Up-selling the dead for 20% commission



One of my more interesting jobs was answering the phone for the State run funeral service.

I had already learnt my lesson – about induction courses.

So I applied myself fully to the job training.

I wasn’t worried,  attitude gives you altitude as they say.

I can handle anything.

In funerals it’s about getting the job done, dig a hole,pick em up, put em down.

In the call center, it’s all about up-selling.

Relatives of the dead are worse than tyre-kickers. Massive time-wasters.

They’re the last people you want in a showroom.

So cut out the showrooms give everyone the same casket – and start selling.

Wreaths  and flowers are ordered online or in a phone call.

The cleverest part was putting open casket as the standard option.

As they explained in the job training – open caskets are  open for add-ons.

20% commission on a big ticket item is a salesman’s dream.

There’s some big mothers out there,let me tell you.

The grieving say yes to anything.

I had this down.


Friday – Last Call


We always finished early on a Friday and always made a joke about the last call being the worst.

Sure enough at 3.55pm, five minutes before time,I got stuck answering the phone.

Grief hits people differently. Sometimes you just go cold. Able to speak and react but broken inside.

Fortunately for me, on the other end of the phone, I don’t see their dead,broken souls.

I just think “This one seems polite,” or “Should be an easy sell.”

The guy on the other end was very quiet. He must have been dead inside.

“I’ve got a question about the open casket.” he said.

“Yes sir, we have a number of options.”



I was straight into spiel mode.

“We have open casket. We can have him flat or sitting up.”

“No. It’s about the casket,” he said.

“What were his favorite positions in life? Do you want him shot glass in hand or a  cup of tea?”

Presentation was everything.  Present the body well gets the mourners to cry – get their money when it was their turn.

“Do you want any gestures?”

“We have a 2 handed special on at the moment, if you go for the shot glass we have

a two fingered gesture we can throw in for free.”

“What about Facial expression?”


Man on Fire


I was so excited at all the options I could offer I just kept talking.

“Grimace is standard but Happy is our best seller.”

“One person went for the joker grin, but he was a comedian.”

“We can casket him  in the Living room or facing the entrance – a proper meet and greet. Our current best seller. ”

The other end of the line was quiet. I hope I hadn’t lost the sale.

“Sir, are you still there?”

“Please let me speak.” The guy said.

“It’s the casket you’ve left at the house,” he said.

I hated those Friday calls. Those slackers at reception put the call through to sales  when

it should have gone to support.

No commission on this one. I’d have to wrap this up pretty quick.

I’m not a charity.

“I’m sorry Sir, What seems to be the problem?” I said.

“It’s not my father.”

PART II Appears tomorrow

Tim Willow

I do wonder why standard caskets would not work in the real world – not the willow world above.

The funeral is a part of the grieving process,bringing everyone who knew the deceased  together.

But is it also a way to show you care by buying a more expensive casket than you can afford?

Is it a way to show social status, a decision based on the fear of what others may think of you?

What would the living  think of you if you buried your mother in a cardboard coffin?



34 thoughts on “Up-selling the dead for 20% commission

  1. Wow. As I look back on my 36-year career in funeral service, I consider myself fortunate that I never worked in and later owned, funeral homes that allowed such a cavalier attitude. I know they exist, but unfortunately, they give a bad name to the rest of us that were more concerned with being caregivers than commissioned salespeople. Hopefully, you took license and exaggerated a bit to make it interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Most definitely. It was finding an unusual and surreal angle to think about the process and the marketing of what is a difficult time for many – At the same time, hopefully not doing it in an offensive way. I use 1st person narration to try and put myself into the idea fully. I have been in position to certainly appreciate the professionalism of real life funeral services in the past – and most certainly will in the future!


  2. Willow caskets are very popular nowadays, especially with the late Friday phone answerers. They are cheaper to make than standard caskets, but sustain a higher asking price. I believe it helps if you climb a 2 section ladder before picking up the phone!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the thought of being buried with a grimace on my face.

    My mother would be lucky if I bought her a cardboard box. I’m more likely just to upend her into a disused wishing well.

    Liked by 2 people

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