real life

The hidden methods funeral directors are using to prey on vulnerable families.

Anyone who’s ever worked in retail will be familiar with the term “upselling”.

Basically, it’s a technique used by salespeople to saddle you up with extra items on top of the thing you originally wanted to buy and thus squeeze a few extra dollars out of you at the cash register.

It’s not a term that typically springs to mind when thinking about funerals and yet, increasingly, grieving Australian families are falling victim to the practice as they pay exorbitant fees to say goodbye to their loved ones.

“Upselling is also common with funeral directors basically hinting that if you loved the departed, you should consider a more expensive coffin which might be marked up by a thousand per cent,” Professor Sandra van der Laan, who authored a new report on the funeral industry, told Business Insider.

The University of Sydney report titled It’s your funeral: An investigation of death care and the funeral industry in Australia examines the growing billion dollar industry that preys on people while they are at their most vulnerable.

According to the report, the average Australian funeral costs around $6000, but the simple act of disposing of a body costs far less than that – around $1200.

Are we paying too much to say goodbye?. Source: Getty

Of course, many people are happy to pay for the ceremonial aspects of funerals as well as for memorials, such as burials or plaques, but many are also forking out for hidden fees as well as for things they don't need.

“Upselling also goes on in relation to flowers and a range of other things that you actually don’t need," Professor van der Laan said.

“In the end, a lot of what you’re paying for is the funeral director’s fees and all they really do is organise to get the body from the hospital to the funeral service and then to the cemetery or the crematorium as well as ensuring all the paperwork is in order."

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According to a breakdown of funeral costs contained in the report, around 39% of what people pay goes to professional service fees, while 31% is spent on coffins and caskets.

Professor van der Laan told Business Insider few people know that anyone may transport a body so long as they have the right container.

As her report states: "Disclosures (by funeral directors) regarding pricing and costs of the various options for funerals and body disposal will enable consumers of these services to make more informed choices and address the concerns of predatory marketing and price gouging in the industry."