a casket for Dad from (now defunct) funeraldepot.com, their ability to sell the same Batesville $9,000 mahogany casket for $2,500 was hard to overlook. Of course, the planner at the funeral home challenged me, citing his inability to use a third-party provided casket that might arrive damaged or inoperable.

When I asked him to show me his exact same casket on the spot, he said they were ordered from an outside warehouse and arrived within 24 hours. I asked him what he’d do if it arrived damaged.  Needless to say, he sold me the casket I wanted for $2,500.

If Titan does nothing more than help consumers become more educated about the business behind the process of burying our loved ones, they are providing a woefully overdue service. 

Sy Syms famously said, “an educated consumer is our best customer.” In this case, an educated consumer is the funeral industry’s worst nightmare.

On the same subject, from MNB reader Rick Werner:

My parents had the foresight to make arrangements for their end-of-life care and post-mortem needs.  They bought long term care insurance early and my father has relied on that for nearly a decade.  Without it, he would have run out of money long ago and the consequences of that would not have been anything I would want him to go through.  

They also pre-paid for their cremation, which was fine when my mother passed.  My father now lives in a different city and the pre-paid cremation does not appear to be transferable.  He's less than 100 miles away, but are we going to move his body when the time comes?  

This eye-opener got me thinking about how to manage your affairs after you've closed your eyes for the last time.  Good preparation can reduce the burden and allow family to focus on grieving instead of administrivia, but remember that you can't predict the future.

Mrs. Content Guy and I invested in long-term care insurance about a decade ago.  If either of us dies suddenly it'll be a waste of money, I suppose, but in the event that we need the longer term attention, it is a source of comfort to know that it is there. 

And finally, from another reader:

Beyond the new-to-me “funeral rule”, there is the counter force of states like CA joining OR, WA in eliminating both burials and cremation, as environmentally unfriendly.  Composting your body is the new thing now!

I'd like my remains - whether cremated or composted - to end up in a remote (and probably uncultivated) corner of a vineyard in the Willamette Valley.  Though that may end up being too big an ask.