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FCA recognizes that the dissemination of individual experiences, the reporting of public information, and linking to other sites can help further our mission of educating the public on their funeral rights and options. However, FCA's limited resources and the nature of the Internet make it impossible to verify the content of personal experiences that are supplied by others or to verify the content of linked sites. FCA accepts no responsibility for these. Comments on the contents of personal reports and linked websites should be directed to the author(s).



SCI Preneed

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Is SCI's Marketing Plan
Set to Gouge the Poor?

In press articles that appeared in Phoenix, Arizona and Louisville, Kentucky papers on October 19, 1999, SCI launched a new marketing plan—"Dignity" funeral packages. These plans run from about $2,000 to over $9,000 and can be financed at the rate of 12.9% to 21%, or so the article implied. The following was posted on our web site a day or two later:

Finance charges on a lay-away plan before they lay you away?

And while they're collecting additional interest on YOUR money in THEIR bank?

The working poor will be hit the hardest by this tactic. Socialworkers, Agencies on Aging, Community Action groups, TAKE NOTICE! As for the "lock in prices now" ploy that many preneed salespeople use? Prices may go DOWN in the future. We're seeing a lot more discount or affordable funeral operations opening up these days.

Until it's necessary to set aside assets for Medicaid eligibility, it is FAR safer to keep your money in your own bank. It always pays to plan ahead, but it rarely pays to pay ahead. Be sure to take advantage of our local nonprofit consumer groups to find the best deal around and one without any finance charges. Or call the FAMSA~FCA office to see if we know of low-cost providers in your area: 800-765-0107.

 


The following letter was e-mailed to the FAMSA~FCA office the day after the above message was posted:

 

SCI Management Corporation
October 21, 1999

Ms. Lisa Carlson
Executive Director
Funeral and Memorial Societies of America/Funeral Consumers Alliance
P.O. Box 10
Hinesburg, VT 05461

Re: Defamatory Statements

Dear Ms. Carlson:

On Wednesday, October 20, 1999, you posted a page on your organization's web site with the headline "Is SCI's Marketing Plan Set to Gouge the Poor?" You then proceeded to criticize the company for charging finance charges on prearranged funerals sold by its affiliates. In addition, at 10:29 a.m. on the same date, you posted a message on a message board hosted by YAHOO! expressing the same sentiment and claiming the "it makes [you] sick to [your] stomach" that SCI allegedly charges 12.9% to 21% finance charges on prearrangements. Unfortunately, your anti-industry bias has seriously diminished your objectivity and any credibility you might have been able to claim with respect to this matter.

Had you bothered to do even the slightest amount of research, such as calling any affiliate of SCI in Phoenix or Louisville, or contacting anyone in the company's home offices in Houston, you would have learned that the finance rates to which you make reference apply only to at need arrangements. The entire premise of your attack is incorrect. To provide more options for its consumers, SCI made arrangements with a third-party lender, which is the only company that receives payment for the loan, to provide financing for families to purchase funeral goods and services in honor of their loved ones in connection with at need funeral arrangements. Notwithstanding your pronouncements that consumers have no desire for such remembrances, many families want to pay tribute and homage to their departed loved ones in ways that do not conform to your minimalist approach.

It is apparent that your obsession with attacking SCI and its affiliates, as well as other organizations within this industry, has completely overcome any pretense of honesty or accuracy. Many of the consumers that you claim to represent find great value and comfort in the services provided by Service Corporation International and its affiliates and are pleased to know that the company can assist them both professionally and financially in achieving their goals of remembering their loved ones. You certainly have the right to hold and express your own opinions, however misguided they might be, but you do not have the right to publish lies about SCI's efforts to be more responsive to the families that it serves.

In the past you have made other defamatory statements about SCI and its affiliates that were not challenged. These statements, however, are simply too inaccurate, offensive, and unfair to be ignored. We believe that your libelous falsehood that the company gouges the poor is defamatory per se and constitutes grounds for a successful lawsuit against you and your organization. However, if this happened to be an honest mistake arising from lack of information, SCI and its affiliates would consider this matter concluded in return for full retractions and apologies posted on your website and on the YAHOO! message board in question by 5:00 p.m. C.D.T. on October 22, 1999.

Sincerely,

J. Christopher Couch
Corporate Counsel

 


In response: October 22, 1999

J. Christopher Couch
Corporate Counsel
SCI Management Corporation
P.O. Box 130548
Houston, TX 77219-0548

Dear Mr. Couch:

I am delighted to learn that SCI is not levying any finance charges on its new preneed funeral packages, only at need services. I'm sure you'll be pleased to find enclosed copies of my letters- to-the-editor of the respective papers where I had also made accusations about what I thought were SCI's outrageous finance charges. I am happy to let others know there will be no finance charges at all on preneed with SCI, if SCI is the funeral home of choice. I will certainly post an equivalent message on our FAMSA~Funeral Consumers Alliance web site and will make a similar disclaimer on the Yahoo stockholders bulletin board, starting with a copy of your letter to me, of course, followed by a copy of this.

While I know that you can't control what the pesky media report, I trust you do realize that I was responding to news articles that appeared to parrot SCI press material. In the Louisville paper, the term "preneed" never appeared, but your spokesperson, Rybarski, is cited in reference to funeral "planning." That is preneed, is it not? And these plans are "transferable between SCI's 1,300 North American homes [and] can be financed at rates from 12.9 percent to 21 percent." One doesn't usually "transfer" a body once it's buried at need. How did the paper get the idea it might be?

Because it is often hard to collect the bill once a body has been buried, many funeral homes are reluctant to finance funeral charges (though small-town funeral homes have done so for years). This is, indeed, a revelation if SCI is launching at need financing for the needy in two major cities. That being the case, those reading your press materials obviously missed the point. Perhaps you should re-contact the papers, as well, to straighten them out.

I think all Americans are accustomed to paying interest on money they borrow to purchase items and services they use now—a home, a car, a meal at a restaurant or a pair of shoes paid for by credit card. So the idea of financing at need arrangements will be appreciated by many. But the idea of paying a finance charge on services and merchandise that will be used sometime in the future without even knowing when does defy economic logic, does it not?

I know I'll need another car in a few years (just like people know they re going to die). The 1993 Geo I drive was "used" when I bought it, but I certainly am not going to go to a car dealer and say, "Gee, I'll need a car within the next few years—maybe one year, maybe five—would you do me the favor of letting me pay you for a new car now . . . and by the way, I'd be glad to add a little extra in finance charges if you'll lock in the price . . . at least for most of what I've ordered." I trust this makes the point about how usurious any finance charges appear to be for prepaid funerals.

So, if you can assure me in writing that there will be no finance charges—at any rate, 21% or otherwise—for prepaid SCI funeral arrangements—in Louisville, Phoenix, or anywhere else—I'll be happy to post a retraction on our web site, on the Yahoo stockholders' bulletin board, and anywhere else you request.

Sincerely,

Lisa Carlson
Executive Director

cc: FAMSA legal committee

 


Mr. Couch responded later that day:

"This letter will confirm that there are no finance charges imposed on Dignity Memorial Plan prearranged funeral agreements."

I guess I was wrong about that part and, per my agreement with SCI, do hereby apologize if I misled the public in any way in earlier statements.

However, I do not rest easy. The laws are very different for financial transactions with a funeral home and financial transactions with a cemetery even though a consumer thinks of a "funeral" as involving both. I would caution consumers who might be purchasing such a plan to see if the entire purchase is written on a "Dignity" funeral home contract. Or is the casket (and any other merchandise such as a vault or cremation urn) written up on a cemetery contract not labeled "Dignity," with a finance charge added? Is the family also considering cemetery space and services for which there will be a finance charge?

SCI owns its own funeral insurance company. Consumers may be offered payment terms for purchasing this insurance to pay for the "Dignity" plan. It may or may not be a good idea. If you can't afford to pay for the whole thing at once and are making monthly payments, what happens if you can't keep up the payments? Will you get anything back? How much compared to what you paid? Are you being pressured to purchase more insurance than the funeral contract calls for? Are the casket and other items included? Do all the figures on the paperwork match?

It always pays to plan ahead. It rarely pays to pay ahead. People change their minds for any number of reasons—moving, divorce, remarriage, death while traveling, changing from body burial to cremation, or coming upon hard times and deciding to spend less. Maybe even deciding to use a different funeral home. Buyer beware.

 

Barbara Osborne Sues Batesville Casket

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The Jig Is Up

(The following is an excerpt from the casket chapter in "Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love," available through the FCA bookstore.)
There is no amount of embalming or any particular casket that will preserve a body in a life-like condition forever. But perhaps history has to repeat itself several times before the industry will stop perpetrating such myths. One of the cases that Melvin Belli won early in his career resulted in a significant sum for a son whose mother rotted in the bronze sealer casket he'd purchased to protect her. Now a Mississippi funeral home and Batesville Casket Company are facing a multi-million dollar lawsuit charging similar casket fraud.

Barbara Osborne had no reservations about spending $4,000 for Daddy's "protective" copper casket. Two months later when she went to place flowers for Father's Day—the casket was "stinking to high heaven." Batesville took four months to respond. A video of the rotting flesh confirmed Barbara's worst fears.

"Protective," says the Batesville guarantee that Barbara was given. The Batesville website goes even further: "The urge to keep our loved ones protected and safe is fundamental to all of us. No wonder so many families are comforted by the ability to protect their loved ones with the Batesville Monoseal protective casket." It's going to keep out air, water, and other elements, we're told.

The dictionary definition of protection is "to keep from harm." Yes, the gasketed casket may keep out any bugs that didn't accidently get closed inside in the first place, but Batesville doesn't bother to reveal that—by keeping air out—a sealed casket (in anything but the most frigid weather) becomes a slow cooker that will turn the body into a smelly stew.

Some funeral directors are awakening to the problems presented by sealer caskets. One recently wrote to Mortuary Management (June '98): "Sealer caskets are in danger of being identified as an alleged consumer fraud that funeral service has been a party to for far too many years. . . . Funeral service should finally divorce itself from this emerging identity."

 


In 1988, the FTC charged Batesville with making false claims and misrepresentation. Read for yourself the FTC charge and the final consent agreement.
 

Pittsburgh Catholic Funerals

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Pittsburgh Catholic Funerals

Pennsylvania law states:

 

Funeral Director Law, PS 63: 479.2 . . . The term "funeral director" shall also mean a person who makes arrangements for funeral service and who sells funeral merchandise to the public incidental to such service or who makes financial arrangements for the rendering of such services and the sale of such merchandise.
It would appear that ONLY funeral directors may sell financing that is specific to your funeral plans.

 

The Pittsburgh diocese, however, announced a few months ago that it was setting up "The Catholic Funeral Plan" to promote with their own sales people. According to the functionaries I talked with there, the aim of the plan is to:

  • Spread the mission of mercy
  • Minister to the grieving
  • Protect the teachings of the church and liturgy.
At first blush, the insurance might sound like a good deal—transferrable, excess funds refundable to estate or family (not likely to happen given funeral inflation), and built-in "inflation-protection" for families. However, funeral inflation far exceeds general inflation, which is measured by the consumer price index (CPI). At the current low CPI rates, the so-called "inflation protection" isn't likely to kick in, EVEN IF FUNERAL INFLATION is rampant! (Is this inflation protection promise misleading?) Oh, yes, the 4% guaranteed rate of growth is probably no favor to consumers. You can get 5% or more with a CD in your local bank.

The poor in the Pittsburgh district who buy these policies may be at special risk. With the estate or family—not the funeral director—named as the beneficiary of the insurance policy, such a policy will likely be considered an asset for Medicaid purposes and may have to be cashed in before Medicaid will pick up any medical expenses. Cash value of any insurance policy is pennies on the dollar. (Two sons in New Jersey had already paid $7,000 on a $10,000 insurance policy to cover their mother's funeral. When she had a stroke and moved to a nursing home, they had to cash it in. What did they get back? $3,476!!)

Let's assume you've got plenty of money to spend for a funeral. How much funeral insurance will each Pittsburgh Catholic family need? The Catholic Funeral Plan (CFP) has invited local funeral directors to send over their General Price Lists (GPL) along with info on any package pricing the funeral home offers. Now why would CFP need price lists if it were selling just insurance, not funerals? It is this maneuver that sounds suspiciously as if CFP is making "financial arrangements for the rendering of such services," an activity restricted in Pennsylvania to funeral directors. Unless the CFP agents are duly licensed by the state as undertakers, it would seem that showing a specific funeral home price list prior to selling funeral insurance could land someone in jail for up to a year plus a $1,000 fine. And does that make the funeral director an accomplice—if using an unlicensed agent for marketing to his/her funeral clients?

But there are other consumer considerations. There will be enormous pressure on the family to choose a body-present-at-the-church type of funeral even though the Catholic church now accepts and offers memorial masses as well as funeral masses. The CFP spokesman, Matthew Cahalan, was quite definite that a funeral mass is "preferred." For a struggling family, it sounds as if it may be an uphill battle to get the CFP agent to cooperate with a lesser-cost funeral plan such as immediate cremation or burial. The fact that the agent gets a much larger commission when selling an expensive funeral insurance plan is an irresistable incentive to promote expensive funerals, and not meeting sales quotes could risk the loss of medical benefits.

After showing a family the GPL from any or all of the cooperating funeral homes, the CFP agent accepts full or partial payment for the insurance policy, then sends the family to the funeral home to write up the actual preneed agreement. (From a strictly practical point of view, how does one purchase a casket sight-unseen or know how much it will cost?)

Many Pittsburgh area funeral directors are up in arms. With an aggressive sales team that doesn't want to take "no" for an answer, the Catholic diocese will be foisting a funeral financing plan on its congregations, a plan that has some unfair-to-funeral-directors factors built in. What are the tenets that the local morticians must accept in order to get a referral from CFP?

  • As soon as a death occurs, the funeral director must put any Catholic family in touch with the church. [Not a big deal probably.]
  • The funeral director must agree to accept the proceeds of the policy as payment in full. [With funeral inflation running 5-7% a year and interest on the policy guaranteed at only 4%, who's stuck with the loss?]
  • The funeral director may not charge extra for driving the body to the church. [Why should the funeral director do this for free for the Catholics when all other customers may legitimately be charged for this service?]
That funeral directors are upset and saying so is evidenced by this letter from the lawyer for CFP:

 

Patrick T. Lanigan
Patrick T. Lanigan Funeral Home
700 Linden Avenue
East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15112

Re. The Catholic Funeral Plan

Dear Mr. Lanigan:

Remarks about the illegality of The Catholic Funeral Plan (the "Plan") and adverse consequences to funeral directors who choose to participate in the Plan have been attributed to you. You are hereby advised that we are legal representatives to the Plan in the area of compliance with the Pennsylvania Funeral Director Law, Federal Trade Commission Rule Regulating Funeral Industry Practices and other applicable federal and state laws, rules and regulations. ["Applicable"? I thought these laws and regulations applied to funeral directors, not insurance folks.] On the facts as we understand them, we believe, first, that you [sic] remarks are incorrect and, second, that your conduct is actionable on the grounds of tortious interference with contractual relations, trade slander/libel, restraint of trade and promotion of secondary boycotting.

You are well aware of your remarks to funeral directors and others involved directly or indirectly with the Plan that give rise to these causes of action. If you do not cease and desist from making these remarks, we will institute suit against you and your business. Being so advised, we trust you will act accordingly.

 

Sincerely,

James, Smith, Durking & Connelly LLP

Gary L. James

Speaking of tortuous interference, perhaps some excerpts from the Pittsburgh Catholic cemetery telephone script will be of interest to consumers. (Shared with the FCA office by a person troubled by the hard-sell tactics expected—and quotas required if a sales rep is to keep his/her medical insurance benefits.)

A free booklet titled "Emergency Record File" is the prop for getting cemetery sales people in the front door. The booklet consists of a few blank forms on which to list personal information, family members, medical information, asset information, and funeral/cemetery information that would, no doubt, be of help at a time of death—simple to fill out, certainly not "confusing."

 

When prospecting from the parish list, the only objection that needs to be handled on the initial approach is: "I'M NOT INTERESTED."

THEM: I'm/We're not interested.

YOU: I can certainly understand how you feel. You're probably not interested in buying cemetery property are you? [Empathy approach, agree with them.]

THEM: That's right, etc.

YOU: Well, Mary, you would have shocked me if you said that you were, but I'll still give you the book because I'm sure you would agree that sooner or later everyone has to do this whether they are interested or not. The Church feels that if we can give you a book which would help you and your family, then when you are ready, you will be better prepared (slight pause). What's usually better for you and your husband, afternoons or evenings? (continue to offer options)

NOTE: The key to any approach is to end your side of the conversation with a question. This keeps you in control of the conversation and gives you the opportunity to keep probing for a convenient time to come back with the book.. . .

THEM: Can't you just give me (or mail me) the book and information?

YOU: Mary, what we have found in the past is that when we have just left the book without explaining it, it created more questions than it answered for Catholic families. Mary, other families that have received this book have found it extremely valuable and helpful. The Church just wants families to have as much information as possible so as to be prepared ahead of time. That just makes good sense doesn't it? Mary, what is usually better for you and your husband afternoon or evenings? (continue to offer options.)

Note: All other specific objections need not be handled on the initial approach. The proper method to handle these objections is to avoid dealing with them unless they would result with you not being able to visit with the family. Regardless of what form this objection may take, here is how to handle that objection:

YOU: THAT'S PERFECTLY OK, (Magic words!) Mary you are still entitled to the book. The Church feels that it is important that every Catholic family should have this information prior to the time it is needed. We feel it is better to have the information and not need it than to need it and not have it. That just makes good sense doesn't it? Mary, what is usually better for you and your husband, afternoons or evenings? (continue to offer times.)

 

Play mental ping-pong.
An objection is only a request for more information.

 

What happened to the Catholic mission of mercy and Church teachings about charity?
 

Rock of Ages- Monumental Greed

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Rock of Ages

Now that it is a publicly-traded company, it would seem that the Rock of Ages monument folks have abandoned their Vermont heritage and are opting for the ways of the money-hungry city-slickers. Their advice to the dealers they sell to: Set your prices at four times the cost. That's a 400% mark-up! The Rock is also purchasing retail outlets (but the name stays the same). I guess we can be pretty sure that prices there will carry the hefty mark-up, too.

How hefty will the mark up be? One "floating price" tactic suggested to dealers by a Rock staffer: Tell the consumer looking at a flat marker (these are roughly one foot by two feet) that the price is $1,000—because many people will actually pay that much not knowing any better. If the consumer complains, admit this was "top-of-the-line" and show them another one, mentioning a lesser price. (Wholesale cost for both markers: $58 before lettering.) This is a major reason why the FTC should require that monument dealers have a printed price list to give out.

A word to the wise consumer: If you are not already doing comparison shopping before purchasing a marker or monument, you'd better plan to from now on, if you're a frugal shopper. And it's a mistake to think a marker will be cheaper through the cemeteries. Sometimes those prices are set considerably higher, assuming that you'll gladly pay more for the one-stop convenience. Oh, yes, if the sales person tells you that their cheaper stones are "factory seconds," ask him/her to show you where the flaws are. Likely the only "flaw" is no Rock of Ages seal mark that cranks up the price. Other granite from the same city's quarries can be had for a lot less, and you can't tell the difference—even they can't, nine times out of ten.

The Rock salesmen are MUCH too eager to wait for you to find them, however. Taking a tip from the Fuller Brush and Watkins folks, they're now poised to go door-to-door. . . but not just any door. As soon as the obituary appears, brace yourself. As the salesman pulls up and gets out of the car, you can expect to hear the car door SLAMMED shut. He (and they're mostly men) will glance up at your window, expecting to see you peeking out. Even if he can't see you behind the curtains, he'll wave to let you THINK he's seen you. (There's a better chance you'll open the door if you think he knows that there's someone at home—whether you're in the mood for company or not.)

So you want to just say "no"? That's not so easy. The fella will insist on leaving you some material. Fumbling with his briefcase, he'll ask if he can step inside for a minute so he can set it down. Now watch this next trick. Bending over his brief case: "Oh, my aching back. It's killing me. Can I sit down for a minute?" Now he's not only managed to get inside, he's sitting down in one of your chairs or on the couch.

Want to rush him back out the door? Watch the sleight-of-hand that comes next. He'll put down an expensive pen as he reaches for the various materials he's going to give you. But you know what? The pen will be left on the table or cushion or floor. Because, after all, that gives him an excuse to get back in your door—two hours later being the suggested waiting time to retrieve "the valuable pen my wife gave me for our anniversary" or some such excuse.

Well, I have a cleft I'd suggest for his pen the next time.

 


Shopping hint: Go to one of the internet search engines and type in "monument." You'll get some state parks, but you'll get on-line monument dealers, too. Many of them list prices on their web site and are willing to ship anywhere in the country.
 

Swapping Cemetery Lots

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Swapping Cemetery Lots

 

Consumers with firm resolve can sometimes prevail. Here's how one woman managed to get her mother's grave lots swapped from one corporation cemetery to one in another town.  --- FCA


 

Here is my letter which got such excellent results. I copied the company on it and told them, in very nice words, that I intended to send it to my mom's Senators, my Senators (in another state), AARP, and the Gray Panthers, asking for appropriate legislative action and lobbying. I also said I'd be sending it to the Dept. of Consumer Affairs, and several newspapers so that they could do appropriate news coverage and warn consumers. Then I said that I first wanted to give them the opportunity to reconsider their decision before I sent the letters, and therefore they had until 5 PM that day to agree to swap the plots. They called me at 5:04 PM with their offer to do so. When they called, they said the reason they were swapping them was because my mom had been told by their salesman that the plots were swappable within the company's family of cemeteries. Of course, I believe it's because they would have spent way more than the $5,000 it cost them to swap, had they had to answer inquiries by Senators and newspapers—not to mention the subsequent negative publicity they'd incur. If you post this, please omit any mention of the particular cities, my mom's name, or the name of the cemeteries and firm. Please point out to people that if they want to do something similar, it helps if they have a firm case; they also need to spell out exactly what it is they want from the firm, i.e. "I want a direct swap." For best results, they should be very, very nice but also very firm, and should set a time limit so the issue doesn't go on and on without resolution. The letter should not be perceived by the recipient as "threatening," but merely state one's case and why they think they've been unfairly treated. Folks have more power to create trouble for the cemetery than people normally think.

Regardless, the best way to guard against such injustices is to be aware of deceptive practices and negotiate hard before signing the contract, when the cemetery will be willing to deal in order to close the sale. After signing, you lose all further negotiation power. Do price comparisons before signing; don't fall for "the price expires on such-and-such-a-date" line; and most importantly have an attorney review the contract before you sign it. This will be money very well-spent: in reviewing my mom's contract, I noticed some pretty slippery terms in the fine print! Had they not been there, she would have had much better legal footing with which to force the cemetery's compliance. The average person who has no legal background just doesn't realize what they're agreeing to—the clause can look very innocuous but turn out to be highly onerous. Lastly, remind your constituency that regardless of how the contract reads, there may be subsequent legislation which supersedes the terms of the contract.

Thanks a bunch for your website. I learned a lot from it, which is what first motivated me to fight back in my mom's defense. Please note that I didn't promise to NEVER send such a letter! I will probably still lobby for reform, but without naming any individual firm—and I think I'll wait til my mom's deal closes.

 


Dear Senator:

Thirty years ago, my parents purchased two cemetery plots at XXX Cemetery, for a price of $468 total. They subsequently moved to another town some distance away. My father died there and was buried in YYY Memorial Park. Both cemeteries are owned by the same corporation. Plots of the type my mother owns are currently priced the same at both cemeteries, about $2,495.

My mother of course wishes to be buried with my father. She therefore inquired as to the ability to transfer the plots. She was told that she could apply the full purchase price of her original plots to the purchase price of the new ones. In other words, they will give her $468 for plots now worth $5,000, and charge her full price for the new ones! They told her if she didn't like this deal, she could sell the plots herself. This is a very difficult proposition for an elderly person. In fact, it has proved impossible since she doesn't live in first city anymore and the cemetery refuses to provide her any assistance, not even brokering the graves for a fee. She has spent hundreds of dollars advertising the plots yet received only one call.

The cemetery's policy seems a completely unfair practice. My mother is elderly and is simply being taken advantage of. The plots are real estate which has appreciated, and the cemetery policies are, simply put, designed to cheat her and others in similar circumstances. All of the advantage is completely one-sided: the cemetery winds up making a bundle on both sides of the transaction, and my mom winds up with her choice of "out a lot of money" or "owner of a worthless asset". The cemetery gets to sell the plot twice, at full value of 30 years ago and then again at the full appreciated value of 1998.

They know that they have my mom over a barrel, since she wants to be buried near my father, and they are therefore taking complete advantage of her and playing her emotions. And, since XXX Cemetery controls the prices for access and service at their cemetery, other solutions such as moving my father or doubling the grave depth are cost-prohibitive (the cost for this would about equal the cost of buying the second plot).

I have inquired of this through ICFA (a cemetery and funerary association); their reply is appended at bottom. I have also provided, as background and as further evidence of the deceptive practices of this corporation, a note from my mother in which she explained to me the things that were told her by the two cemeteries. I have reviewed the contract she signed in 1969 and it simply says that sale or transfer shall be subject to the cemetery's then rules or any they may adopt in future—giving them free rein to make unilateral changes, which strikes me as an unfair, unconscionable contract term. I understand that there is nothing obligating them to do the "land swap". I don't even mind them charging a fee for this service—say $500. I just think their current practice is so completely unfair as to be predatory, and it especially impacts elderly people. I would very much appreciate it if you would have your office investigate this practice and take appropriate action.

 


[Note from the mother to her daughter] Re: the cemeteries

When Dad died & I called YYY Memorial Park, they told me the lots were only transferable for what we originally paid for them, which I think was approx. $407 (or whatever is in the papers). When I talked to the man at XXX Cemetery, he said, "See, if YYY belonged to this company, there would be no problem—it would be swappable. I could swap but then I'd only have the $400+ applied @ YYY & owe the rest. When I last talked to XXX, they told me that plots were now worth $3,000 but I could only transfer what I originally paid for them. I suppose that is the way they are making their money. XXX salesman told me he didn't know anything about YYY, the nerve!


[Response from ICFA:]

Your email to Mr. Budzinski of our staff has been forwarded to me for a response. Cemeteries do not typically repurchase cemetery lots and many states have laws prohibiting the sale or resale of burial lots for purpose of financial gain. However, I believe that in your state, you can retain a cemetery sales broker (possibly a real estate agent) to sell unwanted cemetery property. If you would like to discuss this issue, please feel free to call me at 1-800-645-7700. I hope this information is useful. Robert M. Fells General Counsel, ICFA

 


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