Those new service sector jobs

In North America the modern undertaker’s job is increasingly one of event-planning, says Sherri Tovell, an undertaker in Windsor, Canada. Among the requirements at her recent funerals have been a tiki hut, margaritas, karaoke and pizza delivery. Some people want to hire an officiant to lead a “life celebration”, others to shoot ashes into the skies with fireworks. Old-fashioned undertakers are hard put to find their place in such antics. Another trend—known as “direct cremation”—has no role for them at all.

Besides having to offer more diverse services, the trade also faces increased competition in its products. Its roots are in carpentry. “You’d buy an expensive casket and the funeral would be included in the price,” remembers Dan Isard, a funeral consultant in Phoenix, Arizona. The unwritten agreement was that the dead would be treated with dignity and that families would not ask if there was an alternative to the $1,000 or $2,000 coffin, or whether embalming was really needed. The business has something in common with prostitution, reflects Dominic Akyel of the University of Cologne. It is legal (as prostitution is in some places) but taboo, “and certainly not to be discussed or haggled over”.

The undertaker used to be able to rely on a steady stream of customers who asked few questions and of whom he (and it was usually a he) would ask few in return. Protestant or Catholic? Open coffin or closed? And, in some parts of the world, burial or cremation? A new generation of customers, though, no longer unthinkingly hands over its dead to the nearest funeral director. They are looking elsewhere, be it to a new breed of undertaker, to hotel chains that “do” funerals, or—for their coffin or urn—to Amazon or Walmart.

Here is more from The Economist, interesting throughout


If you relative served in the military (conscription) a good deal is to get a plot from the US government, as a vet.

Bonus trivia: Whoopie Goldberg was an undertaker.

Wаy cool! Some extremely valid pοints! Ӏ appreciate you penning this
ᴡrite-up and ɑlso the rest of the site iѕ veгy goοd.

It is likely it will be a while before Diogenes' personal preference in burial practices become common -

Diogenes of Sinope was a "cynic", which means in ancient Greek, "dog" ('runner' is the literal form but it refers to dog, which is not the modern Greek word for dog). This was an insult given to Cynic philosophers by their enemies, see the many 'dog' references in the link cited. I liked this part: "His cause of death has been given as either severe food poisoning from eating a raw ox's foot, rabies from a dog bite, or suicide by holding his breath". I think reason one is implausible unless demented, two sounds plausible and three sounds impossible.

Prostitution isn't to be haggled over? You better at least come to an explicit agreement is over what you are buying or you are unlikely to get what you think you are paying for. This generally results in some form of haggling.

As a kid who got paranoid trying to buy a bag of pot, I try to imagine what negotiations look like with a hooker.

I mean, there's the chance it's a police sting, chance she's a he, chance she's a meth head, chance it's a robbery, chance its a snuff video, there's a chance the john is a cop or creep or violent or serial killer...

It seems like the set up for a really awkward first date.

I think this trend may have started in Puerto Rico:

But anyone who has been to a Latin American cemetery will know this is not particularly new. The Latin countries do tend to go in for the big, colorful, vibrant funeral. Huge monuments. Crypts. That sort of thing.

Unlike the boring Northern Europeans and their plain almost unmarked graves. A difference that was notable enough to make at least one appearance in the James Bond series. Presumably his Blaxsploitation Live and Let Die.

Just think of the travels of Evita Peron's body - even ignoring the fact that her husband kept it in his dining room for a few years.

"Unlike the boring Northern Europeans and their plain almost unmarked graves. A difference that was notable enough to make at least one appearance in the James Bond series."
White America imitates its Wahhabist friends.

'boring Northern Europeans and their plain almost unmarked graves'

I'm guessing that southern Germany is not northern European enough for you, as graves here are generally not plain, nor almost unmarked.

In marked contrast to Calvary Hills in Fairfax when I was growing up, though the current operation seems a bit more profit oriented in terms of offering things like mausoleums and crypts -

Just ignore Thiago he speaks from his hatred of those not like him.

Even for you Prior that is an amazing exercise in futility. Presumably you are only posting because you need to post.

After all, what could unite the people of Southern Germany with the peoples of the Latin world? If only there was something, something related to funerals, that made them share something in common and less in common with the Germans of Northern Germany. Something related to the way people treat the dead. It is a mystery isn't it?

Want to get buried at sea? In Washington state at least, the regulations are surprisingly loose, you have to be cremated (no dumping of cadavers permitted) and use an approved biodegradable container for the ashes but other than that there's not much required.

In federal waters you have to be at least 3 miles from land and notify the EPA within 30 days that you've dumped the ashes.

But in state-controlled waterways there's less regulation. You can even ask a ferry boat captain to pause for five minutes as you ceremonially cast the ashes overboard; we did this for an uncle who'd served in the merchant marine.

You can't get buried at sea, they don't got no dirt there!

Surprisingly no mention of cryonics in this article in The Economist, that covered almost everything else.

The concept of live streaming funeral ceremonies seems ecologically very sound compared to moving (live) bodies possibly thousands of miles to attend. In 1965 PCM pioneer Alec Harley Reeves predicted that by 2000 people would be fed up with traffic jams and the inconveniences of travel, and prefer to move minds and not bodies. It seems that this idea isn't totally dead. Augmented virtual reality will no doubt help here.

Embalming the deceased became popular during the civil war. No, not as a way to preserve the departed but to identify him, the him being the dead soldier retrieved from the battle field by the enterprising embalmer and transported home to the grieving relatives for them to claim upon payment of the embalmer's fee. Just any old dead body wasn't enough for the relatives, as they were too smart to let some huckster sell them a dead stranger, but not smart enough to recognize a con. Today, the con continues to work even though there's no issue of identification of the departed.

Speaking of the dead, here's an optimistic view on retail: My view: as between retail and service jobs, the former requires inventory, the latter does not. Choose service jobs. Retail is dead and no amount of embalming will give it life.

With respect to all the choices that have to be made,
I am waiting for an app for this.

Or, perhaps, Facebook or Google predictive analytics would tell me when its time to go, and whether I really would like those racing stripes on the coffin.

Today is April 15th.
An appropriate day for discussion of
Death and Taxes.

Today is April 15th.
An appropriate day for discussion of
Death and Taxes

Sorry about the repeat.
Sorry about the repeat.

The vaulted ceiling of my zero-plot-line McCoffin may be offensive to some, but it's the only way to accommodate my 72" TV.

Coffin: a piece of furniture that rearranges the customary relationship we enjoy with dust.

Mortality: four syllables ending in "death".

Tombstone: an engraved mineral marker (chiefly granite) designating a local mineral deposit (chiefly calcium).

I've told my wife to bury me in the back garden. We'll see. Or rather, we won't.

Unless she buries you alive...

[dang wife, always so bloody literal..]

I converted the dollar sizes of the funeral industry and the number employed from the first paragraph into per-capita figures.

The employees per capita didn't vary too much from country to country: 0.30/1000 people in the UK, 033 in Germany, and 0.37 in the US, with no figure given for France.

However, there was considerable variation in industry size per capita: $50/person in the US, $48/person in France, $42/person in the UK—and only $23/person in Germany. Leaves one wondering why the German industry employs so many people, relative to its size. Is undertaking a McJob in Germany?

The mainstream funeral industry is everything that is wrong with America.

Including an excessive regulation/licensing tie-in, offset by under-prosecuted cons and scams. And including this country's unhealthy relationship with death and dying and our own bodies.

Caveat: except to the extent that they are event planners & therapists making things easier for bereaved people.

Some of the best parties I have attended have been for the newly departed. One sees old friends and relatives not seen since the last funeral. And in fine Catholic tradition, there's plenty of booze and good food. Here's an oddity: My sister's husband died a little over a year ago and my sister held no after-party (or wake if party offends your sensibilities). No booze, no food, nothing. Not because my sister felt an after-party didn't rise to the occasion, but because her husband had told her no after-party. Why? He had served as mayor of their city for three terms and attended many, many funerals, often giving the eulogy. It disturbed him that more often than not the funeral after-party became, well, more of a party than he thought appropriate for the occasion. Thus, no after-party for him. I suppose I cheated a little, since I brought along a bottle of gin and some tonic, which I graciously shared with the other bereaved attendees who thought very highly of my sister's husband (and me for bringing the gin). I didn't bring any food, so the after-party was short.

I guess you gotta honor the wishes of the deceased. But really, after he kicks, it's up the living to decide how they want to spend their time.

Personally, while I'd rather not my Wake end up like Tim Finnegan's, I do want the folks involved to leave happy, smiling, and full of life.

Personally, I can't wait for Amazon Corpse.

The delivery trucks behind my nearby funeral home generally say Batesville Casket Co. or something prosaic like that. Yesterday I noticed one that said "Funeral Solutions" after the company name. So the industry is changing, or at least updating its boilerplate verbiage.

Comments for this post are closed