Death on a Dime?

Last night was the segment on funeral costs on WIS-TV

Death On A Dime

There are lots of comments posted…including mine. Here are my comments below:

I think this segment was a good public service. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details and I think there needs to be some additional information provided, along with some clarifications. As one who owns a traditional funeral home and the cremation society, I feel I have a unique perspective on this. Since it appears that other funeral directors are chiming in, I feel right at home.

For me, the most important idea to come away with from this is to discuss options with family members and to make some sort of plans. Costs are likely to continue to rise, so you can pay now or pay more later.

I am not sure why the average cost of embalming being $613 is added. It is akin to saying the cost of the muffler on a car is “X” number of dollars. Embalming is part of the services provided when there is going to be a visitation. The price is broken out in accordance with State and Federal regulations, but it makes no sense to me to list it the way it is.

I must comment on Mr. Ganong, who I have met on several occasions. He mentions that caskets are a profit center for funeral homes. So? Every business needs profits to be able to provide their goods and services. There is nothing wrong with making a reasonable profit. Yes, there are ways to purchase caskets outside of the funeral home. There are however, some downsides to that option… but it is an option. As far as burial vaults, in my 32 years as a funeral director, I have never even heard of a $30,000 burial vault. I think that may be a typo. Most cemeteries require vaults to lower ongoing cemetery maintenance concerns. That being said, many people think they are very important, while others do not. Most vaults are between $900-$1,500.

My quote for the price of a simple cremation is that for people who are not members. Our member price is $1,395.

I think there was some information left out of the portion regarding “Green Burial”. The website it mentions that he only handles burials, not funerals. That would necessitate a funeral home to provide those services.

Mr. Ganong, makes reference to funeral homes being able to set prices at whatever people are willing to pay. If he was to take the time to look into how funeral homes operate, he would learn that our operating costs continue to rise and for firms to be able to pay their taxes, regulatory and compliance fees, insurance costs and other involved in operating any business…especially one that operates 24/7/365, we have to raise our prices. He would come to learn that it’s not as simple as making up a price and seeing if people will pay it. We should be so lucky.

The last point I would like to make has to do with the Funeral Consumers Alliance being a good place to get information. For some, it may, but my experience being a member of that organization for a few years is that the Alliance is simply an anti-funeral home group. Their premises are based on the fact that “spending money on funerals doesn’t make sense”. I simply respond that Grief is the emotional response to loss, not an intellectual response. If it made sense, we would just throw away our pets when they die…right? But we don’t do that. Some people may think that the idea of caring for their own dead is something they think they could accomplish. My experience however, is that very few people have the emotional willingness and/or the physical ability for dealing with the “raw data of death”…and that is why we have undertakers to handle those details. For many folks in the Alliance, it is a black or white issue. For me, it’s not as simple as that. Ray Visotski, President, SC Cremation & Burial Society

About Ray V.

Living between Aiken & Nashville, TN, USA, I like to share what I am looking at, thinking about or listening to. I refer to this as the view out my window. Thanks for stopping by.
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3 Responses to Death on a Dime?

  1. Dale Clock says:


    Do you ever wonder why TV Folks never get a satisfied traditional customer that says “We paid the funeral home $8000 and we got a priceless experience. They took care of every detail and were there at every turn giving us advise that was right on the mark”

    And how come every funeral industry TV story has a $$ reference in the title. It would be nice if there was one that said “Funerals – Worth every penny you paid”



  2. Linda Gill says:

    It’s clear that the agenda of “Death on a Dime” was to push an “anti-funeral-home” way of thinking. To me this was very sad. If you have a car that is broken, hopefully you take it to a mechanic who is reputable and competent. I would hope the same is true when we need to find someone to care for our loved ones after they die and help us through that difficult time.

    When someone dies, I agree with you that it would be very difficult to deal with the emotional aspects of handling everything required—not to mention all the paperwork involved—which is why we need people like you in the business.

    As a former nurse and now a professional grief counselor, I’m very familiar with death. When my mother died, I think I handled her death well, even to the point of helping to put her on the gurney and wheel her body out to the waiting vehicle. I’m glad I didn’t have to take her body somewhere and put it in a box to be buried on someone’s farm. I’m not even really sure about the validity of idea that we aren’t putting bad things in the ground when someone is buried this way. If the person dies of a communicable disease, I even wonder how safe it really is to bury the person this way and if the contaminants continue to live in the ground.

    I’m glad cremation was an option for us after my mother’s death. Even so, I would not have wanted to do the cremation myself. I’m glad you handled that part of it and that I was able to choose to watch as you put her remains in the box we chose for her burial. I’m glad I was able to buy a vault from you and that I was able to take the box and vault to North Carolina myself. We had two memorial services for her and a graveside service at the cemetery. I believe the logistics of doing all of this would have been much more difficult, had we chosen to do a traditional funeral.

    I think we get what we pay for, and I’m really glad there are folks like you doing the work you do so that folks like me have options that are meaningful and affordable, based on budget and logistics.
    If my mother had been from this state, we would have probably chosen to also have a viewing (and the embalming that would have been done). As it was, and with her death occurring right before Christmas, we were able to have one memorial service here, and then have the final one “at home” in North Carolina after the holidays were over.

    Thank you for all you do as a professional and as the caring individual you are,

    Linda Gill
    Joy in the Mourning Center for Life Losses


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