In one of the most compelling reddit threads we've come across, an anonymous funeral-director has spilled the grisly, swindle-tastic beans on his/her entire profession. "It hasn’t always been like this," s/he writes in this scathing tell-all diatribe, "but with the corporatization of the death care industry, the almighty dollar is the only consideration anymore."
Top photo by nimrodcooper via Flickr.
The funeral director – who goes by the throwaway pseudonym arrghbrains – divulged all manner of ghastly info (not to mention incredibly insightful inside knowledge) on everything from environmentally harmful embalming practices:
There is nothing dignified about having one's mouth wired shut, eyelids forced closed by spiked plastic contact lenses, and ramming a trocar [Ed. Note: I had to look up what a trocar is. It's basically a tube with a sharp, pointy end that's used to introduce "ports" into everything from blood vessels to body cavities – for laparoscopic surgery, for example, or, in this case, the removal of organs. Trocars come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the one pictured on the Wikipedia page —
— is a morbidly amusing mashup of Christian symbolism, industrial-grade metallic fittings and vampire lore.] into the abdomen to puncture organs so that they can be suctioned out [and replaced with embalming fluid].
The process creates an enormous environmental problem; using toxic chemicals which are flushed into our sewers along with those pureed livers, hearts, spleens, pancreas' which then also flow into our sewers. Oh, what’s that? I told you embalming is a legal requirement for public sanitation? That’s utter bullshit. If anything, it creates a sanitation problem if the cemetery you use is anywhere near a municipal water line, which most “commercial” cemeteries are.
In fact, in most states, the law only requires embalming if you are transporting a body across state lines or are not planning to inter for more than 72 hours and/or having a public viewing. It has not a single thing to do with public health. It’s a cash cow, plain and simple. It is barbaric, costly, and does not keep the body from deteriorating. But we’ll tell you just about anything you need to hear to get you to agree to it.
...to the morally vacant exploitation-tactics used to con grieving families out of huge sums of money:
I’ve seen funeral directors force-feed families absolute horseshit – saying anything – to get them to sign a contract. Here’s a hint: don’t sign any pre-printed “form” contracts. Most of the contracts we use are super vague, so we can charge you for just about anything and justify it by pointing to your signature on the dotted line. It is in your best interest to only agree to specific itemized charges – i.e., have the hearse but no limousines. Or have hair/makeup done without any embalming. The law is very specific and on your side, but we count on your ignorance and vulnerability.
... to where you can go to learn about your rights when dealing with the death industry, viz. the federally enforced FTC funeral rule. Remember: just because you're bereaved doesn't make you a sap.
As for why the funeral industry has become such a racket, arrghbrains blames the corporate nature of dealing in death – a situation he says is right this very instant poised to become much, much worse:
Right now – literally right now, August 16, 2013 – the FTC is reviewing a merger between the two largest funeral service corporations in the United States: Stewart and SCI. Stewart has 500-ish locations while SCI has 2000+. This will create a mega-Decepticon-conglomerate that will control at least 40% of all funeral service business transactions in this country – and that, my friends, is what antitrust regulations refer to as a monopoly. We are racing full speed ahead to the genesis of the McFuneralHome and nobody is doing anything about it.
Remember: these are just excerpts. The full rant and ensuing thread are loaded with more details, links and examples than you can jab a trocar at. It's fascinating, informative, and borderline unimaginable. Read it here: What is a "dirty little (or big) secret" about an industry that you have worked in, that people outside the industry really ought to know?