I am starting to believe more and more that running a business is indeed about service and honest, and not about money. As whenever I am dissatisfied with anything it is mostly, or maybe even always, about service, or honesty, or maybe not being heard, feeling heard, but the last of course back to service, listening to your customers, serving your customers.
And the reason I am writing this article now is because of the behavior and service of the undertaker my mam has hired for taking care of the funeral of my sister, who died last week. And one would expect especially an undertaker to be very careful in dealing with family, as I can also understand it can be very difficult not to become greedy in situations of death, where there is a lot of grieving and where people would very easily say ‘yes’ to all kinds of things and not really think about the cost too much as their mind is somewhere else.
But wait a minute, that is exactly what my complaint is about, not about cost, but about service. As I live in The Philippines and my sister was buried in The Netherlands. And as I don’t have the budget to go and also just didn’t like to go, I suddenly thought it might be a good idea to attend the funeral through Skype, through internet, with some kind of video conferencing tool. And I didn’t really care about the cost, as I just didn’t want to travel, but I would have liked to attend the funeral online. And I didn’t even care what the cost would be. I even mentioned, or at least thought, that if they would charge € 1,000.00 or so for it, that would be okay. As I wouldn’t have to pay for it anyhow as my sister who passed away has money enough, at least enough for such a thing. So cost was not really an issue, unless my other sister and/or my mam would have disagreed with it. So it was really about service, and I would have been willing to pay big time for it and would have praised, promoted the person who would have arranged it.
But no, my remark about possibly attending through Skype, through video conferencing was put down with ‘there is no internet available at the location’. And this is about the funeral of my sister, imagine. And I understand it was not the undertaker who made that remark, but I guess a good undertaker, a good businessman, would have picked up the request and would have made it happen, would have find a way. And I guess it wouldn’t even have been that difficult. As I can’t imagine there would not be some kind of wireless internet nearby. Or maybe even wired. So the undertaker could have earned big time, just put some laptop somewhere, arrange an internet connection for two times one hour, church and cemetery, pay maybe € 100.00 or probably less, and charge € 1,000.00 or something. Everybody happy.
And as I guess you already figured out something fully different happened. As somehow it seems the undertaker was only focused on getting the confirmation of the order for the funeral, the signature of the person who would pay for the funeral. And of course I can imagine that side also, as funerals are expensive and it may not always be easy to collect the money from the heirs. So yes, getting a signature from someone giving the order for the funeral and taking the obligation to pay is part of the business, how cruel or unethical that may feel. But that’s the business of undertakers. And as far as I know they are paid quite well for it. And I guess they deserve it also, as I wouldn’t want to do their job. But the way how he did it is in my opinion unethical, maybe even criminal. And don’t get me wrong, I was not there, so I don’t know the facts. But I do know my mam, and I guess she was seen as the ‘weak person’ and the ‘target’ having the money, or control of the money. So somehow the undertaker made my mam believe that she was the only heir and responsible for everything, which as far as I could find out is not true. So he made her sign for all kinds of things, five signatures, probably including the order for the funeral. And yes, what option did she have? She was probably still in shock, as my sister died very unexpectedly after being ill for only one day or so. So what else would you do if there is so much pressure as of course cooling equipment needs to be arranged as soon as possible. And would you check if it was all true what the undertaker said, as he deals with these things daily? Or ask another undertaker to make another proposal? I don’t think so, I even thing I wouldn’t do that, even though I am aware of all this ‘business’ around death, around funerals and cremations and such.
And please don’t get me wrong, business is business and people have their own responsibilities, even in a situation when someone died, although if it’s your daughter I’m not sure if you could consider the mother taking proper decisions. So it’s okay someone asks for a certain price in a certain situation, same as a can of coke in the middle of the desert could be worth a fortune. But my point is that I think this undertaker made some big mistakes by not telling my mam that my other sister, my mam and I are responsible together for everything. And it would have been in his advantage if he would have involved me, as I happen to know how much money my sister has. And I wanted the funeral arranged as my mother wanted it. And I would have probably pushed for cars in procession provided by the undertaker, as I would have wanted my mam (and my sister) to be comfortable in such a situation, where now they used their own cars, even cars from other family members as there was not enough space. And I wanted to have the internet connection, which was very important for me. And I wanted to pay for it.
So by not focusing on service, but apparently focusing on ‘money’ and ‘signatures’, this undertaker not only missed something like € 3,000.00 additional turnover for the online video feature and the procession cars for himself. And he did not only created a very dissatisfied client, me, or maybe even multiple dissatisfied clients, as later on also my mam and my sister may join me in my dissatisfaction, but probably even lost money and has to deal with a complaint or even lawsuit as I have the feeling he misrepresented the legal situation by making my mam believe she was the only person responsible.
And I still don’t get it, as I asked my mam to pass on my phone number and e-mail address to the undertaker the very first moment I was involved, like them being on the way to “De Losserhof” to arrange everything for the funeral. And imagine, I am the brother, so to me it would have even be just plain courtesy to just call or e-mail me and send condolences, no matter the matters to arrange or the legal matters or the payments or the budget.
But no, he decided to deal with my mother only. So well, I decided to deal with him, even if it were only to let him know that I believe he made some mistakes here.