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Report: #1080196

Complaint Review: Stowers Funeral Home - Brandon Florida

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  • Reported By: Jim and Tom — Tampa Florida
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  • Stowers Funeral Home 401 West Brandon Blvd Brandon, Florida USA


*Consumer Comment: Good for you!

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My partner and I had the unfortuate experience of attempting to arrange a simple pre-need direct cremations with Stowers Funeral Home, Brandon, FL as affiliate of Dignity Memorial (a national network).

In mid August 2013, my partner and I contacted Stowers Funeral Home to arrange a visit and discuss a pre-need direct cremation arrangment.  On Tuesday, August 20th, 2013 my partner and I, met at Stowers Funeral Home in Brandon, FL with a Stower's Dignity (funeral network) Family Services Counselor named Sharon Blackburn.  Sharon showed us into a conference room where she introduced Richard Vazquez, Stowers Dignity Family Service Manager. Richard said that he would sit in on our visit to insure the quality of her training.

The goal of our visit was to purchase the most basic no frills, direct cremation service process.  My partner repeatedly expressed that he wanted the simplest service possible to include, removal from place of passing, cremation and return of cremains to his partner. 

Both Sharon and Richard told us that we had come in at a great time as they were offering a special “return trip insurance” normally priced at $449.00 for free if we made pre-need arrangements by the end of August.

The “special” was explained as a type of “insurance” that provides for the return of remains. We were told to think of it as “travel protection.” The insurance would guarantee the return of remains from anywhere in the world to Brandon at absolutely no cost to us.  It was billed as a great offer as they provided examples of how expensive it was to return remains if one is on a cruise or on a trip to Europe for example.  Considering that we travel extensively, it seemed like a good offer.

We were provided a General Price List which listed options available.  I mentioned that we had researched other facilities and found direct cremation costs from $595.00 up.  They both explained why they felt Stowers affiliation with the Dignity network of funeral homes provided a higher quality of service and seamless experience and that “we would get what we paid for” if we went elsewhere. 

Richard repeatedly emphasized services that we did not want.  Sharon explained that all of the charges except for the basics such as professional service free, refrigeration, transfer to crematory etc. were "extras" that could easily be removed from the package.

When her manager Richard left the room she told us that David would naturally prefer that she sell one of the more expensive packages but she would work with us and could make all the arrangements for $2415.00 including the “return trip insurance,” thereby saving us $449.00.  We had to act fast and get back to her and get the arrangements made no later than Friday, August 30th.  The "special" expired at the end of August.

When Richard returned to the room he proceeded to offer various pre-need payment options through Assurant Insurance.  4 payment options were presented.  Pay in full.  Pay $36.22 a month over 10 years, $53.13 a month over 5 years or $79.70 per month over 3 years.  The "policy" would also be graded or non-graded based on a few health questions. Tom would qualify for non-graded because of his good health. Graded would provide 30% payout in year one and 70% payout in year two.  Based on my partner's excellent health he would receive a non-graded plan.  He would be "covered" the minute he walked out the door.  Pre-need and insurance were interchanged with words such as pre need arrangement, final wishes, final arrangements, travel plan, travel option, travel insurance, pre need insurance etc.

Richard also emphasized that with the rising cost of funerals, which double in cost every 10 years, if we purchased the pre need insurance the price of the services would be “guaranteed not to increase in cost” forever.  If my partner died prior to the end of any of the terms chosen, 3, 5 or 10 years,  the remainder of the premiums/payments would be paid in full.  Depending on the term we chose, at the end of that term the "policy" arrangement was paid in full.  His body would be returned to Brandon from anywhere in the world at no additional cost.

We asked for time to review all of the information and options and told Sharon we would call her to make an appointment before the August 30th deadline because my partner definitely wanted the travel protection at no additional cost. 

We scheduled a return visit with Sharon for Wednesday, August 28th, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. at Stowers. We arrived on time and were met by Richard who apologized that Sharon was not available due to a doctors appointment.

We met in a front office where he began to enter my partners personal information from his driver's license and social security information into the Stower/Assurant computer program.  He attempted to “up sell” us to purchase a package that included flowers, a tribute, viewing and urn.  We politely declined.

He then presented the price of $2415.00 PLUS$449.00 for a total due of $2864.00.  We corrected him and told him that both he and Sharon had offered the special “travel protection” as part of the package.  That was the reason we had returned before the end of August, to take advantage of the special.  He excused himself and said that he had to give Sharon a call to confirm and left us alone for some 20 minutes.

After approximately 20 minutes another man came in and introduced himself but we did not get his name or a card.  He apologized for any miscommunication but regrettably we had not chosen a “package” which did not qualify for the “travel protection.”  The "travel protection would be an additional cost of $449.00 and the actual Dignity Memorial Honor Cremation Package would have to be "recalculated."  He told us again that he was sorry but “corporate” would not allow it to be offered with the direct cremation "package" we had chosen.

My partner and I told him that his terms were not what we had been presented and that we did not want to do any further business with Stowers/Dignity Memorial.  We told him that (1) he and his staff had repeatedly attempted to up sell us services that we did not want or need, (2) he and his staff had misrepresented services and specials ex. travel protection, that this was simple bait and switch, and (3) he and his staff repeatedly interchanged terms and misrepresented pre need planning and insurance.  vices and played bait and switch with the a product that was presented as “insurance.”  We then left. 

We were never offered or provided with a copy of the Floirida Department of Financial Services brochure Pre-Need Funeral And Cemetary Arrangements.

We are both very distressed about this experience.  We thought Stowers was an established and outstanding business in our community.  We felt like we had just been through a very high pressure time share presentation or given the run around at a used car dealership.  We cannot imagine and elderly person or someone who had just lost a loved one being subjected to Stowers/Dignity Memorial misrepresentation of services, sales practice and questionable attempt at insurance/fraud.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 08/29/2013 12:46 PM and is a permanent record located here: 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. Ripoff Report has an exclusive license to this report. It may not be copied without the written permission of Ripoff Report. READ: Foreign websites steal our content

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#1 Consumer Comment

Good for you!

AUTHOR: ramjet - ()

POSTED: Friday, August 30, 2013

 You didn't let them walk all over you and you stood your ground.  Plus, you did your homework.  Unfortunately some funeral homes aren't much better than car dealers.  They are in fact worse because they try to take advantage of us when we are vulnerable.  A direct cremation with no 'frills' should not cost anywhere near that. The insurance is something I hadn't heard of but could be a good thing in your case.  I'd do more research though.


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