Wal-Mart offering value caskets -- Save Money, Die in Debt

November 18, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

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Several people have sent me the Associated Press news story revealing that Wal-Mart is now selling discount-priced coffins. I don't know if these communications were intended as a point of information or a suggestion.

After some serious research, I found that Wal-Mart is indeed offering a line of caskets on its Web site, ranging in price from about $900 to $3,000. Apparently, this is a considerable savings over caskets provided by funeral homes, although I do not know this for a fact and believe you me I don't want to offend anyone who might be doing my final makeup job.

According to the story, "Part of the business model is to get people to plan ahead: is allowing people to pay for the caskets over a period of 12 months for no interest."


I've heard of layaway, but this is ridiculous. Maybe other people have a better sense of timing than I do, but what, you order one if you start to feel sick?

And then what happens if you get well? Where are you going to keep your casket, in the garage? I suppose you could use it for storage.

"Hey honey, can you get me the circular saw?"

"Sure, where is it?"

"It's in the casket, right next to that case of canned tomato sauce."

Daniel Boone for one, had a fine cherry coffin made for him well in advance of his death, and he was known to take naps in it. But I'm not as brave as the early pioneers, apparently. I'm afraid someone would walk by, peer in and say "close enough" and slam the lid shut.

It's not like shopping for a new car, but still, there is the temptation to scroll down the Wal-Mart casket Web page to see what might appeal.

I'm thinking I might go for the "Executive Privilege Steel Casket" featuring 18-gauge steel, a hand-knit velvet interior and, I am not kidding, a "hand-crafted brush finish with pinstripes." Great. You don't know if you're being buried in a casket or a Ford Pinto.

If that's too impersonal, you can always go with the "Lady de Guadalupe Steel Casket" with an interior that features "a sky-blue chalet crepe adorned by an embroidered figure of the Lady de Guadalupe." I don't know who this Lady de Guadalupe is, but this is eternity we're talking about; so if I'm going to be in there with some embroidered female, I'm holding out for the Girl from Ipanema Steel Casket.

But then I might not be the typical customer that Wal-Mart is aiming for. That audience might best be represented by the "Regal Wide Body Steel Casket," which is "Four inches wider than standard sizes." All that's missing is the camo finish. (And for all those who are thinking, "Only four inches, how's that gonna help?" shame on you.)

By the way, does this mean that Wal-Mart has to change its slogan from "Save Money, Live Better" to -- oh, never mind. I suppose they can argue that there's no point in an expensive coffin, since the only person who will see it for the next 30 eons will be in no position to appreciate it, one way or the other.

And we've all heard the argument that "funeral homes are just profiting on the emotions of the bereaved."

But if they don't, who will?

In the end, so to speak, I suppose you have your choice. You can spend eternity surrounded by a constant reminder that you may not have gotten the best deal, or you can spend eternity in a product provided by Wal-Mart.

If anyone has a good answer to this dilemma, feel free to let me know.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at Tune in to the Rowland Rant video at, on or on Antietam Cable's WCL-TV Channel 30 evenings at 6:30. New episodes are released every Wednesday.

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