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Jewish Ethicist


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HIGHER PRICES ON THE HORIZON

BY: Jennifer Schwartz

Michael Balshin the president of Jewishcaskets.com has created a business dedicated to serving consumers in the North American Jewish community, Specifically he has developed a value added service for families contemplating casket and funeral decisions. Balshin offers the unique opportunity to purchase "Kosher certified caskets" at a discount on line.

Recent research studies by the New York Department of consumer affairs have concluded that profit driven conglomerates are controlling through massive buy-outs, hundreds of independently run funeral homes. The impact on casket pricing and adherence to "halacha" practices within centralized "funeral home clusters" has been devastating.

In an ideal situation, a consumer who has to plan a funeral will shop around for the best price and best services. But this is made more difficult by conglomerates that hide behind other names. For example, a consumer who obtains a price list from two different funeral homes, both within the same area, may notice the prices are not exactly the same but that they are very similar. The consumer might conclude that that is the typical price for a funeral and that shopping around is not worth the effort.

However, they do not know that although the funeral homes have different names on the outside of the parlor, the same conglomerate owns them both. There is no law requiring that these conglomerate owned funeral homes let the public know that they've taken over. Therefore, the consumer who may be inclined to do comparison-shopping doesn't get a fair comparison.

The problem is made worse by the fact that many funeral homes intentionally conceal their true ownership. When DCA called virtually every funeral home in New York City asking if the operation was family owned or owned by a chain or major corporation, many funeral homes that said they were family owned were later found out to be owned by SCI. For example, an employee at Ransone funeral home in the Bronx said they were family owned but the home is actually owned by SCI. And an employee at every funeral home in Staten Island said over the telephone that they are independently owned. However, SCI owns five funeral homes on Staten Island.

When asked about the inaccuracy, one funeral home worker said: "I don't know who owns us, I just get my check. We're all like family here so one would think if asked about it being a family-owned business, of course you would say yes."

This company facilitates consumers at the click of a mouse. Michael Balshin predicts that his company will herald in a new generation of savvy consumers who are educated and aware of their consumer rights; even during the daunting task of arranging Jewish burials for loved ones.


Michael Balshin has responded to the needs of of Jewish consumers seeking the simplicity and integrity of a "Kosher" casket that is reasonably priced. His rock bottom price of $500.00 includes an easy to assemble simple wood casket. Together all caskets are guaranteed Kosher and are available for pre arrangement or at need. Balshin believes that shopping on the net with no pressure from a trained funeral director they the consumers will realize that his product is the right choice and the only choice for a traditional Jewish funeral.

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