December 2009


Batesville makes caskets, right? They’ve been making them for a while. They make a lot of them. They have lots of customers and they have an impressive distribution system in place.

According to Ryan Thogmartin from Connecting Directors, Batesville has just bought the intellectual rights to Goria Corporation, a company that, until the sale, made molded vaults from what I suspect is some type of plastic or polycarbonate or other rigid but lightweight material.  Here’s the letter from the Goria website that describes the sale:

To our valued customers and supporters:

For the past five years, Goria Corporation has been pleased to produce and sell our patented Eonian™ and Endurance™ burial vaults to funeral service providers across the country. During this time, we’ve gotten to know many funeral directors who appreciate our revolutionary products and share our commitment to delivering value to families.

My purpose in writing today is to advise you of a change in our business. Effective November 16, 2009. Goria sold the molds and intellectual property rights on which our vaults are produced. Goria has closed its burial vault business and have ceased all manufacturing operations and will no longer be a supplier of burial vaults. For a number of reasons, we felt the time was appropriate and are confident we made the right decision in choosing the reputable organization we sold too.

On behalf of my family and our staff, we appreciate your business and are thankful for the support you have given us.If you have questions about our selling the molds, patent rights or closing our burial vault business, please feel free to contact Pierre Goria at info@goriacorp.com or call 336-697-0189 ext. 301.

I met Pierre a few years ago at an expo and he was excited about using rotational molding of plastic to transform the way vaults are made and sold.  Because of the lower weight, he was able to create his vaults in one factory and ship them across the country for a reasonable cost, making competition with concrete vault companies possible and profitable.

So let’s get back to the part where Batesville spends some cash to buy his molds and intellectual property.  See, his company makes a lot more than vaults.  So he didn’t sell them everything, just the vault part of the business.

Does it mean he no longer wanted to make vaults?  Does it mean that no one else will make these kinds of vaults?  Not necessarily, on either count.

Now, I haven’t spoken to Pierre, but I know how excited he was about his product and how convinced he was that funeral homes would see the benefits of his kind of vault.  And I know that if Batesville is serious about shifting the industry toward a mass-produced, centrally-manufactured vault, selling his intellectual property was a great way to get the product into the marketplace in a big, big way.

From a businessperson’s view, he made a great move.  Batesville has the resources to push the product in a much-greater way that he ever could have.  They have the means to compensate him for his hard work to create the product and begin marketing it.  Even better, he still owns his original company.

Ryan Thogmartin brings us a great perspective from the vault world when he states:

Maybe the story interests me more because I am also in the burial vault business, but regardless, if Batesville decides to take on burial vaults they could make a big impact on the burial vault world. Just think of the ramifications, if Batesville switched all their customers over to using their burial vault?

What do you think the impact could be?

Well, Ryan, I think it’s going to have a big impact.  I doubt that Batesville would have spent cash to acquire this knowledge if it didn’t intend to use it to create a product line. 

Yes, sometimes companies buy a product to kill it, but Goria wasn’t competing with Batesville because Batesville doesn’t make vaults.  Yet.

In fact, if Batesville had never intended to enter the vault world, they would have little reason to even know that Goria existed.

In my estimation, Batesville either wanted to get into the vault business and decided that buying the intellectual property outright was easier that fighting a protracted patent battle later or saw this as an easy way to add a product to their already-impressive distribution network.

So yes, Ryan, I think the vault business is in for a big shakeup.  Most affected, I think, will be vault companies who sell a large amount of product to the corporates, as they will be the easiest for Batesville to convert in large numbers.  Batesville clearly already has a wide-reaching relationship with management at the corporations, so convincing them to make the switch won’t be hard.

But what about all the unafilliated firms?  How will Batesville convince them? 

First, maybe Batesville doesn’t need to convert that many to create a viable product line.  I’m sure that the business from SCI alone would make it highly attractive to launch the product.

And once the product is launched and used in some funeral homes, others will try it out.  If Batesville can deliver a similar level of customer service, I think smaller vault companies have reason for concern.

But that brings us to the biggest issue facing any business:  how good is your customer service? 

Someone can always create a cheaper product, copy your product features or create a better product.  And that may convince some folks to switch.  But for a repeat purchase, such as vaults or urns or caskets, the delivery experience and customer service are very, very important.

Batesville deals with funeral homes now.  What happens when they have to learn to deliver to cemeteries?  How will they interact with cemetery staff?  In smaller cemeteries, who will handle the opening and closing?  Will they sign up a bunch of small vault companies to sell their product?  Can Batesville handle the customer service for so many new customers, like the cemeteries who will be in line to buy their vaults?

There are a lot of questions still to be answered.  And to be fair, I rushed this post out with very little preparation, so you’re getting my “stream of consciousness” ramblings here.

It will be interesting to see how Batesville rolls out their line of vaults, which I think is inevitable.  Even more interesting will be the reaction of current vault sellers.

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It’s that time of year again!  No, not the time where we dance naked in the moonlight to celebrate the winter solstice.  Unless, of course, any of you are Wiccans, in which case, by all means, dance away.  Just remember, it’s pretty cold out there, so start a fire or something.  But not a raging forest fire, those are bad.

Wait, where were we?

Oh yeah, it’s time for a “best of” recap of 2009. 

I’ve reviewed the blog, noticed how seldom I’ve posted in the last few months, and, after scolding myself, compiled what I consider to be the best posts of the previous year.  Here they are, in chronological order:

January
Hey, Vendors. Stop Telling Me How Hungry You Are.
Just Another Celebrity Cremation
Are You Still Conducting Processions?

February
Nobody Cares About the Jones
Minnesota Funeral Director Opens Up About Effects of Cremation

March
2009 Georgia Expo Day 2 and Results
Why You Can’t Protect “Ideas” in Business
Quantity Can Produce Quality
Choosing the Right Convention Opportunities

April
Making Money with Online Memorials
Dale Clock Shares a Review of ICCFA Expo 2009
Why I Joined the Eternal Space Advisory Council
Charles Cowling Comments on My Affinity for Eternal Space

May
Ohio FDA Expo Preparations Are Under Way
OFDA 2009: Expenses

June
EternalSpace Not So Eternal After All?
Eustis Historical Museum: Something Borrowed
Eternal Space: a Debacle?
My Letter to Thomas Parmalee About EternalSpace
Great “Almost Obituary” for Michael Jackson

July
Elite Uniforms is Open for Business!

August
How Many People Will you Meet at the NFDA Convention?
Last Minute Preparations for NFDA 2009

September
Cremation Continues Its Unrelenting March

October
Exhibitor Advice

November
2009 NFDA Convention: The Whole Story

December
Anyone Hiring a “Corpse Beautician”?

I received an interesting email today.  At first, I thought it was a joke.  But the writer is serious.  Here’s the email:

Hello Tim,
I am very glad to find you and your posts on the internet and your website. I am writing to ask you for help in finding employment. I am a licensed Estetician and am interested in the position of Corpse Beautician. I have been working with the public and applying make up for over 5 years and now find I am interested in this aspect of Estetics. However I have been researching online and not finding anything. Looking at online funderaljobs.com and places like that I have used their search windows and not found anything remotely called ‘corpse beautician’. I have also not found anything like this job description in the long list of funeral jobs in existance.
What I mean to express is that not for looking can I find even on the internet the job of corpse beautician or related position. Do I just not know the official name of this job? Do I just not know the category under which this job is listed? Is it that there is just no listings for this position at this time and my timing is bad?
I live in Houston Texas and I would like to transfer my skills in Estetics to the funeral industry. I don’t know if my serach criteria is bad or if the market is non-existant at this time. Is this position in funeral homes so rare and should I make a point of calling each individually and ask if they employ such persons? Do I need to sell myself and my skills as a new service to a unexposed area?
I simply can’t ascertain the market in my area nor online as I get no results from google searching.
If you have any advice how to approach the market or funeral homes directly and/or how I should go about getting experience on some corpses first before seeking employment I would appreciate it.
 
Sincerely,
Jil W.

After thoughtful consideration, here’s what I sent back to the writer:

Jil:

Thank you for your kind words about my website.  And yes, I can tell you a little more about the job you’re seeking and why there’s not much on the internet about it.

 
First, I’ve never heard the phrase “corpse beautician” before.  Frankly, it sounds in poor taste, which may be why no one uses the title.
 
You would do better to talk to funeral homes about cosmetologist positions or ask about employments as a dressing room attendant.
 
But the more likely reason that you can’t find job listings for the position is that few funeral homes employ someone who only does makeup.  Most funeral homes know that putting makeup on the deceased is such a tiny percentage of the workday, making it a job done by the same person who embalms the body, dresses the deceased and puts them in the casket.
In smaller funeral homes, that person might also empty the ashtrays on the smoking porch, vacuum the chapel, typeset the memorial folder, run the death certificate and stand for the visitation.
 
In fact, some firms that handle 60-80 funerals a year (near the national average, actually) might only have two full-time employees.  That means the licensed funeral director is doing all the preparation and the secretary/assistant does all the jobs the funeral director doesn’t want to do.
 
What I’ve just described is analogous with my experience working in a small, family funeral home.  However, you might be more interested in what I saw at the large corporate firm where I worked.
 
There are several large corporations that own groups or “clusters” of funeral homes across the country.  These clusters operate at their most efficient when they utilize a central prepartion facility to handle the embalming, dressing, cosmetizing and casketing of the deceased for several funeral home locations.
 
In this arrangement, there are folks whose full-time jobs are to embalm and prepare the deceased.  In the large central facility where I worked in the 1990’s, there was a person whose sole job was to dress and cosmetize the deceased clients.
 
Before you get your hopes up, you should know what that job required:
 
Lifiting 100 pounds or more (to lift bodies into caskets)
Manipulating remains for dressing
Making a windsor knot in a tie on a person who’s lying down (harder than you’d think)
Dealing with purge (bodies that leak after embalming)
Lifting, stacking, pushing heavy caskets
Any other thing the funeral directors ask you to do
Still want this job?
 
Seriously, if this is something that you’re interested in, you should call some funeral homes.  But don’t be surprised if they don’t give you the warmest reception.
 
When I worked in the funeral home, I could always tell when a beauty school had just graduated a class because I would get ten calls in a week from freshly-minted cosmetologists who thought they were the first ones ever to look for a job in a funeral home.  And it was sad to have to tell them that my boss handled all the cosmetic work and was actually really good at it.  Besides, how would they make a living coming in once or twice a week for an hour to makeup a few bodies?
 
I hope I haven’t upset you terribly.  I think you will be able to make better decisions about your future with the information I’ve offered.
 
Once last bit of advice:  don’t try to sell yourself as a “corpse beautician.”  Sounds kinda creepy.
 
TIM

Just read the blog post from Unnecessary Umlaut.  It’s interesting and disturbing and, I’m sure, something that makes this funeral home memorable.

Spooky:  Miniature Golf in Basement of Ahlgrim’s Funeral Home

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