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19 June

Funeral Costs: you should talk about it.

The cost of a funeral is one of the biggest bills you’ll ever pay with your money, but it’s a cost many of us — maybe all of us — don’t want to talk about.

For example, I list a discount seller of caskets on the Best Buys guide that I hand out at Home Shows, and when consumers glance at the list and see “caskets” they usually chuckle or say something like “I don’t need this!”

Well, we do need this — all of us. Try as we will, none of us will ever escape the cost of a funeral of some sort or another. So, read on.

Insiders in the funeral industry remind us that the biggest purchase we’ll make will probably be a house; the next biggest purchase is a car; and next might be a wedding or a funeral. Joey Conzevoy of ABC Caskets in Los Angeles says funeral costs and wedding costs are about even these days. You could easily spend $10,000 to $20,000 on either.

You can get more information including advice from ABC Caskets at (323) 268-1783.

About five years ago, there was one dramatic change in the funeral industry. The Federal Trade Commission issued a rule that blocked funeral homes from charging consumers a fee when they brought in a casket from an outside vendor. That opened the door to casket competition.

Check out the rules about funerals on the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov and then click on consumer information for services.

Today, there are retail casket stores that sell to the public, even Internet casket sellers.

Competition has indeed driven down prices. Conzevoy estimates that in the past five years, casket prices for consumers have been dropping at a steady pace despite inflation. He says that lower casket prices have also prompted some funeral homes to raise prices on other products and services in order that they can maintain their profit margins.

Conzevoy says consumers must be on their guard when the buy funeral services and products.

“Make sure you bring someone with you who is not emotionally distraught,” he told me. “You want to find someone who has a clear mind to show with you. Because what happens is you come in and if you’re upset, and someone’s ready to sell you something and you’re not ready to think clearly, you’re at their mercy.”

Pride becomes a big issue and a big problem for consumers when they shop for a casket and other services. They don’t want to appear cheap; they let love and perhaps guilt get in the way of making clear decisions.

Beware of sellers who do not reveal to you all of your choices including lower priced choices. Some “tricks” in the industry include not displaying lower priced caskets, and showing lower priced caskets only in unappealing colors when the lower priced caskets can also be available in attractive colors.

“I’ve seen cheap caskets only in green when other colors are available,” Conzevoy told me.

He also suggests that you price a funeral from at least two different sources. In other words, comparison shop.

Think about that for a moment: comparison shopping for a funeral. When it comes to buying a car or a house or a big screen TV you are likely to comparison shop. But chances are there is no comparison shopping when it comes to buying a funeral. And the industry knows this; you are vulnerable to overpaying.

What about pre-need funeral purchases or buying years before a death? Conzevoy says don’t do it.

“Somewhere between $20 billion and $40 billion has gone to pre-need purchases of funerals,” he told me, “and here at ABC Caskets we don’t push that.”

What’s the problem with pre-need plans?

  • “One problem is you don’t know what you’re getting 15 years down the road,” he told me. “The casket that you thought you bought may not be made at that time.”
  • Another reason people pre-pay is because funeral costs historically increased. But today, with increased competition, costs are declining.
  • Another risk is that your needs change: perhaps you bought a funeral service in New York but you’ve moved to Arizona and now want to be buried and have the service in Scottsdale.

His advice is not to pre-pay for a funeral, even if the pre-pay plan puts a limit on your costs. His advice is to invest the money so you’ll be able to pay your bills later and with the investment perhaps you’ll have some extra income along the way POSTED 1/23/03

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19 June

The Cost of Dying: In Times of...

When there is a death in the family, it is never a good time to be bargain hunting. But with the average cost of funerals approaching $15,000, many families find their grief compounded by the financial pressures that come with paying the funeral and burial bills.

ABC Caskets, based near downtown Los Angeles, caters to the needs of grieving families by lessening the costs they incur at a difficult time.

ABC Caskets is the only wood casket factory in the western United States that sells directly to the public. As a result, families who buy caskets directly from ABC Caskets typically pay less than half what a mortuary would charge for the same casket.

For example, a casket made of solid maple, hand polished to a high gloss and complete with a velvet interior, typically costs more than $4,000 if purchased at a funeral home. At ABC, the same casket costs less than $1,500.

“The mission of ABC is to help families through a difficult time,” said Joseph Conzevoy, president of the company. “When there is a loss of life, many times survivors don’t know that they have options that can ease their minds later on. By purchasing a casket from ABC Caskets, we can help families get on the road to healing because they won’t be coping with outrageous bills for months to come.”

All of the company’s caskets are handmade at the family-owned factory, which is also open to the public for tours.

The entertainment industry has long known the secret of ABC Caskets. Whenever set designers need a casket, they call ABC Caskets. The company’s caskets have been featured in films ranging from the action-packed thriller Daredevil to the light comedy Mr. Deeds. As a matter of fact, ABC Caskets is the exclusive supplier of caskets for the acclaimed HBO series Six Feet Under.

For Six Feet Under, ABC artisans have custom-made several caskets to fit into the show’s funeral scenes, including a flat-top casket for a dancing guitar player at one of the show’s wacky funerals. ABC also has provided coffins for the fantasy soap opera Passions, Gilmore Girls, Crossing Jordan and was recently featured on The New Tom Green Show.

The company can custom manufacture any kind of casket that clients need, even when the requests are unusual. For example, Daredevil set designers wanted their casket to match the silver paint of a Lexus, so they brought a paint sample with them. The company’s expert craftsmen matched the paint perfectly.

“We regularly fulfill special requests for a variety of religions,” Conzevoy said. “For Buddhist funerals, we often include a picture of Buddha that lights up on the inside panel of the casket lid. It looks like stained glass. We also have a variety of Catholic, Jewish and secular caskets.”

For more information on the company, please visit www.abettercasket.com

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