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by Sandy Ward, Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts updated October 23, 2018
The tab “Consumers” leads to informative webpages on various topics, e.g.,
• Your Funeral Rights
• Four-Step Funeral Planning: Where to Start...
• 10 Tips for Saving Funeral Dollars
• How to Pay for a Funeral
Or, find the same content as “printable” pamphlets:
You can order a 30-page planner (digital $9.99 or printed $15) Before I Go, You Should Know from the FCA store. The tab “Local FCA” leads to a state-by-state directory of affiliate groups, such as ours...
See comparative chart of prices of funeral home services; also news & Sandy’s Blog
See “Consumer Rights,” state by state downloadable pamphlets, by Lisa Carlson
(part of a series “Shopping for Funerals” available in English and Spanish)
Empowers families to care for their own dead by providing educational opportunities and connections to resources that promote environmentally sound and culturally nurturing death practices.
Green or natural burial: homefuneralalliance.org/green-burial-cemeteries.html
Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death by Joshua Slocum & Lisa Carlson (2011)
The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford (1998, redoing her 1963 classic)
A Good Goodbye: Funeral planning for those who don’t plan to die by Gail Rubin (2010)
Grave Matters: A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Way of Burial by Mark Harris
Caring for Dying Loved Ones by Joanna Lillian Brown (2010)
Every two years we request General Price Lists (GPLs) from all the funeral homes in Western Massachusetts. In February 2018 we mailed letters to the 84 funeral homes. Eventually, after some followup, we obtained GPLs for 54 of these funeral homes (a 64.3% response rate). We have analysed the data and prepared a report and a chart comparing prices for these categories:
Basic Services Fee
Least Expensive Casket
Least Expensive Vault
The funeral homes are listed alphabetically. You will see the note "no reply" by the ones that failed to provide their GPLs. On other entries you will see codes indicating notes about specific variations. Explanations of those codes are given on sheet 2 (titled *Notes) of that spreadsheet. We’ve shortened the list of codes this year, and moved a positive one to the top: a = GPL is available online at the funeral home’s website. We wish that ALL funeral homes would post their prices online. (In some states, such as California, online posting is required.) Four funeral homes in our region do so now; in 2016 only one had posted prices online.
Examples of other codes used this year:
b = Description of services differs from definitions used by FCAWM (and FTC). Be sure to read their General Price List (GPL) carefully; the discrepancies could be to your advantage, or not.
c = Ownership is non-local. (Eleven funeral homes on our region are owned by Carriage Services of Houston, TX.)
The Funeral Rule, enacted by the Federal Trade Commission on April 30, 1984 and amended it effective 1994, was designed to protect consumers by requiring that they receive adequate information concerning the goods and services they may purchase from a funeral provider. All funeral providers must comply with The Funeral Rule.
It’s best to NOT tell the funeral director anything about wanting to buy your casket from me until you get a written, itemized price list (General Price List). Many people believe that funeral homes have two different price lists. One where the prices are higher if you buy your casket or urn from the outside.
The Funeral Rule requires every funeral home to have a General Price List. It is a written, itemized price list of all the items and services the funeral home offers. The General Price List will be your guide to comparing funeral costs in your area. Some funeral homes will publish their General Price List online. If you don’t see it on the funeral home’s website, you can call or email them to ask them to send you a copy.
Below is an example of a General Price List from Wilbraham Funeral Home in Wilbraham, MA and Toomey O' Brien Funeral Home in West Springfield, MA
The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts (FCAWM) is a non-sectarian, non-profit membership organization whose mission is to promote and protect a consumer's right to choose meaningful, dignified, and affordable final arrangements.
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