The Bill

    Cost is a big issue in the funeral industry.  Many outside the industry might see the undertakers as just trying to rip them off pr profiting off greif. Thus try to get a discount or to avoid paying all together.  This is an unfortunately common issue.  Several undertakers have told me stories of how mourners have made up complaints to avoid the bill.  Or outright refused to pay.

    These are two different stories about the extreme mesures funeral companies went to get paid.

    This first story is about a stone mason repossessing a £10,000 grave stone.  The bill had not been paid for over 3 years.  So the stone mason removed the gravestone, after which the family agreed to pay in full soon.

    In this case I understand his side.  It is not a small bill, and he is a small company.  Money like this can make or break small companies.  His livelihood is on the line.  The family knew the price when they commissioned the gravestone.  To not pay is just rude and could have cost the mason his company and job.


    The next story is a little less obvious.  It is about a funeral director who held onto a body after the family refused payment.  The bill is for $625, a decent amount but not an unreasonable amount.

Basically this is the story as I understand it.  The family arranged the funeral with this company, even signed a contract for the funeral.  But the contract stipulated they pay the funeral cost upfront.  The total cost was close to $2,000.  The family couldn't pay this so they went to a funeral home which would accept a payment plan.  But the original funeral home wanted to be paid for work done up to this point, such as the transfer, which cost $625.  The family refused so the original funeral home held onto the body.

    I have a few issues here.  Yes, it is a bit inappropriate to hold the body like that.  The funeral home might not have been as delicate or respectful as they could have been.  But the family went to them, the family even signed a contract.  At no point did they say the family were unaware of the upfront payment before signing the contract.  So I do not think the funeral home deceived them.

    It is unreasonable of the family to contract the funeral home, make them do work, then change their minds and go elsewhere without payment.  A transfer is not a cheap thing for a funeral home, they pay things like employee wages, fuel, insurance and maintenance for the car, and so on.  To me it would be like asking a restaurant to make you food, then refusing to pay because you didn't eat it.

    The family said how "my mother's body is being held hostage" and that they couldn't come up with the $625.  That "he's putting us through hell really, all for a dollar sign" and how it was wrong for people to take advantage of a vulnerable grieving family.  The reporter refers to the bill as a "ransom".  Such strong and judgemental language for the funeral homes actions.  If I did not pay my mortgage and the bank took my house back, would they be holding me to ransom?  There was even talk of changing a law to prevent this in the future.  Because other means are available for the funeral home to seek payment.  The other means are costly, time consuming and might not work.  Paying a few thousand in court fees is not worth the $625 bill.  Other remedies are not really viable in this case.

    The methods used by the funeral home were not very nice really.  But he is owed money, a decent bit of money, and the family had signed a contract and cost him time and resources.


    The bill is a sensitive topic, and many avoid paying after the fact.  Forgetting that the funeral home is a business is an industry, with staff and costs that need to be paid like any other work place.



  1. Hi, My husband started working in the funeral industry a couple of years back, and just recently I have started to help a little. I have been looking all over the internet for australian based blogs, industry resource pages and news information and have not had much luck... until I found this blog.

    Thankyou very much for creating an informative, useful site without 'gothic' style leanings (eg Order of the Good Death) and without being overtly pro/anti certain companies/brands.


    1. Well I'm glad you find it helpful/interesting! Knowing that someone out there finds the blog helpful is an oddly rewarding thing. The blog has developed into something I am proud of, especially considering it started as something I did before bed.

      Like you I couldn't find any blogs or websites which described what actually happens in the funeral industry. I found a lot of 'Gothic" style stuff, and sites which talked about the industry. But nothing that described the industry for what it was... Even the resource pages were a bit useless for most of what I wanted. So I decided to do something about it. The reason I created the blog was to publicly share my findings about the industry and to describe what actually happens.

      I find the industry so fascinating! It really is an amazing thing to study, yet nobody has... We need more things like this website, especially from groups within the industry (I look at you InvoCare). Because right now I'm the only description of the Australian industry (that I can find). So I can influence discourse without anyone challenging me. Which is terrible!! But that's a story for another time :)

  2. Thanks for your quick reply! The industry really is facinating - especially to an outsider like me. There are so many aspects that the general public does not know about eg all the paperwork, coffin trimming, preparation etc - it is not just the sitting down with a family that is important.

    I just found your facebook page and will be encouraging other interested people to check it out and come here for more info. I am very much looking forward to reading more about your adventures and getting to know australian funeral industry better.


    1. Well any activity on this blog is emailed to me, which goes to my phone. So I can see it instantly wherever it am and respond quickly. Technology is so great!

      And yeah, that's what I've found to. The industry has so much amazing information, yet hides it away for fear or negative publicity. It's true negative publicity can seriously hurt a funeral company, but times have changed and the public is more open to this topic. Funeral homes went from being very innovative, (they were getting motorised hearses before cars were even common), to now avoiding change and attention. Thankfully InvoCare and a few others are slowly bringing back this innovation.

      The range of skills a funeral home has are so diverse. A funeral home needs admin staff (from accountants to receptionists), it needs drivers, mortuary staff (embalmers or general work), and much more. This is something I find so fascinating, how diverse the skills are. InvoCare would be the best example of this, if only I could get in to study them :( Interacting with the family is just one cog in a huge machine.

      I have a facebook page and a youtube account. The facebook this is more for photos, and the youtube is a collection of relevant videos. There are also links on the resource page to forums and other good things you might find useful. But one of my favourite things is Involve, the InvoCare magazine. Yes, it's bias and more a brochure for the brands than description of InvoCare. However it is well written, interesting and got good information. Plus it's all on the internet! If you're interested in the industry give it a read.

  3. Thats true - technology really is something :-). There is so much behind the scenes work that goes unapreciated. I will check out the links on your page and have a read of Involve.



Never hesitate to ask a question or comment on something, this is an open minded and free space.

If you want to contact me privately do so at: theothersideoffunerals@gmail.com