Funeral Home Laws
Buying Caskets Online
Buying Caskets Online
Shopping for bargains is a wise move
Buying caskets online is a trend that becomes more and more prevalent each year as consumer advocates continue to spread the word that , when it comes to funeral products, being a bargain shopper usually pays off big.
Most caskets sold online are purchased from relatively new companies that operate exclusively via the internet and are not affiliated with any other large casket retailer or manufacturer. Out of a feisty spirit of competiveness, and with much lower overhead than traditional funeral homes, these companies are usually able to sell caskets for hundreds (or sometimes even thousands) of dollars less than funeral homes. In fact, the Independent online dealers often operate as polar opposites to a funeral home , emphasizing their low prices and appealing to bargain hunters as opposed to the formal – some might say impersonal and stuffy – marketing techniques used by funeral homes.
The trend toward buying caskets online began even before the Internet was a powerful retail force. In 1994, the Federal Trade Commission – perhaps understanding that the Internet would soon be a great venue for casket sales – initiated some changes in federal law and made some customary funeral home practices illegal. This set the stage for a revolution in the funeral products industry, and buying caskets online was from then on a method of choice for price-conscious shoppers. No longer, for example, could funeral homes charge customers a fee for handling caskets purchased elsewhere – or worse, refuse to allow customers to use caskets purchased from another dealer. Likewise, funeral homes could no longer hide the cost of a casket in a “package” deal; new laws required funeral directors to present ala carte pricing, before a sale, for all products and services.
These changes made buying caskets online the wave of the future, as customers quickly found out that high quality caskets could be ordered online and shipped just about anywhere in America without the discomfort of sorting through high-pressure sales tactics often used by funeral homes. Not to mention, the price was usually a fraction of the usual cost.
Funeral homes began responding to the new competition from online dealers by lowering their prices in many cases. But, still today, many funeral home casket prices are often significantly higher that customers will pay when buying caskets online. Many funeral homes justify their higher prices by claiming that their caskets are of a better quality than those offered online. And, in fact, the three largest manufacturers of caskets in America refuse to make their products available to anyone but funeral homes. The companies and the funeral homes then market these caskets as being of a more “high-end,” sophisticated quality (which is, well, a matter of marketing more than anything). In 2005, a consumer group filed a class action lawsuit against the three large casket makers for refusing to sell to non-funeral home vendors, but that case was quickly settled with little ramification on the industry. Six families charged that the actions of the national companies resulted in their paying $2,000 to $5,000 more for their casket than they would have otherwise. The terms of the settlement have never been disclosed, but, in general, many observers say the case was on shaky legal ground because, well, the families did have other choices. No one forced the families to buy the more expensive metal casket, the critics will point out.
Based on that case, then, consumer advocates have become more vigilant than ever in encouraging people who are arranging a funeral to do their best to put their emotions aside and shop for the best deals – which are usually found why buying caskets online.