Friday, August 2, 2013

The Kiosk of Death at the Mall

The Mall
Now, it seems, you can have it all. One-stop lifetime shopping from baby clothes, to wedding supplies, to tax services, and funeral arrangements.
Earlier this year, a California funeral home, Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries, began placing kiosks in 4 southern California malls. 

Mall Shopping
The cart kiosks are low key, featuring urns, some with themes, to entice folks to stop and talk to the advanced planning representative that staffs the cart. Literature and brochures are also available and may be taken home and perused.

While at first the idea seems a tad unconventional, it’s really just another way of
reaching out to those who might want to pre-plan for death but can’t bring themselves to go to the funeral home or a cemetery.

But Forest Lawn is not the first funeral home to open a mall kiosk about death.  An Indianapolis, Indiana funeral home, Flanner & Buchanan Funeral Centers partnered with two Indianapolis area Simon Malls beginning in 2004 to provide unmanned kiosks to market their cremation services.
Flanner & Buchanan Kiosk

It proved to be very successful, not only in assisting people in making pre-need decisions but also in placing several sets of cremains in area cemeteries.

Cremation is now the fastest growing service for funeral homes, and having the ability to feature urns, photos of eco-green cemeteries, and cremation jewelry at a mall kiosk is an excellent strategy. It seems that most consumers view cremation as an alternative to a funeral. They don’t understand that a funeral service can still be held, and the cremated remains can also be placed in a cemetery plot.

Today, not only are funeral homes stepping out and becoming more visible, they are also starting to engage potential customers online through social media. Since the recession of 2009, funeral homes have seen a decline in the use of their services.

2013 Hearse
1960 Hearse
Not too surprising since the average cost of a “traditional” funeral has gone up about 940% in almost 50 years. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the cost of an adult funeral in 1960 was  $708. In 2009 (the last year figures were available) the cost was $6,560. Add the price of the cemetery vault ($1,195) and a funeral will now run around $7,700.

Donate to Science

New England Burials at Sea
Consumers are now looking for alternative methods to the traditional ‘burying their dead.’ Cremation is just one of these options, along with burial at sea and donating your body to science.

And the cost of cremation is a relative bargain compared to a traditional funeral and burial. The average cost of a direct cremation (no service) is between $700 and $1,000, and that covers the cremation, urn, death certificate and taxes. Adding a funeral service, graveside service, or cemetery plot will cost extra, so plan accordingly.

In 1960 only 3.56% of those who died were cremated. As of 2011, 42% had chosen this alternative. That’s more than double the rate of cremations in 1995, and the Cremation Association of North America predicts that by 2050, over half (51.12%) of those who die will be cremated.

Mall Food Court
While it may seem a bit morbid or morose to some, it is just another opportunity for each of us to consider what we want to happen to our remains after death and provides a way for that conversation to begin; even if it is at the mall, over an Auntie Ann’s pretzel, – it’s still a beginning.

And as the band Semisonic sings in “Closing Time” -
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…”

How prophetic.

~ Joy


  1. Cemetery plots are running out so how long before it becomes the norm to be cremated.

  2. I think it's a novel idea to have kiosks in a mall --- I suppose it's a good way to reach people, and show them what's available, with no pressure. I think a lot of people don't think about pre-planning and then, when there's a death in the family, don't know what to do.

    Interesting post!

  3. Considering how many people don't even have a will, I am sure there are even more who have no idea about funeral arrangements.