Death is an inevitably morbid conversation and few people like talking about funerals.
Except for businesswoman-turned-charity founder Jude Mannion.
The former boss of companies such as Elizabeth Arden, Kellogg’s New Zealand and Hallmark has founded funeral browsing website Fresh Funerals, which she equates to an ‘Airbnb of the funeral industry.’
Users of Fresh Funerals fill out a form, specifying how they want their funeral to be conducted. Options include whether the deceased should come home or stay at the funeral home; cremation or burial; and arrangements for a casket.
They are then sent quotes by funeral directors. The website is linked to all funeral homes to enable them to quote.
“You can do it at home, online, for the first time in New Zealand. You don’t have to go to the funeral director’s home where you feel out of your comfort zone. You’re in a really strange place and you’ve got a professional saying, ‘tell me what you want,’” Ms Mannion, the founder of The Robin Hood Foundation NZ says.
“I’m hoping that by sitting at home, drinking a bottle of wine with your brothers and sisters you can discuss in a more relaxed way how you want to do the final send-off for the one you love. We only get to do it once.
I like the concept. It is similar to Builders Crack. Your describe what you want, and let companies compete for the work. You make your selection based on price, quality and reviews.
Funeral Directors Association chief executive Katrina Shanks says there’s not necessarily a demand for a website like Fresh Funerals, though, adding that there’s a lot of information on undertakers’ websites already.
She says funeral arrangements can’t simply be chosen by “ticking a box” because there’s substantial emotional attachment, unlike booking a hotel or Uber.
The industry body has commissioned research asking people what they value most in the funeral process. A lot of the feedback involved compassion and sympathy, which Ms Shanks says can’t be catered to by a website. She says funeral directors have the training to understand those skills.
Not everyone wants the same thing. The great thing about the Internet is it allows different business models, and we’ll find out if they succeed.