Funeral Director

I have dealt with a lot of funeral directors and their staff in my lifetime - thankfully mostly through my work and not in a personal capacity. If I had to guess I'd say I've dealt with at least 300 different people throughout my career (not all in different directors I'd like to add). There are some who are empathetic, radiating warmth, kindness and love without even trying. There are others who come across very abrupt (grumpy even) with faces that match their character, then there are those with the most wicked senses of humour (my kind of people). People you just never know what to expect from when you have to visit them (you know who you are!). All of them (even the grumps) have always been courteous and professional if they have grieving families around.
Imagine then how very odd and strange it was for me, when I found myself in a very unusual position the other week, as I registered a complaint about a member of staff at a funeral directors, in a business capacity. Something I have never myself, or known any of my previous employers to have done, in my 37 years as a florist. What's even stranger (to me, at least) is that on a personal level I have also had to register a complaint about another funeral director this month too - first time for that as well. Different funeral directors, in different towns, both of whom have caused angst and additional stress to grieving families. The one I dealt with on a personal level is a well known, old establishment who are still an individual company, although they do now fall under the Dignity Umbrella (there are not many truly independent directors left). The other, the one I have registered my feelings to in a business capacity, are part of a very large company with branches in every town, village and city in this country. Neither of them should have ever let me find myself in a position where I felt the need to register a complaint.

Why did I feel the need to do so? Let me tell you.

I served a lovely family who were ordering 2 tributes for their loved ones service. One of the items was a based tribute, the other a loose wreath, both of which are arranged in specific foam shaped bases. I have no idea how many loose wreaths I have made throughout my career, but the number is easily in the thousands. The actual service was taking place on a Tuesday at 10am, however the gentlemans casket was being taken into church the evening before. This is not as common as once it was but is still something that happens on a fairly regular basis. Because of this, it meant the flowers needed to be delivered to the funeral director the day before; this is definitely not something unusual. On average we have at least 1-2 funerals per week where we have to deliver the day before; had this gentleman not been going into church, the flowers would have been delivered on Monday anyway, because of how early the service was the following morning. 

The Saturday prior to the service the gentleman's daughter came in to drop off the cards for me, and I got the feeling she was wanting to say something to me, yet wasn't sure how to. Thankfully she spoke up and told me what was troubling her. She'd been into the funeral directors, where she'd told me she felt as though they really weren't that interested (which is never a good thing) and also she said it felt  as though she was causing them undue extra work (something no grieving relation should ever be made to feel). Not an issue that affected me per se, but I could definitely relate to her situation and sympathised with her. She then told me she wasn't worried about the flowers (although I think somewhere in the back of her mind she was or she'd have said nothing) because she had used me before, but that the funeral director had told her not to have the flowers delivered the day before because they would "most likely wilt overnight". Whilst reassuring her that the flowers would be fine - unless of course the directors placed them directly next to a radiator, or sabotaged them in some way - I could tell she was still stuggling with it all and I was enraged that someone who doesn't work in a florist, obviously hasn't got a clue about how florists operate, and who should have been acting more professionally to begin with, would say such a thing to a lady grieving the death of a loved one. The last thing any family member can buy their loved one (other than headstones and the funeral itself) is the flowers. To then be told that last item would likely "wilt" had me almost foaming at the mouth (obvioulsy I wasn't able to hide my anger as well as I thought I could, however, I didn't allow my customer to see just how angry I was by it). How dare they add extra stress, worry and angst to someone who is struggling to deal with the loss of a loved one. I was as angry for her and how she had been treated, as I was for myself and the fact that someone who doesn't know me, had told someone to believe flowers I would send to a funeral would wilt overnight. Even now, 10 days later I am still fuming over it. It was a unneccessary thing to say and a very poor way to deal with someone grieving. 

As it was a Saturday there was nobody at the branch for me to call - probably not a bad thing becuase my mouth may have run away with me. I then looked to see if there was an email address; there wasn't for the branch itself, however, there was one for "Enquiries" via the main company website, so I hit the "Contact us" button and fired off an email...

"Hi there

Not really a query but just a little something that's niggled me slightly. I've had a customer in who's been told by the Gosport branch that having the flowers the day before the service - the coffin is going into church the night before so they want their tributes to go at the same time - is not a good idea as the flowers will "most likely wilt”. I just wanted to reassure them (via yourselves as they have no direct email I can contact them on) and anyone else who may work there, or at one of your many other branches, that in the 17 years I've run my own florist, and for the 20 prior to that working for other florists, I've never once yet had a customer come back to say their flowers had wilted by the following morning. Not sure who they are using for their flowers but maybe they need to look elsewhere! Alternatively, maybe they were trying put off my customer from using me so they would use whomever the branch recommend. Either way it's not really good business practice, and at a time when a lot of smaller businesses are struggling, if other people are being told this about other florists it's not really going to encourage people to shop local!

I don't usually cover the Gosport area and this isn't somewhere we deliver to often so it doesn't affect me as such, however, it has aggrieved me because I take a lot of pride in the work I produce for funerals and always ensure the flowers are of the highest quality, often being told by families they still have them several weeks later. This week alone I've delivered to 3 other directors the day before with no issues at all.

Unless of course the Gosport branch are going to pop the flowers next to a heater overnight! That wouldn't do the flowers a lot of favour, and even then if they did, they still should hold up until well after the service itself the following day.

I added more but because it was via their contact button I don't have copy of what was sent, only my first draft that I've shared above but I'm sure you 'get my drift'.
As yet I have heard nothing from said directors HQ and am guessing I probably won't. 

I'm not sure when customer service got so bad (in general it's nowhere near what it should be in way-too-many shops; let's not even go there with big companies and their telephone customer service). I guess it's slowly been happening for a while and whilst I am peeved at what they said about the flowers, to me the worst part, the very worst atrocious customer service (not that it can be called service at all) is saying what was said to a grieving family. Maybe I've held funeral directors on too high a pedestal but I honestly feel out of all the very many companies around the world, the ones, the only ones really who should show the highest level of customer service at all times, is a funeral director. To have felt the need to complain about 2 in very close proximity to each other, because their customer service has been severely lacking, makes me wonder if there really is any hope left for humanity. 

The first photograph below is some of the flowers we've sent to other funeral directors the day before funeral services were taking place. The second is a pic of part of the lovely words written inside the card I recieved from the family who had to deal with addition stress at an already stressful time because of the words of another person.


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