In her 1963 book, "The American Way of Death," Jessica Mitford quoted John Beck, president of the Balanced Line Casket Company: "In most cases where funeral directors are not showing enough profit, they are showing too many low-price metal caskets that look too good. . . . We call these items 'profit robbers.' "
In the "Funeral Service INSIDER," a trade journal, dated April 17, 1989, the same John Beck is quoted: "A family comes into a selection room. There is no way they can tell what a casket is worth . . . no way that any family . . . can say that those caskets are too high or too low simply by looking at them. But they can tell the difference between the cheapest and the best. Now most people are inclined to buy in the middle. So the farther up you have that most expensive casket, the farther up your middle is."
Mr. Beck cannot be cheered to learn that nonprofit Continental Assn. of Funeral and Memorial Societies has compiled a wholesale price list for caskets, the first ever made available to the public. With this list a consumer can determine whether the prices charged for the caskets at the local mortuary are fair or exorbitant. It is hoped that the list will lead to some "shopping around" for funeral prices.
For a copy of the price list, readers are asked to send a stamped, self-addressed, business-size envelope, along with $1 to cover costs, to CAFMS, 121 Poinsettia Gardens Drive, Ventura 93004.