|The Truth About The
Cost of Jewish Graveside Funerals in New York
Exercising Your Rights as a Funeral Consumer
We added this important page to our web site on August 13th, 2006 [Updated June 23rd, 2011] to address the growing number of inquiries and general comments that we've received from families who we've been privileged to serve in recent months. Interestingly, all of these families have previously used other funeral homes in the past and most of these firms have been corporately owned and operated.
Very quickly, we assume that you already know that most of the "Jewish" funeral homes serving the Greater New York City area are corporately owned and operated. If you didn't know this, now you do. There are precious few funeral homes serving the Jewish community in New York that are family owned and operated, and fewer still that are owned by individuals who share the Jewish faith. [NOTE: If you you insist that a JEWISH director serve you who represents a JEWISH owned funeral home, please consult www.nijfd.org.]
Corporately-owned funeral homes always need more money. When Wall Street tells publicly-traded companies to produce or else, corporations, like obedient circus poodles, always do what they're told to do.
Funeral homes, regardless of ownership, are for-profit entities. There are also a handful of non-profit funeral homes in the United States, they serve a very select clientele, and most of these firms are under the direct control of a religious organization.
To make money, funeral homes derive their profits from three income streams: service charges, merchandise, and livery.
These items break down as follows:
Historically, funeral homes recover their overhead and make a profit by assigning fair and reasonable charges for their services and merchandise and then evenly spreading what ultimately is the final cost of a funeral across the three categories. In short, you make some money on your service charge, some on the casket, and a few dollars on livery rental fees.
This system worked for decades for every operator, regardless of ownership, and will continue to work for family-owned firms for many years into the future. It's a tried and true system that works because it's fair.
The trouble is, the big corporate firms, driven by the insatiable financial appetite of Wall Street, had to frequently mark-up their casket offerings to obscene levels that went way beyond fair and reasonable to meet their quarterly goals. The casket is, after all, the mystery purchase as you have nothing to compare it to (cost-wise and usage-wise) in your regular life. When you think about it, a casket is part couch, part bed, part stretcher, and part safe.
Then the public, helped mainly by the Internet, started to investigate their options. The first place they looked to save money? The casket of course. After all, an 8.5 oz. tube of Crest toothpaste is an 8.5 oz. tube of Crest toothpaste whether you buy it at Walgreens, Walmart, or D'Agostino's. Why pay more for the same thing, right?
Enter the casket store. These outlets -- both the free-standing and online variety-- priced their caskets far below what the corporate owned firms were charging for the same caskets, causing many problems for our corporate friends. Also, the rapidly expanding cremation rate combined with a flat death rate, made the executives in the boardroom take pause and ask the question, "How do we serve less families, many of whom are now exercising their basic rights and shopping for funeral products, and make more money?"
Their solution? Drop the price of their caskets while grossly increasing their service charges. Merchandise is, afterall, nothing but merchandise and the first law of consumerism states that you should always shop for the best price on equal items. Services, however, are another matter. People seldom voice objections about a service charge because you're intimidated by the funeral home setting and the funeral experience in general, and you're fearful that if you do complain about a high fee, the staff will take a shortcut somewhere in the process.
For the record, they didn't drop the prices of their caskets by very much.
The result? You're paying MORE for a funeral. Want proof? Here's a quote from their own corporation bulletin: "The average revenue per funeral service increased 9.3%, or $404 per service, as a result of our initiative to align resources with our customer segmentation strategy and to focus on strategic pricing, which places less emphasis on traditional funeral merchandise and more focus on service offerings."
Align resources. Customer segmentation. Strategic pricing. In an age when our national economy is sinking at a rapid rate, don't those phrases make you sick? Isn't it nice to know that your mother's suffering and ultimate death fits nicely into a strategic pricing initiative in corporate America? When you read things like this, it's no small wonder that when a staff associate at a corporately-owned funeral home loses a family member, they frequently refer their own family to independent, family-owned funeral homes.
Write all of this off as yet another example of the greed and stupidity of big business in America today. Call a corporately-owned funeral home and your deceased mother becomes a contract number and a sales average statistic that will be used to judge the performance of the funeral director who made arrangements with you.
Are we being harsh is our judgement of corporate funeral service? No. The truth is, a family that is sucker-punched by a greed-driven corporate funeral entity goes on to judge all funeral homes and funeral directors with the same jaundiced eye. And we're tired of it.
What You Can Do
You can easily combat this situation and save either yourself, or the decedent's estate, THOUSANDS of dollars by doing one simple thing: When a death occurs, call at least five funeral homes, ask them them ownership status, and then their prices. Yes, it's THAT easy.
Of course, you can avoid an unpleasant situation altogether by calling Beth Aaron Chapel at (800) 834-7139. You see, all of our fees, along with photos and prices of our caskets, are published online for everyone to see. At Beth Aaron, we have nothing to hide.
Beth Aaron's service charges are fair and reasonable and our merchandise is priced below any Internet casket outlet.
We sincerely thank you for taking the time to read this page and we hope it will make you a more informed funeral consumer.
Beth Aaron Chapel
23 Lockwood Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10701
Offering Jewish graveside services to residents of New York City, Nassau,
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