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Welcome to Funeral Consumers Alliance of Houston

Address: 1504 Wirt Road
Houston, TX 77055
Telephone: 713-526-4267
If no answer: 713-464-8877
  713-301-8566
Email: info@funeralshouston.org

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About Funeral Consumers Alliance of Houston



The Funeral Consumers Alliance of Houston (FCAH), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, maintains this website to help you select an affordable and dignified burial or cremation or inform you about other end-of-life options.

FCAH offers education and advocacy to consumers. FCAH is NOT affiliated with the funeral industry. FCAH's national office is in Vermont. Please visit their website: https://www.funerals.org/

FCAH is staffed by volunteers and relies on donations. We do not have the funds to pay for funerals. We urge you to decide how to pay for the funeral of your family member BEFORE you make arrangements with a funeral home. What we can do is advise you on available burial options and suggest reasonably priced funeral homes.

Important: Please call us before the deceased is transferred from the place of death/coroner’s office to a funeral home, specifically if no General Price List has been given to you prior to the transfer.

Members: We need your updated contact information/email address.
Please send a brief note with your old and new information to ehillmann33@gmail.com
Thank you.

Quick Reference

  •  Advance Plan: Plan in advance but don't prepay in advance. Advance planning before death can help grieving families make informed decisions that are within their budget. Put choices in writing and place in a location known to others.

  •  Compare Prices: This website lists prices of Cooperating Funeral Homes. Compare with other quotes from other funeral homes for similar services. Always contact the funeral home to verify the price.

  •  Funeral Rule (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Funeral_Rule): Know your funeral-purchasing rights - it's a federal law. Among others the Funeral Rule allows you to purchase only those items that you select.

Latest News



THE COFFIN CLUB: ELDERLY NEW ZEALANDERS BUILDING THEIR OWN CASKET


Quilting, bowling and bridge it is not. Elderly people in New Zealand are enthusiastically embracing a new pastime: coffin construction. Scores of retirees across the country have have formed clubs so they an get together and build their own coffin. They say the activbity is cost-saving and helps combat loneliness.

The first coffin club was founded in 2010 by former palliative care nurse Katie Williams, 77. Since then the model has spread around the country. " Because of my work and my age I had become a perpetual mourner," says Williams. "I had seen lots of people dying and their funerals  Had nothing to do with the vibrancy and life of those people. I had a deep-seated feeling that people's journeys deserved a more personal farewell."


Williams initially launched the club in her garage, with no tools, no volunteers and no idea how to construct a coffin. But after a host of handy local men came on board, the club took off, the club took off. "There is a lot of loneliness among the elderly, but at the coffin club people feel useful, and it is very social. We have morning tea and lunch, and music blaring."


Members build their own coffin, and the group also constructs baby coffins for the local hospital, which they donate for free.

Williams says the club is appealing to large families who find the cost of funerals "crippling", and for those who may have previously found it difficult to confront the impending death of a loved one.

Our motto is, it's a box until there is someone in it. Hers is stored in a cupboard at home, waiting for her.



DOCUMENTARY ON HOME FUNERALS

Heidi Boucher, a home funeral guide for more than 30 years and a FCA board member in Sacramento, CA,
recently finished producing a documentary on home funerals that was shown at the 2016 Houston Worldfest
Film Festival on April 10th at 5:00 pm, at the AMC Studio 30, 2949 Dunvale Rd. Houston.

"In the Parlor" was screened at Reed College in Portland at the Death OK Conference where Ms. Boucher gave
a presentation along with several others including Stephen Jenkinson. Two of the film's subjects are FCA's own
Josh Slocum and Lisa Carlson. The film premiered last week in San Luis Obispo, CA, and received rave reviews
from folks attending. It showed twice with most of the audience having some involvement with hospice, FCA
or end-of-life issues. The trailer can be watched here: www.intheparlordoc.com.


NPR News Investigations

A Funeral May Cost You Thousands Less Just By Crossing The Street


http://www.npr.org/2017/02/07/504020003/a-funeral-may-cost-you-thousands-less-just-by-crossing-the-street

 February 7, 2017

Ellen Bethea sat alongside her husband's hospital bed after doctors told her that Archie, the man she had been married to for almost five decades, wouldn't make it. "As soon as everybody else was asleep and I was sitting there with him, he passed on," she remembers. "So I think he kind of waited for me to be with him." Bethea says her husband had several health problems and died of liver disease.

Later that day in November 2015, the staff at the hospital near her Jacksonville, Fla., home asked Bethea something she hadn't prepared for: Which funeral home did she want to use? Bethea had never planned a funeral before, but knew of only one in town — Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home of Jacksonville. Some of her family and friends had used it and, she said, it had a good reputation. She and her family went there the next day. After meeting with a staff member, they walked out with a bill of over $7,000.

Bethea provided a copy of the itemized funeral bill to NPR. One thing quickly stood out, but only if you know something about Jacksonville's funeral market. The cost of Archie's cremation — $3,295 — was more than twice the amount charged elsewhere in Jacksonville by the company that owns Hardage-Giddens. The cremations are done in the same place and in the same way.

In a months-long investigation into pricing and marketing in the funeral business, also known as the death care industry, NPR spoke with funeral directors, consumers and regulators. We collected price information from around the country and visited providers. We found a confusing, unhelpful system that seems designed to be impenetrable by average consumers, who must make costly decisions at a time of grief and financial stress. Funeral homes often aren't forthcoming about how much things cost, or embed the information in elaborate package deals that can drive up the price of saying goodbye to loved ones.

While most funeral businesses have websites, most omit prices from the sites, making it more difficult for families to compare prices or shop around. NPR reporters also found it difficult to get prices from many funeral homes, and federal regulators routinely find the homes violating a law that requires price disclosures.

In Jacksonville, Hardage-Giddens and several other businesses in and around Jacksonville are part of a large, corporate-owned portfolio of about 1,500 funeral homes and several hundred cemeteries. The owner and operator is Service Corporation International (SCI), a multibillion-dollar company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The Houston-based firm claims 16 percent of the $19 billion North American death care market, which includes the U.S. and Canada. Company documents say it has 24,000 employees and is the largest owner of funeral homes and cemeteries in the world.

In Jacksonville, SCI sells cremations under the Hardage-Giddens/Dignity Memorial brand at large, luxurious funeral homes. The company also sells them for lower prices at strip-mall storefront outlets under other brands such as Neptune Society and National Cremation Society.

In communities around the country, it's common to find wide swings in prices for funeral services.

"That to me, starts to cross a line into consumer deception," says Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a death care industry watchdog group based in Burlington, Vt. Slocum was talking generally about markets such as Jacksonville, where a company's centralized crematory handles remains from a variety of differently branded outlets — from posh funeral homes to humble storefront cremation societies. The cremations are all the same, but some will cost much more than others, depending on where the consumer made the arrangements, and which of the company's brand names appears on the invoice. "You only get that lower price for the cremation society if you happen to know that it exists and is owned by the same business," Slocum says. "I'm not saying they're doing something illegal, but I am questioning whether or not we can really say, 'Oh, they give a much higher level of service.' "

The cremations arranged through all those outlets are performed in a large crematory at 517 Park St. in Jacksonville. The crematory's supervisor, Troy Brown, wrote on his LinkedIn profile that the Park Street facility serves 14 funeral homes.

"Direct cremation is the same no matter where you go," says Slocum. "When we're talking about situations where some consumers do not know or can't find out that that same business offers the same service at a lower price, maybe at a similar location, that is when I would have a problem with it."

But Scott Gilligan, a lawyer for the National Funeral Directors Association, says comparing the two cremations is "like saying all weddings are the same." "Just like if I want a hamburger at a gourmet place, it's the same hamburger I'm going to get at McDonald's. But it's going to cost more because of the atmosphere, because of what is being done. It's choices," Gilligan says. According to Gilligan, when consumers choose a funeral home, they're generally not making that decision on price. They're looking at other factors, such as reputation and location. When it comes to identical services, such as Jacksonville's cremations, which have different brand names and different prices, Gilligan says: "Well, that is simply someone offering a service, or offering a division, which is going to cater to people who are looking for the price."

One thing the storefront and the larger funeral homes have in common is an upselling strategy. Both try to sell consumers packages that bundle together multiple goods and services. This makes all of the funerals more expensive.

Bethea says it happened to her. "Well, actually, I think they only showed us one package that they had," she says. That package, known as the Honor Cremation Service, included a number of extra charges, including $495 for stationery and $345 for an Internet memorial.

That price premium is a problem the federal government has tried to fix with "the Funeral Rule," a regulation in place since 1984. It requires itemized price lists. But funeral directors are still free to emphasize packages in the sales process, as they did with Bethea.

"You know, Archie didn't have hardly very much life insurance — maybe 5,000 — and I had, you know, a little bit of money in the bank, and it took everything."

SCI, whose officials declined to speak with NPR for this story, tells consumers in sales materials that buying a funeral package saves them money. But company executives tell investors a different story. In a presentation to Wall Street investors last year, the company said consumers spend an extra $1,900, on average when they buy a package, versus an "a la carte" funeral. For some context, the national median cost of a funeral with a burial, not including cemetery costs, is over $7,000. SCI CEO Tom Ryan told investors: "Think about society today. We are in a hurry, right? Everybody is on the clock ... What we find is when we deliver these packages, people tend to spend more money because they're buying more products and services." He added that consumers, in fact, like the packages. "And most importantly, we survey our customers, and the highest customer satisfaction scores come from people that select the packages. So we know we're doing the right thing. The packages allow us to do that for all parties involved," Ryan said.

What's Your Experience?

For possible future coverage, NPR wants to hear your story! Have you recently purchased goods or services from the death care industry?   Tell NPR  us about your experience (form on the NPR website).

Company executives told analysts in July they're rolling out a new point-of-sale system that also increases per-funeral revenue. Packaging goods and services under multiple brands and setting different prices for identical services are strategies the company uses in many of its markets, which span 45 states and the District of Columbia.

In Raleigh, N.C., for example, the company's full service funeral home and storefront cremation office are across the street from each other. Crossing that street can save you — or cost you — $1,895.

Riley Beggin of NPR, Emily Siner of Nashville Public Radio, Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma and Ed Williams of KUNM contributed to this story.

Funeral Shopping Tips: As a consumer, you're likely at a significant disadvantage, and it's not just because of your emotions. Prices are seldom online and it's hard to know what to ask. Based on NPR's reporting and tips from Funeral Consumers Alliance and the Federal Trade Commission, here are ways you can help level the playing field:

·         Ask for prices of the specific items you want to buy. The federal government requires that 16 standardized goods and services appear on every funeral home's general price list.

·         If a loved one is near death, start looking at options in advance, when you're not under pressure to make a decision. Make calls to funeral homes or drop by and ask for a general price list.

·         If planning your own funeral, put your wishes in writing and discuss them with your family. Ask for itemized price quotes from the funeral homes you visit.

·         When visiting a funeral home, bring along someone trustworthy, who is not grieving.

·         Don't disclose financial information about your inheritance or the size of your loved one's insurance policy until you have settled on how much you will pay.

·         Know the boundaries of your relationship with a funeral director or salesperson. While they may be empathetic, their first responsibility is to their business' success. Also, salespeople may be working on commission, so they may have an interest in your paying as much as possible.



  • Newsletter
    Check out our Spring 2016 newsletter (link is at left margin). We appreciate your comments. Let us know if you want an issue
    discussed in our next newsletter.

  • News from our Friends at Compassion & Choices (compassionandchoices.org)

Earlier this year the Canadian Supreme Court struck down Canada’s ban on assisted suicide and placed end-of-life options back in the hands of the patient. 

In today’s unanimous landmark decision, the court ruled that adults have the constitutional right to a full range of end-of-life options under certain circumstances, and that an individual's ability to confront a terminal prognosis as they choose “is a matter critical to their dignity and autonomy.”

The availability of aid in dying in Canada will have an impact in America, especially among border states like New York and Maine. This is a huge moment for our movement, and it must inspire us to action.

This historic news out of Canada today follows a trend that we’ve seen growing over the past year. The spark is ignited, and advocates for expanded end-of-life options are being heard.

We applaud the Canadian Supreme Court, and thank them for allowing Canadians access to comprehensive end-of-life options. We must use this momentum to continue to advocate for aid in dying in the United States, where religious fundamentalists continue to fight end-of-life autonomy at every turn.




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