The Newton’s Cradle of funeral service. . is the center disappearing?

Editor’s Note:  We had a slight technical glitch this morning that stopped this article from going out on schedule.  Nothing serious. . . a human error on my part of simply not making sure that the correct procedure was followed.  In any event, here is the article. . . . I hope you enjoy it. . .Have a great weekend. . . and Thanks again for reading Funeral Director Daily!

I’ve been one that tries to paint a picture of things so that I understand “things or concepts” better.  I’ve also seen many customs in the lens of a Newton’s Cradle.  For those of you that don’t know a “Newton’s Cradle” is that contraption with five silver balls hanging from it that sits on desks.  One ball pulled out and released will slam into the other four balls and generate the ball on the other end to fire out in the other direction.

In a perfect vacuum, a scientific no-friction zone, the process would continue unabated into perpetuity.

I’ve often looked at the world thru that “Newton’s Cradle” lens.  For instance, in politics one of the silver balls moved to the far Left will return and send out a ball to the far Right while the three middle silver balls, containing the majority of voters, remain neutral or moderate with their votes yet to be won by a candidate or issue.

With weddings there are those that elope and spend little on the wedding and there are those that spend much and celebrate a wedding in a expensive destination location.  But, the vast majority, are somewhere in the middle. . represented by those three silver balls in the Newton’s Cradle device.

I think it is that way with funeral and death care customs too.  On one end you have the minimalists who want the disposition of the deceased done for as little cost as possible and on the other end you have those that may pay for elaborate personal mausoleums or other preferred options such as experiential valued celebrations at destination sites.  However, as my dad would say, the bread and butter, and the vast majority of funeral home clientele are the blue-collar families who want to pay honest tributes to their loved ones.  Those are the ones who had casketed services or at the least cremation with a memorial service.

However, I wonder, if like the current wedding culture which consists of less and less church weddings, we have come out of that vacuum and are now in an area of great friction causing the Newton’s Cradle of Death Care to make other moves.  That base of funeral home clientele in the middle is, in my opinion, shrinking and the polar opposites of low cost on one end and high experiential values on the other end seem to be gaining in popularity.

There is a lot to indicate that what was always the “traditional” option — think casketed services and/or cremation with memorial services — are no longer the traditional services anymore.  They are just another option in the ever-growing options available.  As a matter of fact, I can see the day coming when in the mind’s image of the “Newton’s Cradle” Death Care there are two silver balls going out on either end representing the extremes of death care service and the “traditional” option is the single ball left in the middle.

You may not be aware but Service Corporation International is touting “Premier” or “Prestige” services at many of their locations.  Couple that with the idea of online direct cremation with no services being touted, and chosen, by so many and you can get an idea of what I mean.

Here’s the website for Service Corporation International’s “Dignity Memorial Premier Collection”

Tom Anderson
Funeral Director Daily

I think, like weddings and hotels, we need to get used to our clients having extremely different ideas and tastes of what they want.  I think funeral service is moving out of the vast traditional mode of services into a more client defined service choice.  And, just like hotels where you can find a pillow at a Super 8 on the lower end of the spectrum, you can get a better experience and a night’s sleep, with a chocolate mint and bed turn-down, at a Ritz-Carlton, but it will be much more expensive.

Or. . . we can go to a Hampton Inn and get something in between those two extremes for a price point in between those two extremes and an experience that would match that, theoretical, middle price point.

Between the world of low-cost, low-service online cremation and SCI’s Premier Collection, that includes concierge services, will the greatest number of clientele still be significantly large between those extremes or will clientele be moved to one extreme or the other?.. . . .I think that remains to be seen and the outcome could make a significant difference in market share of today’s “traditional” funeral homes.

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  1. Barbara Kemmis on December 7, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    Would you please consider submitting this to the FTC as comments on the Funeral Rule? You have eloquently captured the range and importance of funeral services to consumers and why funeral service can’t be fully captured on a price list alone.

  2. Daniel Jansen on December 6, 2022 at 9:00 am

    Excellent read, and I believe you are correct. Not only are customs changing in my area, but the disposable income a family has to pay for services has changed dramatically.

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