10/09/2002 05:24 pm (Wednesday)
Subject: Death Care Industry Reform
Many in the death care industry have long opposed government regulation stating that it was unnecessary. It has been their position that the market regulates itself and that any attempt to regulate the industry would be intrusive. It is time the government reevaluates this position and takes a serious look at the industry.
We are an online retailer of funeral and cemetery merchandise.
In recent months one of our major
suppliers, Matthews International, directed us to cease selling their
products outside our local area. They stated in writing that they
preferred that families purchased from local representatives. Since there
are numerous web sites featuring Matthews International memorials, we were
understandably curious why we were singled out for this action. In a later
conversation with our Matthews International sales representative, he
stated that our service was discontinued because of
Again, just recently, another supplier ceased to serve our account because of complaints from our competitors. Everlasting Granite provided us bronze markers equivalent in quality to those previously provided by Matthews International. Everlasting Graniteā**s markers are manufactured by Matthews International under the Everlasting Granite trademark.
There is an additional problem in the death care market. All cemeteries have rules and regulations that specify the type markers that are allowed in a cemetery. While the federal courts have ruled that cemeteries can establish reasonable rules and regulations, many cemeteries try to limit outside competition by specifying brand names in their rules and regulations. This limits outside competition.
An open market fostering free competition should be to everyone's benefit. But it is time regulatory agencies reevaluate how they approach the death care industry. A free market implies that all competition is open and that consumers are operating if a fair environment. This is not the case with the death care industry.
Families that have lost a loved one are overcome by grief. They do not think logically, they find it difficult to make rational decisions. This inability to properly function places the families at an extreme disadvantage since the last thing they want to worry about is shopping around. The problem is equally pervasive in both the funeral and cemetery industry.
The current market environment places families at an economic disadvantage due to the extreme circumstances in which they find themselves. Grief is overpowering. It can incapacitate normal thought processes. It has the same overall effect as a drug.
In view of this, the current market situation is analogous to economic date rape. You have families unable to function normally forced to function in a closed market environment. They come to a funeral home or cemetery in mental anguish and simply accept what they are offered. They can easily be, and are, taken advantage of.
What to do?
Of course it would be difficult to correct the situation, but not impossible. In the perfect situation, providers in the industry should be forced to divest themselves of the practice of providing both products and services. It would be best if the family could trust companies to provide a single place to arrange for the care of a lost loved one, but this is not a perfect world. Greed too easily corrupts. The market structure in the death care industry differs only from the Microsoft litigation in that all people must deal with the death care industry.
If you could just take a moment and think about the issue, I feel you will better understand the situation. It is unwise to assume that the death care industry is any different from any other industry. They are people involved, and people succumb to greed. It is all too easy for someone in this industry to establish a pricing structure that families in grief are unaware is unfair, or not the best they can do.
I am not to concerned by the unfair practices I have been subject to, but the fact that it took place at such a high level should indicate that the problem of price fixing, price gouging, and efforts to maintain higher prices run deeper that just the local cemetery and funeral home.
I appreciate your time and consideration. I look forward to your actions to protect the surviving family members. I have listed all recipients to this message below. I hope, for the sake of the bereaved, someone will take note.