Update 8/6/14 --- Despite lobbying efforts by funeral home and cemetery industry groups, a bill passed by the Massachusetts legislature will allow Nantucket residents to form a non-profit funeral service on the island. The bill exempts Nantucket from certain laws that would impede their plans, such as requiring a chapel in all funeral establishments. Read about the bill here.
The New York Times ran a fascinating story July 13 about the closure of Nantucket Island's only funeral home. This is causing residents logistical problems, as bodies have to be shipped off the island by ferry to a mainland funeral home.
But on Feb. 14, the day of Ms. Davis’s funeral, New England was digging out from a huge snowstorm and bracing for the next. Foul weather forced the cancellation of the ferry that was to bring Ms. Davis home. Her body spent almost a month on the mainland at the funeral home, but suspended in what her daughter called a heartbreaking limbo.
What's interesting to us, though, is how the story highlights two foundational problems in the American funeral industry:
1. The vast oversupply of funeral home relative to the population
2. Anti-competitive hearse-circling from the organized funeral industry
Most people don't realize that the US has almost twice as many funeral homes as it would need to adequately serve the population while providing a good living for the funeral home and staff. In some states there are four to five times as many as needed.