Funeral planner to shake up industry

Paul Brent
CanWest News Service

Financial Post April 19, 2003

Mark Duffey's U.S.-based company, Everest Funeral Package LLC, has created what it calls the first national funeral package. It envisions people planning their own funerals in their homes, one-on-one with a company counsellor, over the telephone or even the Internet.

Sure to shake up the conservative mom-and-pop funeral-home industry, Everest's product will allow customers to pre-pay and plan their final farewell, even the flowers and casket, all without speaking to a funeral director.

"I'm going to assume that the funeral directors probably at the beginning won't like this because they are going to view it as someone who is stepping into what they think as their traditional role," Duffey said. "We don't really care."

Duffey has good reason to anticipate a chilly reception. When his company "secret shopped" Ontario's 550 funeral homes to glean competitive information, many refused to divulge prices for products and services.

Undeterred, Everest took two months to compile a database of the industry prices, a process the company will duplicate as it spreads across Canada over the next year.

A former executive with New York's Carriage Services funeral home company, Duffey said the Canadian industry's pricing differs from the U.S., where it is regulated.

The "third-largest purchase" in a person's life, a funeral typically costs about $10,000 with burial plots included. Research conducted by Everest found just 15 per cent of people have pre-planned their funerals and gleaned that in most cases people simply purchased a cemetery plot.

© Copyright 2003 Financial Post
This article also appeared in the Montreal Gazette and the Vancouver Province.