9 More Funeral Director Secrets

1. Sure, you can store ashes in an urn or scatter them somewhere special, but nowadays you can also have them crushed into a real diamond, integrated into an underwater coral reef, or blasted into space.

2. It’s usually less expensive if the body is not present for the funeral.

3. If the deceased’s favorite outfit is a size too small or a size too big, bring it to us anyway. Part of our job is making the clothes lie perfectly.

4. If I ask you for a photograph of the deceased to help me prepare the body, I don’t mean her honeymoon picture from decades ago.

5. That may be real gold in your loved one’s dental fillings or crowns, but don’t ask me to remove them for you.

6. You don’t need to spend money to have a meaningful service. Consider a potluck at the widow’s home or an informal ceremony at a favorite park, and ask survivors to tell stories or read poetry.

7. Never trust a funeral director who says, “This is the last thing you can do for your loved one.”

8. Always bring another person when you meet with me, ideally someone who’s not as emotionally attached to the deceased.

9. It might be wise to check out just who owns your local funeral home. Corporate chains have bought out hundreds of family-owned funeral homes in recent years, but they often keep the original name, appearance, and even some employees after a buyout. The one thing they usually do change? The prices.

See the full list: 13 Things the Funeral Director Won’t Tell You

Sources: Funeral directors in Illinois, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Washington; funerals.org; and Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance and coauthor of Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death.

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43 thoughts on “9 More Funeral Director Secrets

  1. I use to work at a funeral home as a office manager, I have seen it all….most people don’t know is that on the price list there is package deals…ranging from low to high. the higher the package the funeral director sell’s you, the larger bonus he or she get’s and the funeral home if it is corp owned really tracks this on a weekly audit. If a funeral director does not meet goals, or a set package limit they can be fired. I have seen so many families taken advanaged of, one of the many reason I left the funeral business….stick with family owned funeral homes….avoid corp owned funeral homes, or know up front what you want and tell the funeral director fromt he get go, this is what I have to spend, and what can you do for me.

  2. This is not a secret, I have known this for years as I have performed cosmetic services in funeral homes throughout my state.  I have no problem sharing information with people, however people are often coerced more by family members than a funeral establishment to spend more money.

  3. If anyone has read “Final Rights” it’s pretty clear the authors, one of whom put this list together, have an agenda that ignores many current practices and cherry picks from a handful of worse case scenarios.  The tone is ignorantly aggressive and, lets face it, these folks are no Mitford. (Who, by the way, in the end had a huge and expensive memorial service.) It’s disappointing that funeral directors are still seen as creepy, greedy villains from some melodrama, wringing their hands and plotting ways to take advantage of the bereaved. It’s just not the case. There maybe a few bad apples but in general, most funeral directors consider their job a calling. The work they do is very dear to them and they are grateful for it.

  4. what if a person has no money or insurance what happens if tne family is on publicaide,
    what is there to be done

  5. Always use a family owned funeral home, not a corporation one who charges double the prices and is not known in the community.

  6. My dad, a very large and tall man in size died 16 yrs ago. He had a pre-paid funeral and was the same size when purchased as when he died.  I got a call from the funeral home saying that he would not fit into the casket.  That they could squeeze  him in and he would looked bunched up or we could pay an additional $400 for a coffin that he would fit in.  I asked how it was that when he purchased this plan the salesman did not in a tatic way suggest that he need a larger coffin?  I was told they can tell the size by a handshake.  Now, for what I consider professionals in their business  I replied that thank goodness they were not tailors and making clothes on a handshake.  I was livid but in repsect for my mom the $400 was paid.  This is a very well known funeral home here in Houston and has been around forever. 

    1. This is a terrible article, As a student in moturary school now, to view Funeral directors as people out to just get you money, while you are in an emotional state, that is bunk, The funeral director, in my town is highly respected, it is a family run business and I have seen them do funerals for poor to rich and they serve them both the same. I believe everyone should at least think of preplanning their funeral, then your family knows your wishes, as for the person who was made to pay 400 extra shame on that funeral home as they meet your father in person and would have known he was large, tall man even with just a handshake shame on them

  7. I am confused by all the vituperative comments – both for, and against, funeral directors as a class.  Frankly, like every other group of professionals, there are good, decent, honest ones who attempt to generate a good, decent, and fair living for themselves and their families, and there are many in the other group….who deserve nothing more than censure.

    That said, funeral directing is a business – like any other, aside from the specific aspect of dealing with the dead – and any advice, especially to those of us who deal with a dead relative as a funeral planner perhaps twice in an entire lifetime, is welcome.

    I am certain many directors view their work as a “calling,” and kudos to them.  However….I am sure many physicians, dentists, car dealers, and shopkeepers feel the same.

    No one rational would object to advice-giving, in the vein provided here, to someone looking to buy anything of value, I would think.

  8. It is unfortunate that in every business whether it be funeral services or gas station attendants there are dishonest people. The media/reporters always tend to pick up on this and write huge articles about it. With all the funeral directors in the US that are honest, compassionate, caring men and women I am sure there are a few that are bad. Why doesn’t Readers Digest or AARP write about the good ones too? Unfortunately, they won’t so we have to make the posts on the articles to clarify the truth. Well done and congratulations for standing up for our profession.

  9. I think I’m going to write and article and call it: “One Thing Journalists Can Never Tell You: Truthful & Accurate Information” 

    1. Where to start? In reply to goatslgs, there are numerous reasons the appearance may have changed, including willposey’s explanation, or the chance (quite likely) that the circulatory system was compromised by the gun shot wound, making effective fluid distribution difficult, or to stringent a fluid mix, etc. As far as prepaying for services, the author is actually correct. But in WV, we have the Attorney General’s office acting as a comsumer advocate and the reporting requirements have run the banks off. Our family’s options are trusts or insurance. And the money is always the families. We only get it after submitting the proper claim. Medicaid now takes any balance of funds. Which they should. Taxpayers are paying $5k-$6 a month for a full skilled care stay. That said, a more balanced presentation certainly would have provided a better service to the readers. The best advise is to shop around and get references from several people you trust.
      Lastly, check the web, some FHs (like ours) put their pricelist on the sites!

  10. Embalming by conscientious embalmers at family-owned funeral homes usually results in better appearance at viewing.  Embalming by embalmers in centralized faciltiies used by large corporations often results in poor appearance.  Having ample time, sufficient supplies, and a striving for excellence make the difference.

    Beware if the arranger does not ask for a photo and does not discuss cosmetics, hair, etc. with you.

  11. 1 thing reader’s digest writers won’t tell you:  that writers just complain about other people because they can’t do anything else.

    1. You forgot another thing Reader’s Digest writers will not tell you:  They lack research and accuracy in their articles.

  12. I would just like to know why a body’s  color would  change so drastically from the date of death to the day of the funeral?  I couldn’t get an answer from the owner of the funeral home.  
    This company does a booming business in the Dallas, Texas area, but the work is so shoddy!!! The deceased takes on a totally different appearance;  there’s very little semblance to the actual person!!!    

    1. I don’t know how much of a color difference you are talking about but the body in the casket never looks like the person to me.  It is just the body.  The soul is the person and it’s gone.

    2. I don’t know how much of a color difference you are talking about but the body in the casket never looks like the person to me.  It is just the body.  The soul is the person and it’s gone.

      1. Please know that I realize that it is “the body.”  But, we respect the body.  Otherwise, we would not go through the process of a funeral.  We could just dump the body(ies) in the nearest dumpster, ditch, ravine…..When you pay for a funeral, you expect the deceased to look (and I do see bodies that look as if the deceased is just asleep) as close to normal as possible.  Not, I bring you a very light-complexioned black person, and the day of the funeral, when the casket is/was opened,( I gasped as I thought they had brought out the wrong body, the body was so dark — like an overly ripe banana) I was shocked!!!
        The only trauma this body had received was a gunshot wound just above the eye.  And, I did see the body after the medical examiner released it, and before the embalming. 

        1. When I was in college, I was in an Anatomy and Physiology class. One of our class trips was to view an autopsy (3 of them, actually), and I was shocked at how quickly the blood pooled in all 3 bodies.

          The pooling of the blood, the position the body is in and other factors have a huge effect on how much the coloring changes, and the coloring changes really quickly. I would imagine that between the release by the examiner and the embalming, there was a lot of time for the blood to pool in different, random places and the coloring to change.

  13. This article basically paints all funeral directors as crooks. NOT TRUE! My father was a funeral director for over 40 years.  He believed that every family should be treated with love and compassion and that caring for the bereaved was his ministry. He was a kind, honest, compassionate man who passed on his business philosophy to my sister who now runs the family funeral home. Shame on you Readers Digest for this incredibly biased article. 

  14. This article is awful.  I am a licensed funeral director in the state of Iowa.  This article places all FUNERAL DIRECTORS in a category that most don’t belong.  Just with any “news” you never hear the good things that are offered by a funeral home, and all the things funeral directors do for families.  I think it’s funny that she claims we just portray ourselves as funeral directors, but are actually undertakers or morticians.  Wrong.  My license hanging on the wall clearly says my name, F.D.  People forget that funeral directors are also people too… we have families and loved ones just the same.  I treat each family that comes through the door as if they are one of my own.  I’m proud of the way I do business and honored each time the phone rings and a family wants me to care for their most prized possession.  There is a lot more to funeral service than money.

  15. It’s obvious this Michelle failed to check with the FTC and how funeral regulations really work. What an idiot!

  16. When my mother passed away, the first thing that I did was to check out the web page of the funeral home I was considering using.  I was able to get a rough idea of what I wanted and how much it would cost.  The gentleman that worked with me was very understanding of my financial situation and the first thing he told me was that if I chose cremation, I could reduce the overall cost of the funeral. He told me other ways that I could save money on the service and still honor my mother. I believe that the gentleman that worked with me was very honest. I am grateful that he was able to ease me through a situation that was stressful both emotionally and financially. I know from experience that not all funeral home directors behave in the manner depicted in the article.           

  17. I agree with Mortschool1 and Bmatherly in their comments. This article concerns me greatly as I am a recent graduate out of school for funeral service. Its displeasing to see that many articles are written by biased individuals and many of the good, honest funeral directors out there are overlooked and aren’t given any credit to the hard work that they do. It would be a nice change for articles to be written which provide accurate details to the consumers having to deal with the loss of loved ones.

    1. I have to tag along on your reply since this site still is sensoring me. Here we are and still they have not posted my detailed response to Michelle’s misguided and untruthful article which I submitted TWICE.

  18. What do you do if you have already purchased funeral arrangements and now you don’t need them?

    1. It depends if they can be cancelled. Contact the funeral home your arrangments are made with to discuss. If you made arrangments and pre-paid for them to skirt the government with medicaid concerns writing down your cash then that is wrong. Happens all the time at our funeral home then when the person dies the family wants to scale down the funeral and demand a refund for the rest. Now is that right?

    2. It depends if they can be cancelled. Contact the funeral home your arrangments are made with to discuss. If you made arrangments and pre-paid for them to skirt the government with medicaid concerns writing down your cash then that is wrong. Happens all the time at our funeral home then when the person dies the family wants to scale down the funeral and demand a refund for the rest. Now is that right?

      1. In Michigan if you plan a funeral and are on medicaid the contract has to be certified irrevocable and once paid for you can’t cancel it. You can at the time of death change from a full traditional service with viewing to a immediate cremation, but the difference in price is the funeral home’s money to keep for guaranteeing it and the state says we can’t give any money back. 

    3. It depends if they can be cancelled. Contact the funeral home your arrangments are made with to discuss. If you made arrangments and pre-paid for them to skirt the government with medicaid concerns writing down your cash then that is wrong. Happens all the time at our funeral home then when the person dies the family wants to scale down the funeral and demand a refund for the rest. Now is that right?

  19. WOW! Wish someone had shared this with me 8 years ago when I buried my husband. 

    1. I wish you could tell me more why you feel this way. What upset you?

      1. Twice I’ve posted comments addressing each and every item Michelle wrote about on funeral directors but it appears the web operators are not goin g to post my comments. I’ve been sensored.

  20. I can’t helps but notice you claim these people as sources, but how much of their advice did you edit out? No real director would say any of this as is, face value. As for the “consumer advocate” who’s name is so highly praised, advocate for someone else; you are not helping anyone only confusing.

    1. You are absolutely right.  It would be nice if someone would not characterize all funeral directors as such poor low character people.  I have worked over 20 years in the funeral business and am very proud of the work that I have done.  It is and has always been a mininstry to me and I am not ashamed of it.  It would be nice if these articles could be written objectively.

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