There are bullies in every business.  In the funeral industry — because of the customers emotional vulnerability and the fact that the purchases are often of high value — there’s a greater opportunity for bully funeral directors to exploit their customers.

Back in elementary school, I learned a lesson about bullies: they gain their value off provoking emotional reactions and thrive off feeling a sense of power over you.  Take away the power, take away the emotional reactions, and — they might still be mean — but they no longer have the power and value they so desperately seek.

While I continue to believe that the majority of funeral director are honest, empathetic and service oriented, some funeral director will bully their clients into more expensive funerals, especially pricier vaults and caskets purchases.  While the elementary school bullying has evolved, the intention is still the same: to exploit emotions and gain power.

Here are five ways — and some cliche lines — funeral directors use to manipulate their customers into upsells:

Creating false and/or unsubstantiated expectations:

If you buy this vault, your husband will be protected for ALL ETERNITY.

Buying this casket will ensure that your son will stay in perfect shape for the next hundred years.

Guilt Trip.

I’m sure he was the best dad ever.  He certainly deserves the best casket.

I wouldn’t put my dog in that vault.

You may not have been able to provide the best stuff for your son in life, but you can give him the best in death.

Emotional Manipulation.

I hate the thought of worms eating my loved one’s flesh, which is why this sealer vault gives me peace of mind.

Can you put a price on your peace of mind?

Religious Persuasion.

Jesus Christ had a sealer tomb.

Insects, mice, nothing can get into this casket except the Lord Jesus Christ on Resurrection Day.

(I’ve actually heard of funeral directors who dissuade customers from cremation with religious reasons.  Yes, Islam and Judaism traditionally prohibit cremation, but all Christian traditions [except for Eastern Orthodoxy] allow for the cremation of the deceased’s remains).

Aggressive Sales Tactics.

THIS is the casket you need.

I KNEW your father and I KNOW that your father would want this vault.

You don’t want a CHEAP casket.  Do you?


As I’ve said before, if you EVER feel like you’re being manipulated or exploited by a funeral director, fire your funeral director.  Walk out and tell them, “I’m taking my business somewhere else.”  Death causes us to be emotional vulnerable and the last thing you need is a funeral director attempting to weasel his/her way into your wallet.

If you’re already the type of person who is susceptible to manipulation (you’re a “people pleaser”, you lack assertiveness, low self-esteem, etc.), it’s smart to bring someone with you when you to make arrangements.  The last thing you need while coping with a death is to feel like you’ve been exploited by a funeral director.


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