The Public Outcry for Funeral Reform Part II
January 5, 2011

In “Funeral Costs: What They Average; Are They Too High? Can They Be Reduced?”, a 1928 report for Metropolitan Life, John Gebhart, like Quincy Dowd, analyzed the competition between undertakers ….. Gebhart came to the following conclusions: that competition in the funeral business was not on the basis of price, that instead it was for “the possession of bodies;” that once the undertaker had possession of the body he could charge as much as possible …..

The main motivator for Gebhart’s study, like that for Dowd’s, was concern for the poor, who sometimes spend more than their means because of unfortunate, popular beliefs about how the dead are most appropriately cared for. Because of these unenlightened views, such people are easy prey for funeral directors hoping to turn a big profit. The poor simply did not, though they should, pay for a funeral corresponding to their status and the value of their estate. Then, there would be no problem about burial costs. That the wealthy might pay for an extravagant funeral might be wasteful, but it would not put the same kind of economic stress on the survivors that such a funeral would for lower income customers.

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Part I – The Public Outcry for Funeral Reform (A History) – Dec 20, 2010

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