Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Age of Entitlement

When I was about six or seven I was allowed to play outside the gate of the front yard all by myself; as long as I didn't go past houses A & B. When I was about fourteen I was allowed to stay outside "past" when the street lights came on. At seventeen I was given permission to smoke even though I had been doing it for years without said permission. At eighteen I now became entitled to some things; I could drive as long as I had gotten a license and I could also now legally imbibe in alcohol. At twenty two I was entitled to marry as long as I knew what I was doing and could afford to take care of myself. All through the years there have been different things that I have been entitled to do, each of course with guidelines and stipulations like the rest of life but alas there is still another.

When one turns forty nine they are bestowed the honor of joining that prestigious group of individuals who belong to AARP. I guess that they want to give you plenty of time to prepare for that hopeful day when you no longer have to depend on getting up at five in the morning to go and scrounge for your food via work. Anyway, what the hell, the membership isn't that high and of course there are perks to joining like in most other organizations you pay to belong to. Why not add this group to the list of associations that I have one time been a part of or still hold membership to.

They publish a bi monthly magazine and part of membership gives you the opportunity to receive this magazine I assume at a discounted rate.

Well, my magazine came last week and I was really thrilled to see it in the mailbox. I was about to learn some of the most important secrets that this group had to share in regards to my far off yet oncoming retirement status; another eligibility or entitlement.

To my surprise right on the cover, in pretty big type I may add, it reads "Special Report" - The Cruelest Funeral Scam

Immediately I think to myself "wow", this is going to be very informative, "I have to check this article out first"; and I did, to my now chagrin. Now I know I'm probably somewhat perpetuating the article by writing about it but I feel compelled to respond and this is the first forum that I plan to place my response. Some of you might already have read this article and I wish I could get all of you to read it somehow however I don't intend to put a link to them on my blog. Screw em.

First off, the article is entitled - R.I.P. Off - A funeral-industry scandal that's fleecing thousands of Americans - Quite catchy little title don't you think? It got my attention, and since the magazine boasts to have the worlds largest circulation I can imagine it caught the eye of many more than me. In the article they highlight a specific husband and wife and a specific funeral home that ripped the couple off. To make it simple, the couple purchased a pre-need contract and were told that their funeral would be paid for once their payments were completed. Before either of the funerals took place, the funeral home changed hands and the new owner put out a press release stating that he was not going to honor the contracts that the previous owner had initiated. My first thought on that sentence was "that's illegal." The new owner is quoted as saying "Obviously, things were a lot cheaper in 1965" and "I wouldn't have bought the business if I thought I'd have to honor those contracts." I don't recall who used to say it but I remember the phrase - "What a maroon!"

The TN attorney general has a different spin on it though, supposedly, $20 million in pre-need trusts were included in the purchase and the new owner and his partner drained theses trusts shortly after the purchase. This is truly unfortunate, illegal, and hopefully now that it's discovered will be reversed. We all know that there are crooks in every industry including mine but they're certainly not the norm.

Giving them their due credit, the magazine does go on ( in one very short paragraph) to say that for many customers, their pre-need money is safe discussing a retired city administrator who had no problems at all using his pre-need contract.

They go on to list a few more scenarios where pre-need is misrepresented and how the unknowing public can and will be ripped off. I had to agree with them that these scenarios are in fact possible and some probable but we're dealing with legally binding contracts here. In my state, the State Board of Funeral Service, which is federally regulated, as is the entire industry, issues the blank contracts to us and we are basically filling in the blanks and explaining why. There is no doubt in my mind, like with any other contract, the buyer must beware. But what the buyer must be wary of is not what the funeral home or director is going to sneakily do with their money, they must be wary of what they're agreeing's all on paper besides being explained by licensed professionals and as I've advised you in the past, if you don't understand it or it isn't fully explained....DON'T SIGN IT!!! Remember, you're entitled but there are still stipulations and guidelines.

Over all, the article could have been, and in sections was, very informative to anyone considering one of these contracts however what got me hot was the way that it was written with a generally negative stance on the subject at hand. What also got to me were two statements in particular. One was from a Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance where he was quoted as saying "This is not every every once in a while, and is not just a few bad apples." I don't know how you interpret that statement but I read it as him saying that this is "a fairly common occurrence." The other statement that not only upset me but also made me think the guy is an asshole was stated by a mortician who very aptly comes from Reamstown, Pennsylvania, named Michael Tod Good. He said "WE funeral directors should never have been able to take money for pre-need, it's just too tempting." Perhaps it is too tempting to him but I don't personally know a single funeral director who feels this way and am insulted to be classed along with this joker. Don't include me in WE, thank you very much.

As I said, this article was informative but definitely biased. Aside from the fact that I just didn't like to see this in print, it also made me wonder if taking the full advice of the worlds foremost authority of retirement was the way to go. How many other of their stories or topics are also biased, also a little slanted. Do I want to find out at sixty five that the information I've been relying on to achieve my happiest retirement days was really just a way to capture a sensationalist readership? I suppose like everything else we shouldn't believe everything that we read. So tell me, do you believe this biased recount of the entitled?


Matty said...

I'm very glad you posted this article. Unfortunatley..I have done a lot of business with funeral parlors...and what you say is true! I for one have never dealt with a crooked funeral director in my life..and I never hope to.
The various funeral homes I have dealt with have treated me and my family with respect and dignity and we got exactly what we paid for and more.
In my area...a lot of the older folk have pre-paid their was the thing to do...and so far..I have never heard a complaint.
You really should write a letter to this magazine..informing them you don't want to be part of the 'We'! Those funeral home's that are a scam are few and far between...thank God! 'Fairly common?'...I don't think so!

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