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Helping consumers when there’s no FCA/cooperating funeral home

Does your funeral consumer group get calls from people outside your service area looking for help, but there’s no FCA group where the caller lives? Do you get queries from your own members who have moved to an area where there is either no FCA group, or where the new FCA group does *not* have member-only discounts like your group does?

We get lots of these at the national office, and many of them are your local members. We have some tips you can use to serve these consumers.

Part of offering this help is understanding the expectations of the members and consumers who contact you. Many already have an expectation that FCA membership means “no matter where I go, I’ll get the same kind of referral to a preferred funeral home that entitles me to a special member price.”

Often, this isn’t true. You can still help these callers, but you’re wise to keep that expectation in mind and answer it right away with the new information.

Here’s how we state it:

“I won’t be able to connect you to a funeral home that offers a member discount, as that’s not available in your area/there’s no FCA in your area/your new FCA does not do member discounts. But I’m going to show you how to easily find a comparable, reasonable price. Think of it as our backup plan for you.”

The backup plan, of course, is showing the consumer how to shop around for themselves. This is something you all know as leaders of local FCAs, but I have noticed sometimes FCA people get stuck on this point because they’re hoping to find a way to give the caller exactly what she wanted (a referral to a discount funeral home).

Try this instead. Here’s a typical call and how we handle it at the national office.

John Doe: “I moved from San Francisco to Nebraska and want to transfer my membership and get a list of participating funeral homes that offer discount cremation.”

FCA National: “We can help, but there is no FCA in Nebraska, so I won’t be able to connect you and I won’t be able to send you to a participating funeral home. Don’t worry! We’re going to help you find a good price regardless.”

John Doe: “How do I do that?”

FCA National: “Federal law requires all funeral homes to give price quotes by phone. I would pick 5 funeral homes within 30 miles of where you live, and call each for a quote on what’s called ‘direct cremation.’ You’ll find a huge range of prices. Those closer to the $800 to $1,200 range are offering reasonable prices. I would choose those over more expensive locations if cost is your primary concern.”

It’s just the basic education on how to shop around that all of us at FCA know, and that any competent adult can accomplish if he’s willing to spend an hour or two getting price quotes.

We also have a template email for such queries. You’re welcome to use or adapt this for your needs:

 

Dear___________,

Thank you for contacting us. We can show you how to find a reasonable price on the funeral arrangements you’re looking for, even though there is no local FCA group in  your area. That also means there are no participating funeral homes that offer member discounts where you live.

Don’t fear! It’s almost always possible to find a reasonable price just the same, but by a different method.

That different method is shopping around on your own and gathering price comparisons, just as you would for any other purchase. By law, all funeral homes must give price quotes by phone. Unfortunately, many don’t post their prices online, but check the funeral homes’ websites first to be sure.

If they don’t post prices online, simply call. We recommend choosing at least five different funeral homes in a 30 mile radius of where you are. The prices vary widely for the same services, all in the same general area, depending on which business you call.

If you’re looking for a simple arrangement such as direct burial or direct cremation, a phone call for a quote works well and doesn’t take much time. For direct cremation, $800 to $1,200 is the ballpark we think is reasonable. $1,500 or so is a reasonable ballpark for direct burial (though that does NOT include cemetery costs).

For more involved arrangements, you may be better off getting a complete “General Price List” from several funeral homes. They only have to give them to you if you show up in person, but any funeral home that will not agree to email you one or pop it in the mail is probably not a business you should consider using. Give a call or send an email, and see what you get back.

Our Consumers section of funerals.org is there to help guide you. Click here:

Consumers

Once you click that page, scroll down until you see the basic steps numbered 1, 2, and 3 that will get you started. There are a number of articles grouped under topics, too, if you want more detail on caskets, embalming, how to pay for a funeral, and more.

Please let us know if you have any other questions, or if you run into anything that doesn’t make sense.

Best wishes,
Funeral Consumers Alliance