The consumer choice for cremation is not always financial

Over the years I’ve heard from many consumers that their choice for a cremation disposition had nothing to do with price.  Even though I heard that often, and believed the people that told me that, as a funeral professional it was always hard to fathom when it seemed that everywhere you turned you saw cremations advertised using “price point” philosophy.

By “price point” philosophy I mean billboards, newspaper, or yellow page advertising by those in the cremation business stating “Complete cremation service only $995″.  That certainly seemed to speak to a “price point” in telling those that may plan my traditional casketed funeral costing $12,000 that they had cheaper alternatives.

However, over time I did come to believe that, regardless of price, almost all death care consumers have a definite idea of the type of disposition that they wanted — earth burial or cremation.  And then it was within that disposition decision they looked at how simple or elaborate they wanted the service.  Sometimes earth burial consumers wanted a simple pine box and graveside service to keep costs down and sometimes cremation clients had elaborate traditional casketed services only to have the casket cremated and remains placed in an urn in an expensive columbarium niche.

In essence I learned that traditional earth burials can be relatively inexpensive and some cremation services can be quite expensive. . . dependent on the consumer’s choice.

Even in a world of more and more online, direct cremations, I think it is still smart to think that way and understand that the disposition method should not signal an expectant monetary thought process to a death care professional helping with the arrangements.

I recently came across this article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune which was focused on the idea that at a relatively new cremation memorial forest in Minnesota people and pets could both be interred.  The article focused on that issue and I concluded that with expanding pet ownership that feature may be a great selling point.

The article focuses on Better Place Forests and their location in Minnesota.  The popularity of a memorial forest like Better Place seems to be growing as not long ago we featured the opening of their first location and now, according to their website that you can access here, they will soon have eleven locations scattered across the country.  And, according to that website, the price of a memorial tree to have your cremated remains to be buried near starts at $6,900 (the newspaper article states $4,900) at the Minnesota location.

What caught my attention was the fact that the Better Place Forest client featured in the article mentioned she “spent $23,000 for the oak tree where her ashes and those of her nine pets will go”.  She also made these comments, “I’ve been frugal, so I can afford it, so I did it.   Some of that money will go to the preservation and renewal of the forest. That’s my little part of helping nature after my demise.. . . . . .It feels wonderful to have stated my wishes and know I will be with them, all of us snuggled together and going back to the earth.”

Funeral Director Daily take:  Sometimes it is difficult for older funeral directors to understand these thought processes.  However, to be successful in today’s world we need to be able to meet our client families where they are at.  Sometimes that might be with a $995 direct cremation with no services, but a $23,000 burial/interment location.

If we are open minded we can meet these consumers and still offer pre-arrangement packages that include cremation and be a part of whatever services that they may choose.  There may also be urns involved or solidified remains that could be placed around their tree as well as buried near it.  I think it is imperative to remember that just because they are asking for cremation does not mean that they are not willing to spend a considerable sum on their wishes.

I think it also behooves funeral directors to get to know the people who operate places such as Better Place Forests just as we do the people at more traditional cemeteries because there will be times we will be working together on someone’s wishes.

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