In almost any industry, the best way to save money is to shop around. That's easier said than done, however, if there is limited competition, if the buying public isn't properly educated or if target customers are in no state to be thinking about money.
It could be argued that all three of these factors apply to the funeral industry.
According to the founders of Parting, a new site that aims to bring transparency and customer empowerment to the funeral industry, a no-frills service like direct cremation can cost anywhere between $550 to over $10,000, even in the same city. And direct cremation is, for all intents and purposes, identical regardless of the provider.
Parting says it's out to fix these disparities by providing a searchable, online directory of funeral homes that includes pricing, locations, photographs and reviews of the businesses online. According to site founder Tyler Yamasaki, the idea for Parting came after Yamasaki suffered a loss of his own.
"I have a grandmother who passed recently, and I had to plan the funeral. I went online to research options, but I realized the online landscape is incredibly weak. Most places don’t put prices online and make you call. It took me 4 to 5 days to make a decision, which wasn’t how I ideally wanted to be spending my time. As a consumer, I felt there was a lack of information and transparency in the industry."
Yamasaki points to a a huge study by the Funeral Consumer Alliance which found that nearly 40 percent of funeral homes across the country do not disclose their prices online, and 25 percent don’t even disclose prices by phone or email — even though doing so is mandated by the Federal Trade Commission. So Yamasaki put together a team to gather as much information about funeral home pricing as they could to compile an online directory of homes. Parting now has more than 15,000 homes listed in its directory and is attracting around 30,000 users a month.
Asked why the industry has traditionally been circumspect about providing pricing data, Yamasaki points to tradition, but he's adamant that things are beginning to change and many funeral home directors welcome an opportunity to provide clear and reliable information to would-be customers:
"It’s just an old industry. If someone comes into your funeral home to inquire, there’s about an 80 percent chance they’ll just go ahead and use that location. Still, we’ve met a lot of funeral home directors who have embraced what we’re doing, because they know it’s what’s best for the families. Price is not the only factor that should go into the funeral home — there are other factors, like quality of service. Funeral home owners understand that there’s a specific person that should use them, and they understand that our service helps families make the right choice."
According to the site's online FAQ, Parting was funded by a small group of investors who are not affiliated with the funeral industry.