Category Archives: Feature

Selling Solace

Selling Solace

“One Size Fits All” Funerals?

Most people don’t know what their loved ones want when they die, most people don’t ever have that conversation. Although my parents were both terminally ill and we had ten years to plan their funerals, I didn’t step into a funeral home until after they had already passed. At that time I was so mentally and emotionally exhausted I would have been willing to pay any price to show the world that my parents were loved. If they had wanted to be buried in pure gold coffins lined with silk I would have found a way to finance it.

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My experiences within the funeral industry have taught me that there is no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to funeral services. It is important to discuss your wishes with loved ones; my parents’ courage in telling me that they did not want a traditional service is something I am grateful for. I have the satisfaction of knowing that their wishes were respected, and that has made the grieving process much easier. End-of-life ceremonies should reflect the life of the person being commemorated. For some, this means a traditional funeral and a wake; for my parents, who were both very private individuals, it meant no service or visitation, just for me to carry their ashes home in my arms.

A lot of people don’t realize how astronomical funeral services are, although my parents received only the most fundamental services I still spent the entire maximum Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit. The benefit maxes out at $2500, depending on how much and for how long the deceased has paid into the CPP, which is enough to cover paperwork and cremation, but not enough for services. I used to think that all Canadians were eligible for this benefit and was shocked to see that it only goes to those who have paid a significant amount into the CPP. What happens to the people who work many part-time jobs and don’t make significant CPP contributions? Or to those who die when they are young? Does the family have to incur the cost themselves?

When I explained to the funeral director that my parents did not want services because they felt that the associated costs were exorbitant the director offered me a payment plan. I didn’t need a payment plan; I needed for the services to be more affordable. The bulk of the money I spent, $695, was on meeting the funeral director just to sign the necessary documents. It cost $250 for the transfer of the bodies across the city from the hospital to the funeral home, and another $100 to transfer the bodies to the crematorium. I was charged $100 to prepare and shelter the remains, and also had to pay $275 for a reinforced cardboard container for them to be cremated in.

My parents were able to say their goodbyes while they were still living, many are not so lucky. End-of Life ceremonies are costly, but are often necessary to the grieving process, yet they do not have to be occasions of sadness. When my family was trying to decide what sorts of funeral arrangements to make, many people talked to us about celebrations of life and alternative funerals. One particularly hilarious conversation I had with my mother before she passed had to do with deciding who should be invited if she did have a funeral:

“I think we should make a guest list,” she said. “You girls will be there obviously. Colleen, Shar, Peggy. I don’t know about Phil. My brother Terry definitely not…”

“A guest list?” I asked. “Should I hire a bouncer too?” We laughed, both fans of black humour.

There are many options when it comes to end-of-life celebrations and what you choose really should reflect your wishes or the wishes of your dearly departed.I look at it as the last party I’ll ever throw; as such I intend to provide cocktails for my guests. A recent radio broadcast of the Morning Edition looked at the trend of people are turning away from typical rituals of death and trying to incorporate more personal expression into the ceremony.

If you or someone you love is confused about what service best reflects their beliefs regarding end-of-life rituals, a good place to start is The Simple Alternative, a counter to the conventional funeral home, offers some real suggestions for people whom are considering alternatives to the traditional place of worship or graveside service. They recommend the following locations for non-conventional services:

  • A favourite golf club
  • A Legion hall
  • A theatre
  • A Visitation Centre
  • Virtually any building that has the facilities to accommodate a service, with or without a reception, as long as the owners are amenable

The journey of death is as individual and personal as the one of life; each person grieves in their own way. It is my hope that choosing the proper service for your loved one will help you to go forward with as much peace as possible. There are many helpful articles that can help if you or someone you know is having difficulty coping after a loss. Please comment on your experiences within the funeral industry, or if you have been to an alternative funeral and wish to tell us about it.

Online Magazines’ Assignment

Vanity Fair

Vanity Fair has an exemplary online magazine that utilizes many web2.0 features. The homepage features many articles which are positioned in the centre, and blogs which are positioned to the right of the page. The heading are hyperlinked and accompanying the headings are small blurbs of the articles and blogs. This is beneficial to time-crunched readers because it allows them to quickly decide what articles are of interest to them. There are also tabs at the top of the homepage which divides the online magazine into different sections for readers who have more time to peruse before making a selection. Upon opening an article the reader is provided with a one summery paragraph of the article and then has the option to print, email, RSS, or share (bookmark) the article. As well, there are hyperlinks throughout the article directing the reader to similar articles of interest. The placement of the web2.0 features at the beginning of the article is ideal because a busy reader has time to read the short paragraph and then decide if they want to save it for later. The site also has slideshows but did not have any streaming video.

The web2.0 features in Vanity Fair’s online magazine are useful for publishers because they provide an interactive experience for readers who may then decide to subscribe (there are many hyperlinks encouraging readers to subscribe), as well if the publisher is able to keep track of which articles are attracting the most attention they will have a better idea of what the reader likes and can publish a better product, both in print and online. As discussed in class, the use of Web2.0 saves the publisher money because it is easy to operate and does not require expert training. The hyperlinks to other articles and blogs, as well as the social bookmarking tools and the option to email the article, allow the opportunity for the editorial content to be accessed as much as possible, which is what the editor wants. If there are ways for sales to keep track of how many new users are using the site they can use this as a way to increase advertisement sales. As well, I suspect that if marketing is able to tell which social bookmarking tools users are most fond of (facebook, twitter) they could place ads for Vanity Fair on those websites to encourage even more traffic to the site.

The New Yorker

The New Yorker has many web2.0 features on their online magazine including streamed radio and slideshows as well as blogs. There is a very small blurb detailing what the article is about; the reader then has the option of clicking on the headings of articles of interest. For readers with a little more time on their hands, they are tabs in the top third of the page dividing the site into many sections. When the reader clicks on an article the whole article comes up right away; at the very top of the page under the heading is the option to print, email, and use feeds that allow the busy reader to add the article to Google, yahoo, RSS, and XML and access it at a later time. The same options are available at the bottom of the page, so that if a reader has read the whole article and liked it they are reminded to save it in some fashion. There are podcasts where the reader can download videos, audio, and animated cartoons. There are also many cartoons throughout the online magazine and the reader has the option of printing, emailing, or bookmarking them as well.

Throughout the online magazine there are many hyperlinks to subscription services, as well there are advertisements that promote giving a gift subscription, which would benefit the publisher, whose main goal is to make money and keep the magazine profitable. There is an option to register and login as a member, I speculate this is to increase brand loyalty and to gather information like email addresses in order to encourage repeat visitors to subscribe. Publishers want to increase the magazine’s profitability and using web2.0 saves money because most everyone at the online magazine can use its features. Upon clicking on an article, the reader is presented with related links to other articles, which helps fulfill the goal of the editor, who wants to have the content of the magazine read. The bookmarking tools also help spread the content of the magazine because some of the bookmarks are open and uploads are available for other users to see. I speculate that the ability of sales and marketing to keep track of how many people are bookmarking the New Yorker’s famous cartoons would allow them to decide which cartoons to turn into merchandise and sell in their online store. I speculate that if sales are able to tell how many new visitors the site has it would be able to increase advertisement sales because advertisers would want to know how many new users they are reaching.

Details

Details is the most user-centred of all the websites I encountered. The stories and blogs appear on the homepage with slideshows which shows a picture and a headline. There are featured videos as well as forums where the user can log in and rant or rave about the featured issue. This is a way for the reader to feel like a part of the magazine and will increase their loyalty to the brand. When the reader chooses an article the option to print or share comes up at the side of the page, next to the photo-a good location because many online readers will notice it next to the visual, as well as at the bottom of the page. Busy readers can decide to save it right away, and less time constrained individuals can read and still be reminded to save it if they like it. There are hyperlinks to other articles and to videos as well as RSS feeds, podcasts, and weekly or daily newsletters that the reader can have sent to their email.

Similar to the other two online magazine, Details inundates the reader with suggestions to subscribe, renew, or give as a gift, which the benefits the publisher who wants to increase the overall revenue of the magazine. Web2.0 helps the publisher save money because it does not require an expert to operate it. The editor benefits from social bookmarking tools like Delicious because articles that are uploaded to these sites can be made public to other users on Delicious, so people who have never visited Details before may decide to check out the site after reading an article a colleague has uploaded. Marketing people at Details, which is a very product-oriented magazine, might be able to find out how many people uploaded the hair products article, for example, and could then go to advertisers and tell them the figures, which would help sell advertisements and would also be good for the company placing the advertisement because they would know that they were reaching their target market.