Why funeral directors should be upfront about costs

Horse-drawn hearse in London streets | Poppy's funerals | London funeral director

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You wouldn’t buy a new car, house or phone — or even a pair of shoes — without doing your research and considering your options. So why should planning a funeral be any different?

Price comparison sites, with their catchy TV ads and easy-to-use tools, have boomed in recent years and empowered people to make their own choices. But in the funeral sector, it's still difficult to compare like with like, when researching costs and prices.

There are many reasons for this.

Talking about death

Firstly — although this is changing — death is still a taboo subject. Despite touching all of us, death and dying remain topics that many people avoid out of fear or embarrassment.

Research from Dying Matters shows this clearly — only 13% of adults say that they’ve discussed something as fundamental as where they want to be when they die with anyone close to them.

If talking about death feels awkward, adding money into the mix makes things even more difficult. We often have very deep emotions and values associated with money which are hard to talk about. These can surface at times of stress, including when facing bereavement.

We might believe deep-down that ‘money can’t buy you love’, but it’s easy to find yourself thinking that the more you spend on a funeral, the more love you are showing to the person who has died.

Lack of transparency

Unfortunately, there is another reason why many of us are unaware of what options we have when arranging a funeral — many in the funeral sector don’t see it as in their interest to be upfront about costs.

By not being transparent about available choices, and how much these choices cost, funeral directors are able to up-sell products that people neither want or need. The pressure to choose a particular product, such as a funeral limousines or more expensive coffins, because ‘that’s how it’s done’ or ‘that’s what most people do’ ultimately limits people’s choice.

Sometimes, funeral directors can present embalming as something which has to happen if friends or relatives want to visit the person who has died, rather than being a choice. They also refer to it as 'hygienic treatment' rather than embalming, which isn't transparent.

Last year the Competition and Marketing Authority issued a wide-ranging report on the funeral sector, highlighting bad or inconsistent practice. It recommended that all funeral directors provide detailed and transparent pricing, both in person and on their websites, with clear information about the terms of payment. The good news is that this change will come into force in September. It should make it easier for people to assess and compare prices.

A better alternative

At Poppy’s, we see no need to wait. We’ve always had our prices on our website, and are continually looking for ways to make these clearer and more accessible.

Last month, we launched our new Estimator: an easy-to-use way of working out the costs of achieving the funeral that is right for you. Step-by-step, it covers everything you might want to know about, including coffins, transport and venues. Have a look at the Estimator here.

We also know that sometimes a conversation is best. Simply talking over the options with someone who knows what’s possible, but without any hard sell, can help get things clear in your mind. That’s why we offer people the chance to have a friendly conversation with us, without any pressure to use our services. Get in touch by phone or email.

Price transparency should be the rule, not the exception. If all funeral directors were upfront about costs, and really listened to what people wanted and needed instead of trying to sell a fixed package, it could take much of the stress out of funeral planning. It could also start to break down some of the taboos that stop us talking about death.

Read more opinion pieces from Poppy’s on why we should open up our mortuaries to the public and why embalming should be about consent.

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