This was sent to CBS news response to the two segments, CBS Evening News "How to avoid getting ripped off by the Undertaker" aired Feb. 10th and 11th, 2004 When Death Knocks, Bereaved Beware. VIRGINIA BEACH, Fla. Feb. 10, 2004. Funeral Home Rip-Offs

Dear Mr. Moonves:

I am writing to commend you on your two programs, an evening show and the am show speaking about funeral rip offs and abuse. I am a casket store retailer, owner of A Team Masters and find most funeral directors to be upstanding, but there are so many still, who are not. Thank you for letting the public know they need to go into this funeral arrangement purchase, with their eyes wide open. Not an easy thing to do when they are in a grief mode, I know.

The FTC protects freedom of choice in making funeral arrangements. They enforce a set of funeral rules, in which directors have to conduct business detailed at

In fact, because of foul dealings to the public, by some of the unfeeling funeral directors that were trying to stop freedom of choice, and even overcharging found to the public, that is the reason the funeral rule became into existence in the first place. While the majority of morticians are upstanding, when there are those that are not concerned about anything but their 'sale' and go about it by many bad sales tactics and dark means, it hurts so bad it is worth screaming about.

Just last week, my customer Mr. Rich L., found us on the web at and called to order a concrete grave liner. Rich had already knew what type of casket he wanted, and had spoke prior to the funeral director he planned on using, and told him: "I am going to purchase the casket and the burial vault outside of your firm. If you have any problem with this, let me know now and if so, I will take my business elsewhere." This was near Buffalo, New York, and the funeral was for his Mother. He wanted to use his freedom of choice, save a considerable amount, and yet have a really nice funeral event for saying good-bye to his Mom.

I looked around for a supplier in that zip code of 14225 that serviced that cemetery. When I called them, explained I was a casket & vault dealer out of state, and was looking for a rough concrete box, the owner gave me the wholesale cost, the fax number to place the order, and assured me things would be delivered as required. This was on Fri. The woman died on Monday, I called the vault company, placed the order with the employee for a Wed. funeral, and gave him all required information plus my phone 800-595-1313 on Monday A.M. YET on Tues, here the owner's son calls me back and said "I can't do this sale, the funeral director has called and is going to boycott my firm if I do. If these funeral directors pull their business from me, I can't afford it." I found out not only had this director, Mr. Todd P. called him to inform of this threat, he had also called many morticians in the area to lobby an assault on this vault companies business if he sold to me. Then, he also called the other two burial vault firms in the area, and told them not to sell to me either!! I also found out this director had called and tried all in his might to stop the casket sale as well. All these terrible actions,  to his customer he took on, gave his word to, yet this funeral provider took this man's fee of  thousands for the funeral services......

The problems here are deep, some of the funeral directors have been permitted to get away with this 'racketeering behavior' for decades. This client, Rich, is only concerned about burying his Mom, and the fact he had a conversation prior to the mortician, to not get caught in this type of nonsense, didn't matter now that the obit was published in the newspaper, and the funeral was a day away. The only reason that the director was doing this was to keep a sale that he was going to profit x number of dollars on. But too, to stop any repeat of this lost sale. He sure didn't care about his customer's feelings or needs. Only his own profit, his own agenda and proceeded to TRY to destroy an outside sale. He called those that he lined up to back a boycott, thinking if we can stop casket stores from being able to get product, we will stop the competition too. . I have found, in this 6 yrs of biz, the good are gold, and the bad stoop low to avoid competition, and need weeded out. We are informing the public, so they can vote with their feet. Let them be informed, and we thank you for starting this subject at CBS. The public will hear from others on this subject too. But they need to know ahead of time, the funeral arrangement is costly, and it really should be shopped.

"We see ourselves as not just a salesperson giving our customers the best value in a time of need. We see ourselves as a Consumer Advocate helping them to avoid rip-offs that unfortunately have become somewhat commonplace in this industry at a time when people are emotionally upset and grieving. We genuinely are passionate about helping them through the decisions they have to make when a loved one dies - and that's why we're just so upset about this scene from above. Also why we believe and know people should learn of this purchase inside out. I am Betty Brown, owner of A Team Masters, and I sure wasn't going to permit this! I didn't care if I was going to break even on the sale, or it cost me money, this is unbelievable that a businessman in the field he is in, would do this to his customer, outrageous!!" I found another grave liner firm that took my order, some miles away, and paid him extra to do this. The funeral went on as scheduled, and hopefully, this undertaker learns that people are not going to permit his actions. We have filed complaints to the FTC, the BBB, the National Funeral Director's Assoc. The local Erie funeral director's assoc., the funeral and cemetery division, and to several news media and reporters.

What did this funeral director Todd P. think he was doing, is what I want to know. At the stressful time in his customer's life, he acts like a bully and unlike any professional I know of. He might have thought if he could win the battle here, he could then win the war too (unrestricted free trade and choice of providers). No, instead, he lost both, a man who might have referred others to him, and is now getting hopefully a lot of bad press over this, and reprimands from trade assoc. and death industry groups. Sadly too, the cost of the product combined above in this one instance, isn't enough to file a multi thousand dollar lawsuit, for damages and suffering over the interference of a sale - so he might have gotten away with it, with little worry of the consequences. Unless you are an attorney, looking for a good cause, and would like to take on a case like this where an attempt to interfere directly "with a competitor's business sale" a contract, and someone who feels for the customer who was needlessly put through the wringer by his provider, a funeral director,  please let me know.

For more information, Betty Brown, CEO of A Team Master's Casket & Vault,
 can be reached at 800-595-1313 or email Letter to Atty - FTC complaint, concerning same issues from 1997 and still today!! Url of this complaint in 2/2004 is