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TEN Protects Public, Boosts Ethical Funeral Services in US and Canada

Even after a television feature brought funeral home profiteering to the public’s attention, unethical funeral home practices continued. A follow up by the show’s presenters, which included hidden camera investigation, showed that despite rising awareness and complaints to the authorities, profiteering practices were still rampant in the funeral industry.

TEN (The Ethical Networks), the brainchild of an online listing expert, a former funeral director, and a pensions and benefits specialist, plans to offer the ideal match between ethical funeral homes and the general public.

The Problem

For those who missed the television documentaries, the problem with funeral services continues to be profiteering. Wondering how that works? When grief-stricken family members approach certain funeral homes, sales representatives strive to “upsell.”

People looking for a simple funeral, either because of budgetary constraints, or because the family member concerned wished for a simple funeral, find themselves being offered a host of unnecessary extras.

As demonstrated in the TV documentary, representatives often tell clients that these extras are mandatory requirements for a funeral, even when they aren’t. For example, embalming of corpses isn’t always necessary, but salespeople may tell clients that it is. They may also try playing on the grieving family members’ feelings by recommending coffins that are far more costly than what’s required for a simple funeral.

Charging astronomical prices for basic services like driving a coffin a few hundred meters to a crematorium were also uncovered. When people lose a loved one, they are too distraught to examine every detail of funeral “packages” which may include the unnecessary line items and grossly unfair pricing we just discussed.

A Solution that Benefits Everybody

As in all things, there are no absolutes. Some funeral homes pride themselves in their ethics and offer genuine dignity and fair prices to the grief-stricken. The founders of TEN, particularly Tom Crean, a long-time advocate for ethical funeral practices who has spoken in Congress on the topic in the past, feel that consumers and ethical funeral homes can easily be brought together.

The model is a simple one. Funeral homes willing to subscribe to TEN can submit to inspection and oversight by the organization. If they pass muster, members of the public will be able to access their services in the knowledge that no salesperson will try to offer them more than they asked for and that charges are reasonable. TEN also offers grief counselling for the bereaved as well as a funeral home referral.

The organization is funded through subscription fees paid by the funeral homes, not commissions – so there’s absolutely no reason for TEN or its employees to make a recommendation other than the knowledge that the home will follow the high road in terms of its ethics.

The best thing about TEN’s business plan is that it benefits everybody. The bereaved can be assured of fair treatment with no overblown sales tactics added to the mix, and funeral homes that practice a good code of ethics will gain new clients. Meanwhile, TEN covers its costs without adding to the financial burden inherent in organizing a funeral.

Could this mean a happy ending to the saga surrounding malpractice in the funeral industry? TEN’s directors believe that it can: “Ethics matter. Dignity matters. We help make it happen.” says Steve Mitchell (President & CEO of TEN).


Opinion Editorial

Opinion Editorial submitted by:

Steve Mitchell

March 5th, 2020

Glenn Frey sang a song about me – “The New Kid In Town”. I am the new kid in the periphery of the funeral and cemetery profession, in British Columbia and beyond. And I was told stories. I learned the lore of it. I read a book about it by Thomas PJ Crean. And I found it hard to believe that it could be this predatorial at the sheer expense of grief stricken people.

I have lived with both of my parents passing. In the UK, it was a Family Funeral Home – people cared. In Montreal? A Family owned chain, and I was overcharged, but, it wasn’t too bad. No one really “cared”, but I took charge and it went the way I needed it to.

I watched a series of W5 and Marketplace stories exposing some pretty awful practices by commissioned salespeople. That’s nothing new – commissions drive this kind of thing. But even at that, I didn’t fully “get it”.

I didn’t fully get it until I spoke with a 75 year old local BC woman who, over several calls, told me her stories. It started when I was in Vancouver over Christmas. And our last call was last night; her in BC and me in Quebec.

There is something wrong in this profession; this profession turned industry. When a 75 year old widow is worried about her niches being sold out from under her. When a so-called “Director” of a cemetery responds with, “Well, you bought cheap, you got cheap.” When she has literally spent tens of thousands of dollars with this conglomerate, and in a mocking voice, they hang up the phone while saying, “Yeah – I’ll get right on that” – click goes the phone. He hung up.

Every client is coming to us in their most vulnerable state. We have a duty to respect that; to care about it and to help people through this process. This is why it IS a profession, and not an industry in full pursuit of profit at all costs.

What ever happened to ethics? Is there no decency out there anymore?

That is the question. And that is why we are embarking on a revolutionary new process to vet these professionals throughout North America and refer to them the hundreds of thousands of members we have tapped into in insurance, associations and labour unions.

This profession I am proud to have joined is going to have ethics and decency rewarded. And we will ferret out the crass and cruel profiteers. I can promise you that.

Steve Mitchell