Funeral service goes online

A former funeral director compares selling traditional funeral services to selling cars.

In 2010, the average cost of a funeral in Ontario was $5,500, not including the cost of the cemetery plot, flowers, or any other third-party disbursements.

Eric Vandermeersch, who worked in a Toronto-area funeral home from the time he was 15, has initiated an online funeral service to spare families the pressure of dealing with cost issues when they’re most vulnerable.

“It was the worst part of any funeral arrangement, when it came time to talk about the price and what (families) had to pay, because it’s atrociously expensive,” he said.

He went on to say when he worked in a funeral home he felt as if he was a “used car salesman,” and that “it wasn’t a good feeling.” Vandermeersch said it was the high price and the guilt that motivated him to start his online firm Basic Funerals.

Brad Scott, the general manager at R.S. Kane Funeral Home, on Yonge Street, said the pricing of funeral services is based on the degree to which a family wishes the funeral home to be involved.

“Our pricing is based on the type of services, the use of our building, our vehicles, and the use of the level of our staff,” he said.

Scott said that Kane has five different price packages and that in every situation the funeral home tailors the price to the family’s’ specific requirements.

“Basic (Funerals) has met a niche. They provide a service that people use at convenience,” Scott said.

Vandermeersch’s online service offers packages with prices ranging from around $1,500 to $6,200 depending on the type of funeral, whether cremation or burial, and whether any add-ons such as separate day visitations or flowers are desired.

Unlike traditional funeral homes, Basic Funerals is not anchored to a specific location, which according to Vandermeersch, eliminates clients having to pay an overhead for the funeral home itself.

Vandermeersch also said having the company online reduces stress on the family.

“Because our services are online and families are able to access their options without the pressure of a sales rep,” he said.

Scott denied there is any pressure at his company’s facility.

“We are service providers. We meet with families at very difficult times,” he said. “No one is forced to buy … services they don’t want. We are not salespeople. We provide information and options and allow families to determine what their best course of action is and what best facilitates their needs.”