What do Lady de Guadalupe, American Patriot and Executive Privilege have in common? They are casket models, now available on Wal-Mart’s website.
The Arkansas-based superstore chain is offering more than a dozen types of caskets on their online store, with prices ranging from under $1,000 to almost $3,000.
Funeral homes have historically dominated the casket business, but under federal law they must also accept caskets purchased elsewhere. Several funeral home operators commented that Wal-Mart’s entry into the market would be a bust, stating that people need caskets quickly and need to be confident they can receive them undamaged. But caskets have been available online for some time, in many strange forms. Here’s a sampling..
Wuyi Xinglong Packing Co., Ltd. is a company located in Jinhua, China that makes coffins of “composited corrugated cardboard,” held together with glue made from corn flour. They offer cardboard coffins, paper coffins, pet coffins and a do-it-yourself coffin. The company was founded in 1995, “a small factory with about 50 workers,” according to their website. Now they have 300 employees, shipping coffins to America, Europe, South Africa and Oceania. Prices are not readily available. The company history reads:
“The cardboard coffin is developed in 2005. It is the time when the reforms of funeral industry are carrying out all over the world, also including China. It changes from a monopoly industry to a competitive one. And the people are becoming more and more practical-sensitive for the cost and set aside savings for the future needs. Another feature of the trend: the people are becoming more and more conscious of the environment. That is one of the reasons why we started producing the cardboard coffin.”
Ecocoffins is a British company founded in 2004 that sells simple coffins for as little as 280 pounds, or 463 U.S. dollars. One model is covered in colorful child hand prints. Others go by names like Poppy & Sky, Butterfly and Autumn Leaves, a casket painted like the floor of a Vermont forest at peak leaf-peeping season. The company also sells a plain white coffin that they encourage buyers to decorate themselves.
In a test performed at a crematorium an ecocoffin gave off absolutely no particulate emissions and one-tenth as much carbon monoxide as a “chipboard veneer coffin.” The site notes: “Some are concerned that cardboard coffins will buckle when being charged into the cremator…This is not an issue.”
Ecocoffins were recently featured in a Spanish magazine and also appear in the newly-released Hollywood movie, Powder Blue, a drama about a suicidal priest, a hit-man with terminal cancer, a pole dancer looking for her dog and a mortician. The film features Ray Liotta, Lisa Kudrow and Patrick Swayze, in his final movie appearance before his death, caused by pancreatic cancer.
Bestpricecaskets is an online mega-store that sells caskets of poplar, oak, mahogany, cherry, ash and cedar, as well as bronze, copper and steel. They also sell jewish caskets. Prices are generally in the range of $900-1600. Caskets are shipped in the cargo department of passenger planes from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport to any location in the U.S. The company claims that it can usually get caskets to customers in six to eight hours. To allay the concerns of those worried about damage en route, their website gives a detailed description of the casket’s journey:
“The casket is loaded in first and then the passenger luggage is loaded on and around it… The casket has large, 3-inch thick Styrofoam caps that completely cover the ends of the casket and then a cardboard box is placed over the top of the whole casket. There is roughly 3 inches between the outer box and the inner casket so if the box is ruffled on the outside, the casket will not be scratched or dented 3 inches below the box surface. We never have damage to our caskets during shipping although sometimes the outer box is scratched up which has nothing to do with the casket 3 inches below. After it gets to the airport the hot-shot courier typically picks up your casket and delivers it directly to the funeral home.”
And for the less web-savvy, not to worry; soon, caskets will be available in Wal-Mart stores, beside baby toys and engagement rings.