Gary Conkling Life Notes

Mostly whimsical reflections on life

Death Comes to the Mall

Death is inevitable, but rarely does it occupy the same space in our lives as the Pottery Barn, Ann Taylor, Hand and Body and Hallmark Cards. No more.

Money_j16Feb_Mall-640x414Casket kiosks have popped up in shopping centers in Los Angeles and it is only a matter of time before they appear in malls across America.

You can enjoy the convenience of selecting your pre-paid burial plan and buying the clothes you will be buried in on a single, gas-saving, anxiety-easing trip on an LA freeway.

Like any mall kiosk, you will encounter many colorful options. In shopping centers from Covina to Palm Desert, you can choose, for example, the Los Angeles Dodgers plan, which comes with a casket festooned with the team’s logo, an authentic jersey for the dearly departed and a ceremonial last-pitch ball.

Making final plans turns most of us into eternal procrastinators. The mall kiosks serve as a reminder that eventually the bell will toll for each of us and we need to be ready.

The pioneer on this shopping mall frontier is none other than the already famous Forest Lawn Memorial Park. Its spokesman emphasizes that nothing is actually sold at its mall kiosks, which is good to know because you would wonder where they keep their inventory of caskets in such a tiny space.

Some mall shoppers have complained it is creepy to see a funeral kiosk between FootLocker and The Gap. But others say they have warmed to the idea, noting the kiosk has started them to thinking. It is unknown what other mall merchants think about shoppers wandering around mulling their own demise instead of buying in the moment.

Then, of course, there are shoppers who see the kiosk and say, “Oh, I had meant to come by to talk about my finding resting place plans.” Right. And I bet they say they will call back later from the beach on their cell phones.

dt.common.streams.StreamServer.clsNo question the kiosks – with their face-forward assistance on funeral planning – have been a marketing success for Forest Lawn, which is seeking to escape the recessionary doldrums. You would think just as many or more people die during economic down times, but perhaps fewer people find it essential to plan for the end when making ends meet is so hard.

The move to the mall also may be connected with the trend of cheaper choices, such as cremation. One Southern California crematorium manager said his company offers a package for $650 that covers  the cremation, urn, death certificate and taxes. Imagine that, death and taxes in a package deal.

One funeral industry analyst said cemeteries such as Forest Lawn aren’t taking competition lying down. “They aren’t waiting for walk-up business,” the analyst oddly explained. “They are taking it to the people.”

He just as well could have said Forest Lawn is turning the old maxim of “shopping until you drop” into “shopping before you drop.”






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