• Report: #1062572

Complaint Review: Dignity Memorial

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  • Submitted: Thu, June 27, 2013
  • Updated: Thu, June 27, 2013

  • Reported By: Glengarry Glen Ross — Yours, across USA Other
Dignity Memorial
23287 N. Sierra Highway Newhall, California USA

Dignity Memorial AKA Service Corporation International (SCI) Sales Reps and Public: Dying to Be Ripped Off Newhall California

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Service Corporation International (SCI), doing business nationwide as Dignity Memorial, is the 1,000-lb. gorilla in the USA funeral-cemetery business; only bigger.  If your nearest funeral/cemetery provider isn't currently owned by SCI/Dignity Memorial...it soon will be.  They just acquired Stewart Enterprises, which upon FTC approval will give SCI/DM about 2,400 North America locations.

The SCI/DM approach is this:  Move like a predator into a market and force family-owned funeral homes and cemeteries nearly out of business...then buy them for pennies on the dollar.  Yes, exactly like the evil Kroner Corp. did to the Fisher Family Funeral Home in HBO's "Six Feet Under"...whose technical consultant was himself a funeral director with personal knowledge of SCI/DM's Machiavellian machinations.

The irony in this huge shark gobbles up little fish business model is that after taking over the family-owned business --- and keeping the homey, local touch by retaining the original name (and nothing else) --- SCI/DM then doubles or triples the prices and piles on tons of useless "value-added" features virtually no one will ever use, but some will be impressed by all of the bells-and-whistles ways they'll be "protected".  Not unlike an insurance seller adding charges to protect someone in North Dakota from a shark attack.

Not only does SCI/DM wildly overprice their funeral services and cemetery properties and memorials in order to keep their numerous layers of management and legal/marketing departments in silk stockings and driving Lexuses, but they also rip off anyone wishing to work there in sales.  Their approach works like this:

Their regional recruiters scan all sorts of headhunting and "hire me" websites looking for desperate people who can start right away, with come-ons like "Paid training"; "Earn what you're truly worth"; "No income ceiling"; "Work for North America's leader", etc..  Yes, their training (in 1955 sales methods) is paid; $8-10 per hour for four weeks...although the Newhall branch told its fresh meat it would be six weeks...and they paid only 4 1/2 . 

Newbies are strongly encouraged to hit heavily upon their own sphere of influence --- family, friends, neighbors, church members, fraternal members, ex-coworkers, et al --- and enticed with bonuses to make that quick sale within the first few weeks...a time when your commission will be split with your new sales manager, who is expected to come along with you to close the sale.  They know from experience that as soon as your paid training ends you'll probably quit shortly after learning that none of the general public will even make an appointment with you, not to mention forking over $15,000 for a funeral and cemetery plot in their own home.

The sales approach --- taught in Newhall CA twice a week by the most obnoxious, hard-sell used car salesman you've ever seen; if he goes swimming in the Pacific, great white sharks will fear being eaten by HIM --- varies from daily classroom exhortations that "You're not SELLING!  You're just "having a conversation" to the arrogant market director's assertion that "I have more control over the client in their home than here at the cemetery.  Here, they can get up and walk out whenever they please.  In their home, they won't ask me to leave."  Yes, he really believes and preaches that.

The sales "managers" (quotes intended) are sometimes college golden boys who have never sold a thing in their lives while living in dorms or their childhood bedroom, or recruited from outside the funeral-cemetery biz. 

Old-school, hardened vets of the "good ol' days" of the industry's wildly profitable and lucrative abuses of consumers and common decency and morality often boast of how they used to make six figures.  But now, with so many consumer agency/consumer watchdog websites; crackdowns; Caller ID; Do Not Call Lists; cellphones ringing everywhere except inside the home; "the little woman" now being a working professional instead of a homebound housecleaner begging for The Fuller Brush Man or Electrolux Vacuums man to come by; gated communities; mobile home courts (a longtime easy prey for this biz) with gates and "No Soliticiting" rules; and an overall much more savvy public have made the sales game for SCI/DM much more challenging.  This has forced them to come up with even more manipulative means to get people to buy funeral-cemetery products and services either at-need (when there's been a death, requiring full payment up front) or pre-need (when they can finance their purchase over several years and lock in today's prices).

SCI/DM still lives in 1962, the year the company started in Houston TX.  The prospecting methods completely ignore newspaper advertising (despite their core audience, seniors, comprising the most loyal newspaper market) or new-fangled social media (which, yes, many seniors use today) and constantly hammer on door-knocking and telephone cold-calling...preferably in the early evening when both husband and wife are home, in today's America where such nuclear families are no longer a majority.

Reps are required to go through a lengthy, scripted spiel while clients look at their watches and wish they were elsewhere, while their TV blares and their children want their attention.  This is because the arrogant market director's dogma insists that clients NOT come to their beautiful cemetery, but invite you into their homes and ALWAYS to the kitchen or dining room table, never in the living room.  Apparently, he's never heard a TV commercial with the closing line "No salesman will call", which most people want to hear.

If a sales rep lucks out and actually DOES land a paying customer --- at the Newhall branch (Eternal Valley Mortuary and Memorial Park), 75% of Community Service reps, on straight commission, often work the entire month for nothing --- the rep is then faced with an impossibly complicated, archaic, and cramped contract template that seems written for postwar families with fallout shelters out back and a "hi-fi" in the living room. 

Once a contract is miraculously sold, the rep is at the mercy of Corporate's paper-pushers who live for the chance to deny the contract because a "t" is not crossed or an "i" not dotted.  Numerous reps are ordered to return to the client's home and get one more set of initials on the contract because it's so overloaded with fine print and confusing.

Drive into Eternal Valley Memorial Park in Newhall CA --- a stunningly beautiful setting, with gorgeous mountain views from the highest gardens --- and you'll see signs saying "Now Hiring Preneed Sales Reps: Paid Training"...but you won't see a single sign directing you to preplan while you're there.  That's because the Preplanning Office Building, right at the entrance gate, is marked "Closed", since they don't want you, the client or visitor, to see and hear the sales talk going on while numerous short-term sales reps come and go amid posted cheerleading to SELL SELL SELL!.

At the SCI/DM outlets in/near San Diego (Greenwood Memorial Park and Glen Abbey Memorial Park) they employed a convicted swindler whose group of five bilked $30 million from El Cajon CA investors.  He was their top seller for quite awhile.  Greenwood also employed a lady who got drunk at a company Christmas party, wrapped her car around a tree, and sued SCI/DM for "getting her drunk"; she used the lawsuit settlement to buy a cemetery south of San Diego, where she tells new hires she "earned her first million by selling preneed".  A former Greenwood Cemetery Manager moved to El Cajon and fraudulently sold nonexistent mausoleum spaces for eight years before finally being outed by San Diego TV consumer-activist pit bull Michael Turko from KUSI-TV.

Ethics?  Laws?  Morality?  Scruples? Just SELL, baby.

Apparently, even though they have a web page (www.dignitymemorial.com) , SCI/DM seems unaware that today's consumers routinely use the web to compare prices before they buy.  When they do, they'll be shocked to see how wildly overpriced everything at SCI/DM's providers are, compared to the relatively few remaining family-owned mortuaries and non-SCI/DM cemeteries.

New sales reps for SCI/DM will also learn why the people they phone, door-knock, and door-hang with leaflets use the web:  To pre-plan for themselves on the SCI/DM webpage, making the sales rep not only redundant and needless, but saving the company from paying a fat commission (14% on cemetery plots that average $3,000-10,000).

Now, is it really any wonder why so many SCI/DM providers stage monthly "hiring fairs" to recruit easily-duped newbies who will excitedly sell a few plots right away to Uncle Ben, Aunt Betty, grandma and grandpa before learning nobody else will buy....or if they do from their endless prospecting, they'll buy by preplanning themselves on SCI/DM's own web page?

My suggestion:  Before even considering preneed planning or finding a funeral home/cemetery in the event of a death, take an extra hour or two to look OUTSIDE the SCI/Dignity Memorial Network. That hour or two will save you thousands and thousands of dollars and a lifetime of regret.  Consider how one funeral package at SCI/DM charges $1,295 just for FLOWERS....and $695 for one day of refrigeration.  Unless you're burying Princess Diana at Buckingham Palace, that's a preposterous charge. 

Consider, too, how "Basic services of facility and staff" for even the most rudimentary cremation costs $2500....yet the Armstrong Family Malloy-Mitten Mortuary 40 miles away, near downtown L.A., charges only $619 for the ENTIRE cremation, and that includes refrigeration.  And how the cheapest burial casket at SCI/DM costs $895, while the most expensive casket at Armstrong Family Mortuary costs less than SCI/DM's cheapest.

Why the huge difference in prices?  It's easy:  At Armstrong Family Malloy-Mitten Mortuary, your money is going into the owning, working family's business; toward their actual work on your behalf; and is locally invested.  At SCI/DM, your overpriced payments go to Corporate to feed and house in luxury hundreds of pinstriped, penthouse-suite-dwelling Suit Nazis across the country who spend more time perusing spreadsheets and pontificating on paradigms, and lording over their local peons, than actually dealing with people.

Want to support the families whose actual WORK on your behalf is much more affordable, and your charges stay in the community?  Check out local funeral-cemetery providers.  Want to further an industry's great white shark into putting family-owned providers out of business and tripling prices in the industry?  Buy from SCI/DM.

It's your money: Spend it where you like.


This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 06/27/2013 12:16 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Dignity-Memorial/Newhall-California-91321/Dignity-Memorial-AKA-Service-Corporation-International-SCI-Sales-Reps-and-Public-Dying-1062572. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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