April 2010


Recently attended a visitation followed by a service at one of the local funeral homes.  The deceased was to be cremated, but the family saw the value in having his body present for viewing and a service.

As I was leaving, I chatted with the funeral director and complimented him on the service.  I even teased him that having to work such a late services (went until almost 9 pm) is hard on his own family.  Then he said something that reminded me how much change the trend toward cremation has brought to the industry.  He said:

“I used to spend four nights a week on the visitation team.  Now, we’re lucky if we can convince people to see the body before cremation.”

We chatted some more.  Turns out he misses how often he used to stand for visitations.  He wishes he had more visitations and he knows that educating his public is the only way to encourage more viewings in the future.

“My staff presents all the options and we tell families that we truly believe that some kind of viewing is beneficial for their friends and loved ones, but these economic times are really affecting my customers,” he shared.

At the end of the day, his bottom line is affected also.  Having a big funeral home with multiple viewing rooms and state-of-the-art technology isn’t cheap.  At the same time, he is worried that if direct cremation with no viewing becomes the norm, more than just the funeral industry will be damaged; he believes that the basic need to “say goodbye” is harmed, even if people, driven by the economics of it all, don’t realize what they’re losing.

I agree with him.  And while I have an awfully pessimistic view of the future of the industry, I think there’s a lot individual funeral directors can do to educate their community.  I just wish I had the answer to fix the problem.

In early March, we loaded up the convention Prius (I traded the convention wagon for one with better gas mileage after I figured out that everything would fit in the new car) and headed to Atlanta for a chance to sell our quilted cot covers and a new item, our dressing table skirts, to the gathered funeral directors.

We left around 11:00 am on Sunday, February 28th, with a plan to hit I-75 by noon.  As my traveling companions know, my favorite fast food places are Chipotle and Zaxby’s.  As luck would have it, there’s a new Zaxby’s at I-75 near Ocala, Florida, so we pulled in and split a chicken finger plate (they make awesome chicken).

On the road again by 12:30, we spun up the Prius (0-60 in less than 15 seconds!) and headed toward the bright lights of Atlanta.

We dropped our bags in the hotel room by 6:00 pm – the Prius takes a while to get to cruising speed but it doesn’t mind keeping up with traffic once it gets there – and decided on dinner.  If you remember my last few trips through Atlanta, you’ll know that my favorite restaurant in the state of Georgia is Pappasito’s Cantina (2009 Georgia Expo Day 2 and Results).

My fellow roadtripper, Robin Richter, who went with me to the 2007 NFDA Convention in Vegas (Robin Richter Shares “My Experience at the NFDA Convention”), had never been to Pappasito’s, which made it all the more enjoyable for me to share the great place with her.  She called her husband afterward to tell him that if they got close to Atlanta again, they had better stop at Pappasito’s!

The expo wasn’t scheduled to start until Monday at Noon, so I was happy to get into town a day early and rest before the big two-day event.  I prefer to have everything set up the day before, but the Georgia Railway Depot is easy to access and I new that setup would only take about 1.5 hours.  We got finished early and had a delicious breakfast at the Waffle House at Underground Atlanta.

I’ll share more info soon about how many covers we sold and what our expenses looked like.  In the meantime, here’s a picture of our booth: