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I only work with locally owned, family run funeral homes. This means you will be dealing with a trusted member of your community, not some distant corporation only worried about a bottom line.

Privately-Owned vs. “Chain” Funeral Homes

Over the past few decades, large publicly traded companies have been purchasing funeral homes across the United States. The largest conglomerate purchaser is SCI—Service Corporation International. The early 1990’s saw hundreds of family operated funeral homes across North America brought into the fold of large multi-national firms. Media reporters such as "60 Minutes," "Time," and "US News and World Report" conclude that these death care business operations, while trying to maintain the facade of a “family operation,” quickly increase prices considerably and enforce merchandising policies on employees geared to significantly increase their bottom line profit.

To mention only a few that have been “bought out” in the Salt Lake area by publicly traded chains are: Wasatch Lawn, Memorial Estates, Valley View Memorial Park and Funeral Home, Holladay Cottonwood Mortuary, Deseret Mortuary, Lake Hills Cemetery and Mortuary, Evans and Early, and numerous others—all previously family-owned businesses. These are all now “chains.”

I wrote a total of 388 burial contracts for Valley View Memorial Park between 1992 and 1997 when it was owned by the Winder family. I also wrote a good number of burial plans for Memorial Estates between 1997 and 2009. You are not required to use them for your funeral arrangements.

Chain operations are usually the first to engage in the plague-like practice of “price fixing,” business practices which aim to keep funeral costs high.

I’ve studied the funeral industry while working in it, as well as the health and life insurance industries as an agent/broker, for over 26 years. The reality is that funeral homes are engaged in “price fixing,” and they continually raise prices year after year and lead consumers to believe that they have no choice. (See Wall Street Journal article).

Use Costco as a benchmark when trying to decide how much a casket should cost. They got in the business because funeral homes have been over-charging for caskets for too long, and people aren’t going to put up with it any more! I have caskets available for pre-purchase at prices comparable to Costco. Remember, with Costco there is no layaway plan—you have to pay in full. My plans allow you up to ten years to pay.

SCI charges approximately the same prices at their Salt Lake area facilities: Wasatch Lawn, Valley View Memorial Park and Funeral Home, and Evans and Early.

There is a distinct difference between private funeral companies and those owned by publicly traded companies.

Why “Chains” Are a Big Risk For Your Family

1. Pricing and profits are too often more important than service. Chain funeral homes are normally “publicly traded companies,” which means they are accountable to their stockholders for continued profit year after year. This frequently means continual price increases, year after year.
2. Most of them don’t give you a discount on services if you use your church instead of their building. They claim it’s just as much or more work for them to use your church. The reality is that they want to charge you the higher price for services, because it is the price they need for high profits. But even private funeral homes do this.
3. Chain funeral homes have a higher turnover of employees, and that includes morticians/ funeral directors, salespeople, and managers. This translates into lack of long-term consistency of service and a higher probability of errors being made at your family’s expense.
4. Chain funeral homes most often force you to use their funding companies, insurance companies that are part of the same larger conglomerate corporation, no matter how expensive it is for a plan. Privately owned funeral homes, on the other hand, often offer you multiple funding sources. They usually have no vested interest in the company they use. They simply use whichever they feel is best for the family or for themselves.
5. You’re more likely to get “cookie cutter” service than service that meets your family’s exact needs and wants. And this can include casket price fixing.

Why Use A Privately-Owned Funeral Service Company?

Why is it preferable to choose a privately-owned or family-owned funeral home or funeral service company? There are many reasons.

Here are just a few:

1. Privately-owned providers tend to use the same people year after year, doing the job the same way. They are less prone to turnover of personnel, and key people such as funeral directors are hand-picked and interviewed thoroughly by the owner(s)
2. They are concerned with good will and their reputation in the community.
3. Private companies are more ready, willing and able to work overtime to get the job done right at no extra charge to you. In public companies, employees won’t be as likely to go the extra mile to get things done—especially if they won’t be getting paid any overtime pay.
4. Many privately-owned funeral homes have been in business a very long time. Two examples in the Salt Lake area are Goff Mortuary and Jenkins-Soffe Funeral Home/Crematory, which both started the same year, 1915. Tradition of high quality service is important to many companies that have been around a long time.
Even though many public companies have also been around a long time, profit seems to be more important than integrity and reputation.
5. Even though public or chain funeral homes have caring people, you’re more likely to get individual attention to all the important details from a private company.
6. Pricing is done on a more reasonable basis with privately-owned funeral service providers. It is not done at the “corporate” level by managers who only look at financial statements and never deal with families at the time of need.
7. They aren’t as likely to make radical changes in how things are done or in pricing when ownership remains the same. In publicly-traded funeral companies, a new manager could be put in place with ideas drastically different from his predecessor and it could adversely affect business and the community, and it could also mean ghastly price increases.

You should always evaluate your funeral plan needs in terms of what you want and need, not what the funeral home tells you is available. If they don’t have what you are looking for, move on to a business that does. In your home I zero in on exactly what YOU want, not what I think you should have. Too many funeral home representatives act as though they care sincerely about your wishes, when in fact they are leading you all the way to the funeral plan THEY want (the one that makes them the most money) while you end up with a total payout of $7,000 to $15,000 just for a funeral service and casket. This doesn’t have to happen to you. In your home, I use a questionnaire to zero in on your exact needs, not what a funeral home will say you must want.