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This article was published 24/6/2015 (1949 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
If you were trying to plan the funeral for a loved one and could hand off the planning for a flat fee to someone whom you trusted, would you do it?
Shane Neufeld says there are plenty of people who are doing just that through his funeral-planning consultation service.
And they're getting the added bonus of no hidden costs.
Neufeld, a former funeral director, said Integrity Death Care Consultants (IDC) is filling a need in the city to assist grieving people who are struggling to cope with the burden of planning, arranging and delivering a funeral or life celebration.
'When people are in vulnerable situations they aren't thinking straight. They may be walking into a place that is run on meeting a quota or driven by commission'
His company can represent the family in such difficult moments as arranging to transport the body from the place of death to the funeral home, visiting the funeral home to make arrangements or viewing urns or caskets.
"When people are in vulnerable situations they aren't thinking straight. They may be walking into a place that is run on meeting a quota or driven by commission and they're being sold products and services that they can get more affordably elsewhere," said Neufeld, the senior consultant at IDC, which has been operating in Winnipeg for about a year.
"We can negotiate services through a variety of funeral homes and suppliers throughout the city. And we don't make a profit on any of those items."
A basic funeral package, not including catering for a lunch, can cost $2,500-$7,000. A burial would be an additional cost.
Neufeld said his service, offered for a standard consultation fee of $495, can potentially save clients "thousands of dollars."
He and his team represent customers and death-care services such as funeral homes and cemeteries to help people wade through the landscape of which funeral home to use, to get a casket or have cremation, to have a burial or scattering of ashes, flowers, obituary notice and a slide show.
Customers still pay for those services, but his company will find the best price for individual services for customers based on the cost and quality requested. Neufeld said his company does not take commission from any suppliers and doesn't carry or promote any specific products, so there's no hidden agendas or costs.
Neufeld said his own experience as a funeral director gives him a deeper understanding of what needs to be done and how much it costs, which he shares with the customer.
"We're always looking for ways to reduce cost and we know the industry. We're not going be pushed into buying something the average consumer might, not knowing there are other options," he said.
He said an example is packages sold by many funeral establishments.
"I worked in the funeral home environment for many years and I witnessed those packages being built. Often in the past, those packages were developed simply by inflating the bottom line and then adding a discount. Then there's a line in there that if you take anything out of the package you lose the discount," he said, noting some customers might not need all of the things in that package but don't want to lose the perceived discount on what they do need.
IDC is the first company of its kind in Manitoba and among the first of its kind in Canada.
Legislation here requires all funeral homes to provide a GPL -- general price list -- to anyone who asks for it. GPLs can vary dramatically between funeral homes and it can be hard to spot where there are extra charges.
"We posted on our blog a little while ago, there's a funeral home in the city that was giving one price over the phone for a cremation but if the body happened to weigh more than 140 pounds, once the person was transferred from the place of death to the crematorium, there was extra costs involved," he said.
He said his company works closely and maintains good relationships with funeral homes in the city, but a growing number of people want the consumer protection that IDC can provide.
"It's a pretty substantial benefit to the average grieving person to have someone in their corner who knows and understands the industry and is acting as their advocate. We feel really good about what we are doing," he said.