Monday, May 29, 2006

A Memento Mori for Memorial Day

Markups in the funeral industry have always been high. But in the past five years, funeral prices have risen three times faster than the cost of living. Knowing that mourners don't shop around at their hour of need (a lack of price sensitivity the Loewen Group described in a report to the SEC as one of the "attractive industry fundamentals"), chains often raise prices soon after acquiring an established independent home, sometimes upping fees more than 100 percent. Caskets, which typically make up half a funeral's cost, can be marked up more than five times. Stewart's South Park Cemetery in Pearland, Texas, for instance, charges $3,495 for Batesville's Kensington Green casket, which wholesales for $675. At many mortuaries, two hours of hearse time, which cost about $25 to provide, are billed to the bereaved at $200 or more; flowers, grave vaults, monuments, thank-you cards--all are marked up 300 to 800 percent. With a cemetery plot and marker, the typical American funeral now costs $8,000 or more.
-Miriam Horn, The Deathcare Business, US News and World Report 3/23/98

Sad story including collusion between priests, bishops and funeral homes. Charging exorbitant prices to bereaved families sure doesn't jibe with any corporal work of mercy I know of.

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