The funeral home industry is being dragged kicking and screaming into the latest century — by a pair of Web sites that have begun to shed light on their prices.
Funeralocity.com and Parting.com are two startups that enable the bereaved to shop for caskets, embalming and cremation services — and search for the cheapest option as they can when booking an airplane flight, a car or a hotel.
Funeralocity, which has no business relationship with Travelocity, chose its name to “make people laugh,” founder Ed Michael Reggie said. He quickly confirmed, however, that undertakers aren’t laughing.
“We have some homes that are not happy about being listed,” said Reggie, a former professor of entrepreneurship at Tulane University. “But the fact is every consumer wants the ability to compare prices online.”
The funeral home business is notoriously murky when it comes to pricing. Some critics claim undertakers can take advantage of clients who are of no mind to bargain when grieving their loved ones, sources said.
“Prices tend to stay higher when there is no transparency, and that describes the funeral industry,” said Josh Slocum of the Funeral Consumers Alliance told The Post. “There is no other retail sector that routinely hides its prices to get people to come into the sales office” so it can sell them a pricey package, Slocum said.
Currently, just 25 percent of the 20,000 funeral homes in the US provide pricing information on their sites, according to FCA, a nonprofit, consumer watchdog group.
“This is an industry that is 40 to 50 years out of date technologically and culturally,” Slocum added.
When reached by The Post, undertakers said they didn’t want their prices online for a whole host of reasons, ranging from fears of being undercut by the competition to causing customer confusion.
“If I put my prices online, the next guy can offer his services for less,” said Anthony Cassieri, who owns Brooklyn Funeral Home & Cremation Service in Brownsville and claims to the cheapest around.
“I don’t think money should be at the forefront of a funeral,” Joseph Giordano Jr. of Curry & Giordano Funeral Home in Peekskill, NY told The Post before adding: “I don’t include my prices on my Web site because I want people to come in and see my facility.”
Giordano and other funeral directors also said their price lists should not be shared online because they are too confusing for the average consumer to understand.
“It’s an incredibly complicated price list,” insisted Nicholas Grillo of Levandoski & Grillo in Bloomfield, NJ. “There are third-party charges, including newspaper, organists and such that can add $4,000 to $5,000 to a tab.”
By law, funeral homes have no choice but to share their prices when asked, which is how Funeralocity and Parting.com are able to exist.
Funeralocity launched in April after testing its technology in Atlanta for two years and setting up call centers to collect its information on funeral homes. It allows grieving consumers to look at a detailed menu of prices along with photos of funeral homes and customer reviews.
Both Web sites offer their listings for free to consumers and don’t charge funeral homes. They make money by promoting businesses that agree to pay a fee and meet certain qualifications to be listed as a top provider.
Despite the benefit of the service for consumers, it’s not a surefire business model, according to Tyler Yamasaki, chief executive of Parting.com.
The company has recently shifted its focus to selling funeral homes software “to help them digitize their business“ because the profits in the pricing aggregation business was shaky, Yamasaki said.
While it still offers pricing information on some 15,000 funeral homes, Parting has stopped updating the pricing.