I was feeling in a shopping sort of way this afternoon when I wandered over to Costco.com. There I discovered what others may have long known: the big box discount house sells caskets. What a lift for the spirits! The funeral business has always been notorious for its attractive business environment. Who wants to shop around for the best funeral value? And who wants to be seen as skimping on cheapo casket for a dead loved one? As a consequence, the industry hasn’t been subject to widespread discounting. (But see this.) And now, with the rise of the funeral home chain, the marketplace is amazingly seeing an INCREASE in funeral prices. Yet this situation clearly creates opportunities for entrepreneurs willing to take on the taboo and sell their product based on price (rather than, say, Dignity.) Somehow, I never saw Costco as such a niche player. Clearly, I was naive!
This discovery has led me to ponder a number of questions.
Do people skimp more on the box when they’re buying on the web, in the absence of sales pressure? Or do they buy fancier caskets because they’re more affordable? And who exactly skips overnight delivery, preferring to get their casket via “standard shipping”? (Do some people prepare for the big day, sticking the casket in the garage until it becomes necessary?)
How many people join Costco for the sole purpose of a buying a casket? Maybe Costco doesn’t even try to make money on this segment. Like discounted plasma TV’s and cases of Bounty, perhaps it’s just a loss leader, a way to drive business to the site.
“I came for the casket, but I stayed for digital videocamera.” Or something like that.