What Should I Know as a Consumer?
The members of Selected Independent Funeral Homes are committed to providing the public with helpful information and experienced guidance, whether it’s at time of need or when planning funeral preferences in advance. We hope the following pages will help provide the knowledge you need to make informed decisions.
Unfortunately, because of the actions of a few, the funeral service profession has received attention for wrongdoing and charges of fraud. And consumers need to be aware of the criminal and unethical practices some providers may use and that consumers may face when planning a funeral. As a result, consumers should ask the following questions:
- How reputable is the Funeral Home I am considering?
- Does this business operate with strong consumer standards?
- What are my rights as a consumer?
- How do I know if I am being offered a fair price?
- How can I ensure the best care for my loved one?
- How do government regulations protect me?
Since 1965, the members of Selected Independent Funeral Homes have followed a Code of Good Practice that insists on honesty and integrity at a time when consumers need them the most. This code of conduct even preceded the federal government’s consumer protection standards.
Many people wonder what is acceptable or what is expected of them when attending a visitation or funeral services. Certainly the accepted customs of dress and behavior in a funeral have changed over time, but courtesy and respect never goes out of style.
Making the Most of a Difficult Time
It certainly is helpful knowing what religious, ethnic or personal considerations you need to take into account. In all cases being respectful of the emotions of close family members will help provide comfort.
Here are a few things expected of you:
Offer an expression of sympathy.
Often it is difficult to think of the most appropriate thing to say to someone that has just experienced a loss. Simply saying “I’m sorry for your loss” is usually enough. Be respectful and listen attentively when spoken to. It isn’t important to say a lot. Simply expressing your sorrow for what they are going through will be well received.
Find out the dress code.
Today, expectations of formal dress are much more relaxed. If you can’t learn the wishes of the family, then dress conservatively. You should be comfortable not only with your clothing but with your choice.
Give a gift.
It doesn’t matter if it is flowers, a donation to a charity, food or a commitment of service to the family at a later date; as always, “it’s the thought that counts.” Always make sure to provide the family with a signed card, so they know what gift was given, and by whom.
Sign the register book.
Many do not think to acknowledge their relationship to the deceased. Adding co-worker, gym buddy, or casual acquaintance from the golf club next to your name, helps family place who you are in future.
What You Can Do
- Offer immediate help such as watching over the house, prepare meals, care for children, run errands, etc.
- If the mourner doesn’t feel like talking, don’t force conversation.
- Be a good listener. Accept emotional behavior, such as crying or anger.
- Everyone mourns in their own way. Don’t tell them how they should feel.
- Avoid clichés such as, “it was God’s will” or “he’s in a better place” or “he is out of pain,” etc.
- Keep in touch with the mourner, it is never too late to call or visit, but follow his/her lead as to how often. It is never too late to call or visit.
- As time goes on, treat the mourner as a normal person, don’t dwell on the loss and avoid pity. Invite him/her to dinner or social functions.
If you have special concerns about an upcoming funeral or memorial service please contact us at (800) 944-9365.
Is embalming required?
In Pennsylvania, embalming is not required by law except in certain cases.
Must I buy an “outside container,” such as a crypt or vault?
Pennsylvania law does not require an “outside container”. However, most cemeteries require that one is used. We provide “outside containers” at many price levels.
What is a “Statement of Goods and Services Selected”?
This is a form that must be completed by a licensed funeral director and signed by the person responsible for making the arrangements and payment of the expenses.
Is an urn or an urn vault required?
No, unless a cemetery requires one or the other. We can provide quality urns and urn vaults at reasonable prices.
Is embalming required for cremation?
Not in Pennsylvania except for certain situations.
A salesman showed me caskets, vaults, and a preneed payment schedule. What should I do?
Proceed with caution.
Do I have to use a Funeral Director?
In Pennsylvania, as in most all states, only a licensed Funeral Director can make arrangements for funeral services and disposition. This includes arrangements for cremation.
Do cremated remains have to be buried?
In Pennsylvania cremated remains do not have to be buried. However, some religions such as Roman Catholics do require that cremated remains are to be buried in a grave or entombed in a mausoleum.
What is a GPL?
A General Price List is required to be given to every person before any arrangements or pre-arrangements are discussed. Insist on taking (and keeping) one.
How do I get a death certificate for a relative who has passed away?
Death certificates are issued through the Department of Vital Statistics. To have an application sent to you call 1-877-PA-HEALTH or write to Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, P.O. Box 1528, New Castle, PA 16103-1528..
Federal Regulations of Funeral Homes
While most funeral homes look out for the best interests of consumers, unfortunately not all providers are ethically sound. In 1982, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) mandated Funeral Industry Practices, Part 453 of the Code of Federal Regulations, to protect consumer interests. This commonly is referred to as the “Funeral Rule.” The FTC also has developed consumer guidelines so you can know your rights. It is important to note, however, that the Funeral Rule currently applies only to actual funeral homes and funeral directors. Other service providers such as crematories and cemeteries are not subject to the Funeral Rule.
The rights afforded consumers through the FTC Funeral Rule include:
- The right to choose the funeral goods and services.
- The right to receive information, in writing, about funeral services and merchandise before any decisions and purchases are made. This information should come in the form of a General Price List.
- The right to receive information concerning the purchase of any items that are required by law.
- The right to use a casket purchased from someone other than the funeral home.
- The right to have alternative containers available from funeral providers that perform cremations.
Selected Independent Funeral Homes monitors its members to ensure they abide by the FTC Rule and our stricter Code of Good Practice. In fact, our Code existed long before the Funeral Rule and provided the foundations for the FTC guidelines. Selected Independent Funeral Homes (then National Selected Morticians) acted as a key participant in the original Funeral Rule proceedings and has been involved with every amendment hearing since.
James E. Renninger
James E. Renninger