Funeral frustration

Funeral frustration

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Ninety-four years-old and still lively, Marjorie Berger made decisions now so her funeral arrangements could be put to rest for her family.

"Because I didn't want to leave them a bunch of trouble," Marjorie says. "I wanted to know it would be paid for, and the kids wouldn't have any problems."

However, Marjorie wound up with a problem anyway. She spent $9,000 dollars on a funeral package from Lohman Funeral Home in Ormond Beach, including a vault at Volusia Memorial Park.

Days later, Marjorie remembered she had already bought a vault directly from the same Volusia cemetery 35 years ago, in 1977. "I had put the papers away I had kept from my first husband," Marjorie explains. "And there it was in black and white that I had bought and paid for the vault."

Marjorie's daughter Marcie was excited to hear that news, "And I said, 'well great! Did you call Lohman's?' She said, 'Yes, but they're not going to do anything.'" Marcie recalls, "because they claim it was after 30 days after she signed the contract."

The "pre-need" contract says Marjorie has 30 days for a refund, so she called Lohman, asking for a refund of just the $1,395 dollars for the vault. However, Lohman did not refund the money.

"When you can produce the paperwork that you have a vault that you've already paid for, then yes, you should get your money back by all means," Marcie believes, "Whether it's been 30 days or a year from now."

The Better Business Bureau has given Lohman Funeral Home an "F" -- for either not resolving similar customer complaints or just ignoring them altogether.

Marcie believes business should work differently, "Okay, here's your money. That's how it should've worked. That's how it should work, but in this case it didn't."

Florida has heaps of laws and regulations regarding this sort of thing. The trouble is that some state statutes and administrative rules appear to conflict with one another.

For clarity, we contacted the non-profit Funeral Consumers Alliance. The FCA's Executive Director, Josh Slocum, told us: "Florida's laws are among the worst in the nation for consumers. . . They're a nightmare. Until the Florida laws are changed, it is probably a terrible idea to prepay for a funeral or any cemetery merchandise and services."

"I wouldn't do that again," Marjorie tells us, and sure, this family learned that lesson. However, this 94 year-old had still paid nearly $1400 dollars for a vault she didn't need.

So, FOX 35 contacted Lohman Funeral Home, and a manager told us they would give Marjorie Berger her money back, even though, they say she did not ask for that refund until after the 30 days had passed. Technically, Lohman claims they were not responsible for a refund.

The refund came as welcome news. "Well yeah, because it was stressful on her, so therefore it was stressful on me as well," Marcie says.

Consumer advocates say the whole situation stems from Florida laws lack of many consumer protections found in other states.

If you have a problem with a funeral home or cemetery, contact your local Better Business Bureau or the Florida Department of Financial Services at: (877) MY-FL-CFO.



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