NEWTON â€” The idea of supply and demand is easily understood by most: the more demand there is for a product or service, the more expensive its supply becomes.
When it comes to funerals – it may be morbid but it’s true – there’s never a shortage of customers.
That’s why Fabio Molina, founder of the Memorial Alliance funeral co-op, wants people to know that an unexpected death could mean unexpected costs and possibly debt in the tens of thousands for family members of the recently deceased.
"I’ve been in the funeral and cemetery industry for about 10 years," said Molina, who is a funeral and cemetery advisor in Surrey.
"As I did research, even though I was in the industry for so long, I didn’t know there were funeral co-ops."
Co-ops, which are well known in the Spanish community according to Molina, help the consumer to act as part of a whole on behalf of an individual.While the Memorial Alliance funeral co-op is the first funeral co-op in British Columbia, the idea is prevalent and well known in places like Quebec and Ontario.
"If somebody had a death, they would buy a membership, and when they had a death they’d call the society and they would refer them to two or three different funeral homes," Molina explained.
"A step above that: we actually help somebody do the actual planning."
Many funeral homes have discount programs for groups, so when declaring that you’re part of the Memorial Alliance funeral co-op, pre-arrangers get 10 per cent off services required from the funeral home.
The co-op is currently connected to a few different funeral homes.
"Unfortunately, the consumer is just a little guy compared to the big guy who can say, ‘Well, take it or leave it,’" Molina said.
"The group now has the purchasing power. Even though each member belongs to a group, they can say, ‘Hey I am purchasing with everybody else.’"
Molina emphasizes that the focus of the initiative is on advance planning.
"Unfortunately, right now I’m dealing with a family who didn’t have anything pre-planned. Now the dad passed away (and) the family is actually going around asking for donations for help," he said.
"They’re asking for donations because they have no money. A lot of families find themselves like that. They have to put it on the credit card. On 19 per cent interest, it’sa huge debt."
Molina said that the funeral co-op will provide free advice, free guidance and tools that that will help the family in the event of a death.
"We want to let the population know you have to ways of doing this. One, you wait until it’s more difficult and more expensive or you can do it when your mind is clear," he said.
The co-op will help in preparing wills, filling out family registries and outlining logistical steps of burial, cremation, funerals and "celebrations of life."
Molina said that, on average, the cost of burying a couple with a funeral service is $40,000. That cost only rises as years go on.
The co-op aims to educate people on the costs of dying, including the price comparison between burial and cremation.
"Who has (that money) just sitting around just in case I die?" he asked.
"The younger you start, the more money you save. The price goes up every year."
Like in housing real estate, purchasing a plot for burial is all about location. The more expensive of an area one is buried in, the higher the cost of a plot.
Molina argues that, oddly enough, pre-planning your own funeral can save a few mortal headaches and it shouldn’t be viewed superstitiously as a curse.
"It is a fact, we prearrange for everything. A wedding, people prepare for six months to a year. The difference between them are the costs," he said.
"The benefits to the consumer are the savings, but also the education and the peace of mind that it brings to know you have taken care of something way down the road."
To learn more about B.C.’s first funeral co-op, you can visit Memorialalliance.com or call Molina at 778-241-4636.