The Sliding Scale of Dying

It's cheaper to live and, it turns out, die in Tacoma. If there's a burial plan in your near future, the complete works will cost you as comparatively little as $1,997 down in University Place and as much as $8,315 in Bellevue. And that's just with your basic casket, says John Eric Rolfstad, Executive Director of People's Memorial Association of Seattle, the non-profit cremation society. His group's 2009 price survey - "Shop before you drop" - compiled a list of services and costs from 226 funeral homes across the state. The survey detected an even larger swing in cremation prices - from $549 in University Place to $3,944 in Bellevue, a 700 percent difference.

The average price for simple cremation across the state is $1,593; a complete funeral with basic casket averages $4,172, excluding cemetery costs. Thing is, says Rolfstad, most people choose a funeral home because it's close to where they live, or they knew someone who used the same mortuary. "The funeral industry is able to defy the basic laws of economics because of our society's aversion to dealing with death," he notes. As SW reported three years ago, some funeral homes sell burial plans much like high-pressure dealers sell new cars; and, now and then, graveyards are known to double-up their bodies: In Renton one memorable day, two families who'd never met peered across the grave of their sons, realizing for the first time the cemetery had secretly buried both in the same grave.

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