Freethought San Marcos: A column
by LAMAR HANKINS
This is not information most people get excited about.
After all, no one likes to contemplate using the services of a funeral home. That’s one reason the funeral business is called the “dismal trade” by some. But in December, two long-time funeral directors at Pennington Funeral Home left to form a new funeral service for San Marcos families -– Goodnight & Snell Funeral Directors. The principals, John Goodnight and Jonathan Snell, are offering a full range of lower-cost funeral services to families in the San Marcos area from their location at 101-B Centerpoint Road, just west of the outlet malls, near Hunter Road, in the Centerpoint Business Park.
The new funeral service is next to an allergy clinic, adjacent to two churches (one of which is available for use for large funerals or memorial services), and near a construction company office. Goodnight & Snell’s prices are moderate, the lowest offered in San Marcos, based on the most recent funeral price survey done each year by the Austin Memorial Burial & Information Society, AMBIS.
To fairly compare funeral homes, AMBIS prices a hypothetical full-service funeral, which it defines in its survey. The hypothetical funeral includes 14 goods and services. In this year’s survey, the hypothetical funeral, including a 20 ga. steel casket, cost $4505 at Goodnight & Snell; $5725 at Thomason; $6160 at Los Angeles; and $6314 at Pennington. Cemetery costs, which can be as much as $3000 or more, must be added to the quoted funeral costs to find the full cost for a complete funeral with burial.
At $995, Goodnight & Snell also offer the lowest-cost non-declinable fee (NDF), the fee charged for the basic services of funeral staff and overhead. Los Angeles’s NDF is $1695; Thomason’s is $2150; Pennington’s is $2385. This fee is added to the cost of whatever goods and services are purchased.
Once again, Pennington Funeral Home has won my unofficial annual contest for highest-priced direct cremation in Hays, Travis, Williamson, Bastrop, and Caldwell counties. This year, Pennington’s charge for the most expensive direct cremation in five counties is $3,020. The lowest price in San Marcos for direct cremation is offered by Goodnight & Snell – $1345. Los Angeles charges $1870 and Thomason charges $2950 for direct cremation.
As cremation grew in popularity over the last 20 years, funeral homes struggled with how to make more money from the relatively low-cost funeral option. In the 1980s, it was not uncommon to see cremation described on the price lists of funeral homes as “direct disposal service.” The industry disliked cremations because they couldn’t make enough money from them to pay for their high-cost business models. For years, they relied on disparagement of cremations to keep interest in them low, and argued that not displaying the body at a funeral did grievous psychological harm to mourners, making it difficult for them to manage their grief effectively.
During this same period, many funeral homes began offering grief counseling services. The industry enlisted the aid of such groups as the Association for Death Education and Counseling to strengthen their arguments. Grief counseling offered a new source of income for some funeral homes, as well as a way to network in the community.
Now, many funeral homes charge so much for direct cremation that they make enough profit to willingly provide the service to families. In addition, they promote viewing of the body and a funeral with the body present, followed by the cremation, turning cremation into a much more expensive option than it needs to be. Many families opt for direct cremation and conduct their own memorial service at a church or civic center, without the need to purchase additional services from the funeral home. It is possible to find direct cremation at no more than $775 in the Austin area, as shown in the AMBIS survey, which can be viewed at the AMBIS website at http://fcaambis.org/. Click on “Forms & Brochures” tab at the top of the page and then click on the link – “Funeral Home Price Surveys” to find the two-page 2009 survey.
One other benchmark service option offered by all funeral homes is “Immediate Burial,” burial in a minimum casket without any additional funeral-home services. Immediate Burial is available at Goodnight & Snell for $1790; at Los Angeles for $2490; at Thomason for $3245; and at Pennington for $3875.
Goodnight & Snell offer other unusual options and approaches to funeral service. They discourage embalming when it is not needed, whereas the industry standard is to promote embalming in nearly every case. They offer a range of cremation caskets that can also be used for “green” or natural burial, an approach which eschews ecologically harmful processes. All materials used are biodegradable and the body returns to the earth as quickly as natural decomposition permits. Many people who favor green or natural burial also are interested in doing as much of the burial preparation as possible. The lower NDF makes Goodnight & Snell a good funeral service to work with in planning and carrying out family-led funerals, if some help is wanted from a funeral director.
Whether your family wants more typical funeral services, direct cremation, immediate burial, natural or green burial, or a family-directed service, Goodnight & Snell offers a business that can respond to the family’s wishes at a lower cost than any of the other three funeral homes in San Marcos. Before commiting to any funeral home, check out the prices and services offered at two or three funeral establishments. One thing is clear from the new AMBIS survey, however. The lowest prices you will find in San Marcos for all funeral services are at Goodnight & Snell Funeral Directors.
© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. HankinsEmail | Print