Irish Undertaker Offers Rent-a-Casket

It's not quite the death knell of the funeral business, just a sign that Irish undertakers are keeping up with the times.

Dublin-based Rom Massey & Sons is offering its clients a novel rent-a-casket scheme that can save them thousands of bucks.

Under the scheme — a first in Irish history — families who opt for cremation can now have their late loved one placed in an inexpensive plywood or clipboard casket, which in turn will be placed in a handsome oak coffin for the service.

Once the service is over, the deceased is privately cremated in the inexpensive casket, leaving the pricey oak coffin free for another bereaved but penny-wise family.

Counting Your Pounds

But we're not just talking pennies here, we're talking of thousands of Irish pounds.

While the no-nonsense inner casket costs the equivalent of $130, the solid oak is worth around $2,730. Under the new scheme, clients can pay $130 for the inner casket and hire an oak coffin for $185.

That's a saving of more than $2,000 and a whole load of grief, says owner Keith Massey.

"When I told people the coffin was going to be burned as well, they would say, 'Oh, I see.' They were literally burning their money," he said. "This allows them to have something that looks great for the service without costing much."

The rent-a-casket plan applies only for cremations, which account for only 5 percent of the undertaking business, Massey says. Most Irish still elect to bury their dead, even after Vatican lifted the ban on cremations in 1989.

But that's changing, according to Massey, and an increasing number of grieving families are opting for a cremation. "Firstly, cremations cost less. Secondly, people these days don't have the time to maintain graves," he said. "Cremations save you a lot of hassles."

A Tisket, a Tasket, a Cardboard Casket

Saving families undue hassles has been the unwritten motto at Rom Massey & Sons ever since Massey's grandfather, Patrick Massey, established the business in the 1930s, Massey says.

Earlier this year, the undertaker offered Irish families cardboard coffins in a bid to save their money and the environment.

But two of Ireland's three leading crematoriums said the idea of cardboard coffins worked better on paper then in real life. The cardboard coffins gave out foul emissions, George McCullough, manager of Glasnevin cemetery, grumbled to The Irish Times.

But McCullough's complaint, Massey believes, was just hot air. The owner of Dublin's Mount Jerome cemetery, who happens to be Massey's brother Alan, had no problems with the cardboard coffins. "My brother said they worked like a dream. While the wooden ones took three hours to burn, the cardboards took no time."

Needless to say, Mount Jerome has welcomed the new rent-a-casket scheme. It remains to be seen if the rest of Ireland is as enthused with the new cost-saving measure.

As for Massey, he can rest in peace that he's done his bit to ensure his clients haven't been RIP-ped off.