Monday, January 6, 2014

A Penny Saved

.. is a penny earned. I used to hear that a lot when I was growing up.

My husband's father took this to a whole new level. I doubt he ever paid the display price for anything, including medical bills which he managed to negotiate down by more than half the original charge. My husband is no different having learned from the master.

I have watched and waited while he haggled over furniture, appliances, cars, phones, travel, hotel and many other expenses most people would just pay for without thinking.

This time, I think he surpassed his father's record.

My father in law passed away after spending two years in an Alzheimer's home. In the years prior to going into the home he consistently refused to discuss anything to do with death. He wouldn't tell us his preferences, totally refused to consider prearranging anything and always repeated that someone else could take care of it when he was dead. My very sensible mother in law didn't wait that long. As soon as it became obvious that he could no longer make any decisions, and it was also apparent that his days were numbered, she arranged the details not just for him, but for herself. She paid for cremation and made all the arrangements possible prior to death that she could. She also bought a plot in the local cemetery and I found it amusing that she selected plot number 211, because she would have no problem remembering it as her birthday was 02/11.

When my father in law passed away, we discovered the true value of her foresight in making prior arrangements. In our case, his death was no surprise and yet the stress and grief was still hard to deal with. I can't imagine having to make all those arrangement in a case where someone dies unexpectedly. Therefore, my husband and I were determined that we would do the same and save our children - and of course very likely, one or other of us - from as much of the awful machinery of death as we possibly could.

We procrastinated until finally the new year came along and the usual spring cleaning attitude drove us to get this item off our 'to do' list. The previously locally owned funeral home, where my mother in law had made her reservations, had since been sold to a large national chain and some searches online showed that they were among the more expensive choices in Central Texas so my husband called around. He found one place which seemed to be very reasonable and did offer insurance. That is, insurance that should they be bought or go out of business, our disposal would still be handled and our children wouldn't have to deal with the arrangements all over again. Armed with that quote, he then called the local funeral home and told them the price he had received and found acceptable, and said that he would be prepared to consider any offer they could make that might be close to this price and had comparable cover. To my amazement they said that they would certainly be able to do something for us and we made an appointment to talk with them in person.

When we arrived at the funeral home we were not impressed by the man who met with us. I really didn't like him at all, sleazy is the word that comes to mind. He told us that their price would be $2,800 per person, but as were were return business (that is the previous owner of that company had handled the arrangements for my father in law's cremation) - you can't really have return business for a cremation as that really is just a one time event in each life, right? - he would give us $1,000 off. That made his price almost twice the price of the offer we already had. We said ' no thanks, not good enough ' and he immediately said he also worked for the insurance company and could actually write the insurance policy for $995 and it would be good for the funeral home we had already spoken with. It took approximately 5 minutes, most of that was spent deflecting him from his normal sales pitch, we didn't want any words of comfort from him, or anyone else for our loved ones, we didn't want a service of any description.  My husband told him we were not interested, we would go with his competitior because he didn't have the decency to give us the lowest price up front.

Had my father in law known that he could haggle over the cost of his final arrangements, and get a good deal, I do believe he would not have been so reticent to discuss these details with us.