I overheard a family having a discussion in a restaurant the other day and a young man said “Why buy a $5,000 casket when I can just be cremated?” I bit my tongue and got back to my dinner, but I wanted to interject and really get to the root of what they were talking about. These types of conversations are excellent educational moments, but let’s say I did jump in. What would my argument be because you know — he isn’t wrong.
We hear it all the time “Why are funerals so expensive?” Well, why are cars expensive? Why are weddings expensive? Why does it cost $50 (at least) to go to the movies these days? The easy answer is inflation and cost of goods. Funerals are expensive because of everything that goes into to making them costs money. “Expensive” can be subjective. What may be costly to one family may not be to another. That $5,000 casket may be a steal for one family and robbery to another. However, to get back to our story, $5,000 is pretty expensive for a casket. In a year, how many caskets in that price range will you sell? That’s the first thing I would start in my conversation to our friend at dinner. Caskets begin around $850. A decent sealed 18 gauge will run you $2,500. What it comes down to is what the family finds value in. If they want the best wood there is, show them the value of the solid mahogany or cherry. If they are more concerned with budget and the casket sealing, show them the value of an inexpensive 18 gauge that alleviates their concerns. I cannot stress the importance of education when it comes to the families we serve. What that young man does not realize is that the cost of merchandise is secondary to the cost of service. Professional service fees, embalming, transportation, cosmetizing, dressing, casketing, cremation fees (if applicable), etc. the litany of overhead charges can certainly be a shock to some. The total for an average funeral can be close to $10,000 these days in most markets. Certainly expensive by many standards and explaining that to discerning families can be a hurdle. While one may appreciate the services involved and understand that a funeral home is still a business and the bills have to be paid, others may not find the value in that. “Momma needs a nice casket” and that’s their number one concern.
As for bills, we all know there certainly are a ton. Mortgages, car notes, vendors, supplies, payroll all add up. As these costs rise every year, our outward costs rise to reflect that. It’s a vicious, yet necessary cycle if funeral homes are to stay viable. This isn’t to say that cremation is the answer for families to offset that. As cremations rise, those costs will rise as well.
The key to this conversation is selling your families on the value of the service. You hire a wedding planner to plan a wedding, right? You pay for college to earn an education. A funeral is a one-time event that should be special to those paying for it. So, I say “Yes, funerals are expensive, but when you add up all the bits and pieces and moving parts of what makes that funeral special, that cost to service ratio grows value that families can see, feel, and appreciate.” Each funeral is a unique, one-time event for that family. Providing them the most special of services is what builds value for them versus that cost they are reluctant about is what will set you apart and build trust and favor with families for generations to come.