Sunday, July 12, 2015

Carnival Cruise Lines Getting Into the Burial at Sea Business


It is no secret that cruises are a popular vacation choice for people in the United States. But, according to Carnival Cruise Lines, there is another attraction growing quietly. Many passengers are adding an activity to their journey, by scattering cremated ashes of loved ones at sea.

“Really, this is a big trend,” John Heald, senior cruise director for Carnival says: “Each and every week I am asked by submissions on my blog,, or Facebook page to organize ashes scatterings.”

According to Heald, the requests for burial at sea never occurred five years ago, but now happen four or five times a week fleet-wide. Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told USA TODAY the line now organizes more than 200 complimentary ashes scattering ceremonies each year.

There are requirements for bringing cremated remains onboard a ship for burial at sea. Like, a death certificate is required, as well as certification that the cremation was done at a licensed facility in the U.S. A complete list of requirements can be found on Carnival’s website.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Matthews International to Acquire Aurora Casket Company for $214 Million

Matthews International Corporation (NASDAQ GSM: MATW) (“Matthews” or the “Company”) has announced that the Company has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Aurora Casket Company (“Aurora”) from Kohlberg & Company. Aurora is a well-known manufacturer and distributor of caskets and other products to funeral homes across the United States. For the year ending December 31, 2014, Aurora’s revenues were $142 million with adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) of approximately $21 million.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why You Should Hire Your Own Funeral Officiants

       These days, it is more common to find families that are not involved with a church, or families flying into an unfamiliar town to make funeral arrangements. As a result, they often rely on the funeral director to recommend and help finding a minister for a funeral, vocalist, pianist or organist and even catering in some cases. I can recall one minister, whose credentials I had my doubts about, was earning over $100,000 per year serving as an on-call minister for a funeral home. Likewise, I know my share of musicians in the same situations.

       As the times have changed, however, I have become aware of a problem ultimately affecting families. Corporate funeral homes provide commissions to their funeral directors. It is a way for funeral directors to earn more money, without necessarily waiting on raises from their company. Of course, I am sure you can see the benefit to the corporation, right? You want to earn more money? Well, sell more.

       Commissions are based on the bottom line of the contract and average contract sales volume. They keep tabs on your individual averages per funeral. If you can increase your average sales, you can greatly increase your commissions. Naturally, casket and vault sales make a difference, especially if you are skilled at convincing consumers to purchase an all-inclusive package. However, in between package sales, how can you raise your average?

       One trick often used is with those convenience needs, such as securing a minister, musician, or catering for a family in need. Here's how it works. You need a vocalist, right? The funeral director has the perfect one in mind for you and her charges are $250.00. She has a wonderful pianist who can join in for another $250.00. I can also add a minister. Families love him and typically pay him a stipend of $500. Let me go ahead and arrange catering for you for $1200.00. You make out the check and all the services are taken care of.

       The funeral home pays the musician $150.00. The same goes for the pianist. The minister's funeral home check is $250.00. The payment to the catering company, $750.00, will be added to their quarterly payment system. The service providers are happy for receiving their expected payment, the funeral director raised his or her contract total, which raises the commission.

       When a death occurs, it can seem like a tremendous convenience to allow the funeral director to arrange everything. However, just be sure you are not over-paying for the convenience.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How Well Does Your Funeral Director Know You?

          When a death happens, the first step is to contact your local funeral home or cremation provider. Generally, the funeral home makes preparations to remove the body from the place of death, transport your loved one to the funeral home and set an appointment for an arrangement conference.

          For families, they have a scheduled appointment and maybe even the funeral director's name. The funeral director, in turn, has the basic information about the deceased and the next-of-kin. Sounds pretty simple, right? Question is, how much more will he or she know about you by the time you arrive for the arrangement conference?

          I know of one funeral home, where the manager is a former police officer. And as a licensed peace officer, he is still entitled to certain information that most of us are not privy to. Before he assigns a apecific funeral director, he checks the family name through various databases. This proves to offer an endless supply of information. He can find home addresses, property values, job titles, the type of car you drive and economical data about your particular neighborhood.

          Based on the information that is available, he can then properly assign the right funeral director. Also, he will talk to the funeral director prior to the family's arrival. He will probably offer pointers for the amount of money  the family "should be able to spend." Once you arrive for the conference, the presentation will be specifically tailored to your pocketbook.

          Before you walk through those doors, remember, funeral directors often pay close attention to zip codes. And for those of you who use social media, they have probably already checked your Facebook page as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Truth About Funeral Home Casket Sales Tactics Sparks New Idea


          I recently found a quote, concerning casket sales tactics, from a student attending mortuary science college in Texas. Sadly, it is the same college that I attended so many years ago. She said:

          "You always try to show the customer the most expensive casket first," explained Vachael Starks.”  A graduate of Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service She explained that students at the school receive full instruction in the pricing and location of caskets. "By showing them the most expensive one first, that's the one they remember."

          This quote, along with the death of funeral consumer advocate R. Brian Burkhardt, made me realize the importance of accurate consumer information and education. Of course, this blog is dedicated to behind the scenes topics and memories and will remain focused in this area. However, in an effort to keep R. Brian Burkhardt's vision alive, I have put together a blog which will focus on consumer education. I will talk about caskets, vaults, preneed funerals, sales tactics and affordable alternatives and related subjects.

          I would like to invite you to join me at Funeral Consumer Advocate, along with your visits here.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Rest In Peace: Funeral Consumer Advocate R. Brian Burkhardt aka Your Funeral Guy


      I have been wondering what happened to noted funeral consumer advocate R. Brian Burkhardt. I recall a mention of him being ill, followed by silence from his blog.

     Robert Brian Burkhardt, the funeral director who wrote the Your Funeral Guy blog, died after a heart attack on January 19, 2011. He was 58 years old.

     In a sad irony, while he was a crusader for funeral consumers, he left his family totally unprepared – no life insurance, no wishes to follow, no computer passwords on file.

     Under the nom de plume R. Brian Burkhardt, to distinguish himself from others with the same name, his Your Funeral Guy blog challenged the practices of the funeral industry, from suppliers to funeral homes to cemeteries.

     He wrote about wide cost variations for funeral products and services, news, scams and trends in the funeral industry, and he reviewed funeral related books. He started the blog in November 2007 and his last posting was January 17, 2011.

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