Death is a taboo subject. Many avoid the subject of death like a plaque. Hence the topic of death and funerals are not discussed often. As such, not many know the true cost of dying in Singapore. With that, a crucial question goes unanswered – why is it so expensive to die?
After doing some research, we conclude that the high markups in the funeral industry boils down to the lack of transparency. Even though many funeral homes have since gone digital with their own websites, these websites still offer limited information. The breakdown of their funeral packages are brief, and often do not include price.
Instead, customers have to call in or drop by the funeral home to get a full breakdown of the funeral packages. However, bereaved family members are often not in the right frame of mind to compare between different funeral homes and packages, leaving family members with little choice but to make payment at the first funeral home they visit.
Only a few funeral homes like Funeral Solutions and Singapore Funeral Group have detailed breakdown of their funeral packages, including the prices. This allows consumers to do their own comparisons and research before committing to any purchase.
Unbeknownst to many, even death has its mark ups, and caskets are a big part of it. Caskets are generally marked up 300 to 500% over the wholesale cost. For example, a casket might wholesale for $325. An independent retailer would typically sell it for about $650. A funeral home may charge $1,295, a 300% markup.
Consumers can actually purchase their own caskets and bring it to funeral homes, potentially saving a few hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Some unethical funeral directors claim that embalming is necessary and required by Singapore’s law. As such, bereaved family members end up forking out an additional $350 to $1000 for embalming services. However, the local authorities barely regulate the act of embalming.
Most coffins in Singapore can contain any unpleasant odour. However, embalming is actually not required by law if the body is kept in a cold, dry environment (like an aircon room) or if the body cannot be seen.
Funeral homes in Singapore offer funeral packages. However, not many Singaporeans know that they can opt out of certain unnecessary elements of their funeral packages. For instance, some funeral packages include transport services. Extravagant packages often tout a Limousine service for the coffin, and chartered bus transportation service for mourners. But did you know that family members can arrange transport on their own with their personal cars, lorry or vans?
If you have time to do your own research, or if you’d prefer to be more budget conscious, try to negotiate for a lower price after you’ve decided to eliminate some unnecessary elements.
With all that is being said, it is challenging to research and negotiate for funeral packages, especially if you are grieving for the loss of their loved one. Funeral homes understand the price inelasticity at play, and take the opportunity to charge higher prices, earning high profit margins.
Hence, in the near future, IUIGA hopes to see a disrupter enter the funeral industry. In an industry where big monopolies call the shots, it is the perfect opportunity for a new business model that cuts out unnecessary costs and pass on these cost savings to consumers.