A Deadly Sales Offer

by admin on January 22, 2013

My elderly father died recently after being on at-home hospice care for almost two years. In addition to his physical diagnosis he suffered from severe dementia, which required that he never be left alone in the house. Because of this, I gave up my job and moved into his house to be his full-time caregiver. It was a tough situation, but I was glad I was able to provide this care and spend his final few years with him.

My immediate family members were very concerned and involved but could not provide much help with his day-to-day care, as my only brother lives out-of-state and my mother, long divorced from my father, is also quite elderly. We kept our extended family updated on his condition but they did not provide or offer any assistance, nor did I ask.

As his condition deteriorated, just over a month before he finally passed away, I received the following e-mail from my first cousin who sells for a financial group:

Hey Cuz,

FYI – for the next 7 days my company is offering 0% interest w/ 10% down on cemetery PRE-NEED services.

Also $750 off pre-planned funeral burial srvcs & $400 off cremation.

Much cheaper than at-need!

IF U KNOW OF ANYONE LET ME KNOW. “

If I “know of anyone”?!! I would have easily dismissed this as just a bulk e-mail send to all of her potential customers, but for the fact that she addressed it to “Cuz.” I guess I missed the part where she expressed any concern at all for her ailing uncle… 0117-13

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Red Cat January 22, 2013 at 1:36 am

Thoughtless and tasteless are the first words that come to mind regarding the e mail.
I’m sorry for your loss, and am sure other family members appreciate all you did for your father. I hope they too offered support, albeit in a more sympathetic way.

Reply

Mer January 22, 2013 at 2:35 am

Uggggh. This is terrible. I am sorry for you.

Now I can see that topic itself is not totally impossible to be discussed about, but it is such that needs to be approached with utmost care and sensitivity. First thing being to ask if it is okay to discuss such matters. Some people are very practical in these matters, and reality is the service will be needed. As most of us are not bathing in money, tastefully telling about the existing offer is possibility to save grieving family at least some expenses. Also some people would rather have their funeral planned and in order while they are still alive, though dementia hinders the possibility to the person in question have input in these matters. Depends of course how serious/bad the dementia is.

So should I think what kind of approach might not irritate/insult me, I would list few pointers. Personal contact, asking if it is okay to discuss this and has there been plans/wishes about this matter. Stressing that this is just for information and perhaps offer just a brochure instead of sales pitch, stating that if you wish to read it, it is here but no pressuring (though if this is short time offer, state that in polite manner). In addition of course the normal polite behavior (and I don’t know if being concerned about relative, both father and his caretaker can be actually called “polite behavior” as it makes it sound more of something one asks because etiquette requires it, not something that one is genuinely interested in, but lacking better term here I settle for it).

And have this been mass email I think the situation would not be so bad. More of thoughtless than rude, maybe not noticing that you are part of the receivers. But name in the beginning suggests that she knew she was sending it to you too (even if this was a similar email sent to all, just personified before sending) so she should have known better.

Reply

Leigh January 22, 2013 at 4:09 am

Wow, that is tacky. Maybe she had good intentions and didn’t know how to express them properly. The casual way of phrasing this is completely unprofessional.

Reply

Rhiannon January 22, 2013 at 4:39 am

Wow, that’s cold. She probably thought she was doing you a favour though.

Reply

Kait January 22, 2013 at 4:46 am

This brings back memories of when my dad found out his mother had begun displaying symptoms of dementia. My dads older brother spent a week staying with her for vacation. We lived on the other side of the country. At the end of his trip my uncle (who I could right a novel on) called my dad and said “When it’s time to put mom into a home, let me know how much my share is.” My dad called his sister who lived in the same town as grandma, and asked if his mom was ok. Turns out her dementia was far in progression; unpaid bills, car accidents. She had lung cancer that had spread, I think it was small cell carcenoma maybe? We brought her to live with us, on hospice, for about a year. Anyway, to this day, I find my uncle’s reaction to seeing his own mothers condition horrifying. Who does things like this?!

Reply

Carol January 22, 2013 at 5:39 am

As I was reading the note, I was thinking, ‘well, it could be the person was just thinking it would help you out financially, possibly bad taste or timing, but not rude…’ then I got to the end of the note, and that’s when I eyerolled!

I think the worst part is the cheery little text-speak ‘U’ instead of ‘you’. The whole thing borders on disrespectful. It sounds like you dealt with it with a sense of humour, though, so good for you.

I am sorry for your loss, and I hope you have all the emotional support you need (or want) at this sad time.

Reply

Jewel January 22, 2013 at 6:30 am

My sympathies to you and your family! If there was any situation that called for the Cut Direct, it’s this one. On the off chance your cousin would misinterpret or fail to understand why he/she is suddenly going to receive the cold shoulder from you, I recommend you succinctly tell him/her exactly why.

Reply

Sabrina January 22, 2013 at 6:41 am

It certainly could have been worded much better and in a more sensitive way. It’s never an easy topic to bring up and it’s too bad the OP’s cousin wasn’t more tactful.

Reply

Nel January 22, 2013 at 6:45 am

All I can think is ‘What is wrong with some people?!’

Reply

penguin tummy January 22, 2013 at 7:05 am

Wow. Just, wow. How thoughtless! I assume she was aware of the gentleman’s condition?

Reply

DGS January 22, 2013 at 7:15 am

How classless! I’m so sorry for your loss.

Reply

Lo January 22, 2013 at 8:15 am

Really? With bad chatspeak and all? People do business with this woman??

The casual sophpmoric tone of the letter is almost worse than the assumption, wow. I hope for her company’s sake this wasn’t a mass email.

I do hope you deleted it and didn’t bother to respond. My heart goes out to you, this is incredibly insensitive.

Reply

Ergala January 22, 2013 at 8:24 am

I rate this right up there with someone who asks a dying person what is in their will or what they plan to do with XYZ item after they pass with strong hints of them wanting it.

Reply

Laura January 22, 2013 at 8:40 am

Wow, talk about tacky!!!

Reply

Coralreef January 22, 2013 at 8:43 am

Whoa!!!! That is cold and off the rude-scale. That would be one cousin added to my blacklist. The selfishness and complete lack of empathy is unbelievable.

Reminds me when my father passed. Sister’s ex was up in arms that my mother would keep all my father’s assets. He felt any funds or property should go to him. The fit he threw when mother gave me dad’s rocker when I was pregnant! I was certain he would camp on my doorstep to haul it away as soon as the baby was weaned.

Reply

MamaToreen January 22, 2013 at 8:46 am

Opportunistic, much?

Reply

Mae January 22, 2013 at 8:58 am

Um, wow. How insensitive can you be? This seems like a thinly veiled attempt to horribly exploit family in the name of businesss.

There is alot more I could say, having been on the receiving end of similiarly morbid treatment when my grandmother lay dying toward the end of a long battle with Alzheimer’s, but to aviod a rant, I will simply say: Shame on you, cousin, shame on you.

Reply

Shannon January 22, 2013 at 9:22 am

It’s cold and rude, but honestly kind of hilarious. It’s just so…out there. I mean, really, here I am complaining when a friend who sells Mary Kay tells me I have “dull skin” and “visible wrinkles,” while the OP’s cousin is trying to turn a tidy profit on a relative’s passing. Using textspeak and “cuz,” no less!

Sometimes instead of getting offended, it’s easiest to laugh off such ridiculous tackiness. You’ll live longer that way…and you’ll want to outlive that cousin anyway so you don’t wind up a future customer!

PS – I’m sensitive about a parent’s death, really I am – my own father died in October. But the family all have morbid humor, so we would have laughed off a message like the cousin’s. After all, when the doctor wouldn’t sign off on the death certificate, causing a delay in the cremation, we actually said to the funeral director, “Whose (butt) do we need to light a fire under so you can light a fire under Dad’s?”

Reply

Mrs. Lovett January 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

I agree with many of the previous posters that there’s a way this could have been handled tastefully, but the cousin came off as extremely tacky, insensitive, and opportunistic. It’s likely the cousin knew what was going on with her uncle, so her first move should have been to send thoughts of care and concern and asked how OP was doing. Or better yet, she could have called and given OP a chance to talk about the situation and to express her sympathy for his deteriorating condition.

If the conversation then moved onto the topic of OP’s father’s prognosis, which it likely would have, the cousin could have casually mentioned her company’s promotion and asked if OP would like any information. If OP expressed interest, she would’ve had an appropriate opportunity for a sales pitch. If OP declined, no harm, no foul.

But even if it were handled gracefully, I would hope cousin wouldn’t call OP simply for a sales pitch. Checking on her in her difficult time should have been her first motive.

Reply

livvy17 January 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

wow, I’m amazed at how the posters here are ripping apart someone who, essentially, was trying to help her cousin. Especially if she knew (from OP’s posts/info) that her uncle’s death was imminent, then this was a very opportune time to alert her cousin to this. There’s no indication that the cousin will be making a commission or gaining financially from this. The Dad/Uncle had been deteriorating for YEARS. While this is very difficult, it shouldn’t come as a shock that at some point, funeral services will be imminent, and given that the OP had given up a job to care for him, perhaps her/his financial situation wasn’t the best, and the cousin was trying to help save her money.
The only sin I see here is perhaps a lack of tact and/or very poor writing skills. For those of you calling “shame”, I push it back on you – Shame on YOU for seeing only the bad in what may have been honestly meant to be helpful.

Reply

youngchick68 January 22, 2013 at 9:41 am

First, I would like to express my condolences to you and your family in the passing of your father. Second, the fact you spent 2 years attending to your father during his decline expecially without much of a support system is an incredibly tough job and you should be commended on it. My third, and last comment is directed toward your crass cousin – – “TACKY, TACKY TACKY!”

Reply

Library Diva January 22, 2013 at 10:23 am

Very sorry for your loss, OP. I agree that your cousin approaching you about this matter is not in and of itself in poor taste — it’s the breezy, spammy, impersonal way that she handled it. A soberly worded email stating, “I have heard that Uncle Mike is gravely ill. I sincerely hope this isn’t out of line, but if you’ve not made any final arrangements yet, I wanted to let you know that my company is offering a special deal this week….if you’d like more information, don’t hesitate to ask. If there’s anything else I can do to help out or if you need to chat, I’m always here for you.” Who’d object to that? The way it was worded, it simply looked like an attempt to solicit business, and it was out of line even if the cousin’s heart really was in the right place.

Reply

Stepmomster January 22, 2013 at 10:24 am

I have this picture in my head for some reason of her trying to convince grieving family members to get the casket with “Bling”, complete with cheetah print lining and LED lights… For a saleslady, you would think she would know her own customer, let alone her own family. She could have waited until the actual passing of your father and then politely inquired as to the arraignments and told you she could help find you something for a lower cost to ease the burden. I have the impression she isnt an overly tactful person anyway :-/

Reply

Wendy B. January 22, 2013 at 10:38 am

“Hi, Cuz! Thank you so much for thinking of us, but I don’t think we’ll need your help after all. Looks like Dad is making a miraculous recovery and I expect he should be calling you in a few days to thank you for all your help during his time of need.”

That should get the cousin on the phone pretty quick…with an apology.

I think I would be very tempted to call the cousin on this one and ask if they were aware of how the email sounded.

Reply

hakayama January 22, 2013 at 10:46 am

@livvy17:
AWWWW! It’s so lovely to see that there are some people that insist on seeing good, and/or good intentions, in the worst kind of situations. ;-)
“Moi”, for one, would immediately drop any new acquaintances that, through abominable lingo, show lack of self-respect and are disrespectful towards me. And I probably would be tempted to deny any relationship to that “cuz”, no matter how young.

Reply

mpk January 22, 2013 at 11:33 am

Are you sure the cousin knew your father was dying? If so, why bother with -” if you know of anyone”. Maybe it was just bad timing. If not, just ignore it anyway.

Just for my own info – i thought hospice only came in for the last 6 months of someones life. Would like to know for sure if that changed. Thanks.

Reply

Jewel January 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

Livvy — for me, the icing on this multi-tiered tacky cake was that the cousin was blatantly seeking to profit from the OP’s father’s death. It’s not as though cousin found the special on the web or in the newspaper and thought the OP would appreciate knowing about it. No. The cousin wanted to get a sale for her company under the guise of being helpful at a distressing time for the family. Who does that???

Reply

The Elf January 22, 2013 at 11:34 am

Wow, that’s awful! It’s possible she was trying to help out, but talk about a bad way to do it. She should have at least lead in with concerns for uncle’s health and then something like “I know this is awkward to talk about, but do you need help settling your father’s affairs? I know things are tight. My company is offering discounts of cemetary services before they are needed. Please call me if you want more details.” Or, she was just spamming. I swear, people just don’t put a lot of thought into emails as a whole, but anything death-related requires a lot more delicacy that she just completely zoomed over.

That said, too many people do not plan their death arrangements, which puts their living relatives in the position of having to figure out everything at the last minute and while under the stress of grieving. When everything is worked out in advance – and especially if it is paid for! – it makes life a lot easier for those left behind. It can be difficult to talk about it, but death is a part of life. If someone is elderly or terminally ill, and of sound mind to handle such things, it behooves them to do as much advance preparation as possible. It’s good for we younger and healthier people too!

Reply

The Elf January 22, 2013 at 11:36 am

Oh, and don’t you love those words “pre-need” and “at-need”? Yeah….

Reply

Bint January 22, 2013 at 11:42 am

I’m embarrassed for this cousin. I truly don’t think she has a clue how horrible this looks, and how excruciatingly misplaced the tone is. Her cousin’s father is dying. You don’t write ‘much cheaper than at need!!!’ and ‘if U know of anyone’. This is like a cheery telemarketer ringing you up trying to flog you a coffin. I also think she does mean well – I truly hope she does – but whatever her motives, the tone, the lack of sympathy and the way this is done are all so horribly inappropriate.

I’m sorry for the loss of your father, OP, and for an offer that, however kind, was made so crassly.

Reply

gramma dishes January 22, 2013 at 11:58 am

Coralreef ~~ Why in the world would your father’s assets be given to your sister’s husband? =-{
What on earth made him think he should get ANYthing from your father’s estate? I’ve never heard of all of the deceased’s property being handed over to in-laws. It certainly gives us all a pretty good idea why he’s now an “ex”!

As to the original post, Cousin may possible have actually meant well, but her execution of the proposal was extremely poorly worded and highly unprofessional. I can certainly see why that would chill any future relationship with her.

Reply

Mrs. Lovett January 22, 2013 at 12:11 pm

@livvy17, I appreciate that you’re trying to give the cousin the benefit of the doubt, but her e-mail never expressed any concern or even mention of the dying uncle. It was nothing more than a sales pitch. While there is no mention of a commission, there’s no doubt that at the very least, it would be helpful to cousin’s career for her to have another sale under her belt. While I think most posters agree that it’s okay to market to family and friends, so long as you’re not being pushy, it is still important to see these people for the loved ones they are and not just as sales targets. You may be right that the cousin was simply trying to help OP, but her method of doing so lacks any sign of personal concern for OP or her father, which is why so many posters are labeling her as tacky and rude.

Reply

Mae January 22, 2013 at 12:46 pm

To @livvy17- IF the cousin had being offering support before the email or expressed some concern for OP, I would think that she was trying to help. BUT the face that the cousin send such a casual “Hey we are having a sale on preplanned burial services and cremation services for the next 7 days and it’s cheaper than waiting until they pass. IF U KNOW OF ANYONE LET ME KNOW”. That last line was completely and totally unnecessary. Does OP know of anyone? Really? Maybe it was cousin’s akward way of trying to help, but it was tacky. All the text message abbreviations and shouty capitals put it over the line for me. Plus, the cousin works for a financial group. The world financial automatically makes money spring to mind.

I think previous posters have it right: Cousin should have called OP, expressed concern or care about uncle’s condition, asked OP how she/he was doing and then offered the info, if OP was interested and up to talking about it.

Reply

Kat January 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

Livvy17,

The email writer should be completely ashamed here. She has no concern for the well being of dad, or her cousin that was dealing with the stress of him imminent death. Her only concern was making a sale, and that in itself is incredibly tacky. As another poster said, there was a way to handle this (as it will be needed) with tact, and this was not it. She asked no questions about dad’s well being, in fact she didn’t even bother to mention him at all, just a promotion that would benefit her is some way. It takes a truly thoughtless person to see a family member dying, their close relatives suffering the loss and working to care for the person, and in spite of it all to only think of THEMSELVES. If this was meant to be helpful, she would have offered help, a kind work, or a listening ear. It was meant to be a sales pitch and was tacky as heck!

Reply

Angel January 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

I admit that she could have worded the email with a hell of a lot more sensitivity. And professionalism. But she probably did think she was helping you out. I don’t think it was done in a malicious way–more like clueless and insensitive. I’m sorry for your loss. No matter how you lose a parent, whether it is sudden or a long process certainly does not make it any easier. You would think a family member would be sensitive to this. I’m sorry yours wasn’t :(

Reply

Michellep January 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm

Yep, livvy17, I’m calling shame on “cuz” because this was tasteless and yes, the cousin will gain from it as clearly stated.

It doesn’t matter if someone has been declining for years. No one should send an email like this regarding a dying family member. Cousin may have had all the best intentions in the world but this was rude and classless.

Reply

lakey January 22, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Ick. Because I have a sister who is an insurance salesperson I am cynical about the motivation of this e-mail. I know that not all salespersons are predatory or manipulative, but some are and you have to be on your guard. My own sister, a number of years ago, tried to get me to switch to her company for car insurance by misleading me about the cost. She told me that the cost would be less than I had been paying. After I told her I would switch, I found out that the price was considerably higher than she had told me. She had deliberately left out some of the charges. I told her I changed my mind. Years later, her company came down in price and I did change. But I learned not to trust her without double checking everything.

And just so people know, you have choices in paying for funerals. I am in the same situation as OP, taking care of my elderly dad, and I had to deal with funeral arrangements for my mother. A good funeral home offers a variety of packages of services, caskets, and grave liners at a wide range of prices. I’m not quite sure why a “financial group” is involved in this. Sounds like it might be adding another layer of people making money off the funeral. But I’m a cynic about these things.

Reply

lakey January 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm

My other thought on this. An e-mail is impersonal. If the cousin was really concerned, he/she could have made a carefully worded personal contact that was not a simple sales pitch.

Reply

Tsunoba January 22, 2013 at 1:58 pm

@livvy17 I would totally have this same opinion if it weren’t for this:

“IF U KNOW OF ANYONE LET ME KNOW.”

Not “if you need this for your dad,” but “if you know of anyone.” It kind of implies the cousin forgot all about the OP’s father. Like an offhand “Well, I don’t know anyone who needs this. Do you?”

Reply

Daisy January 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

Wow. I have both friends and family in financial service positions and in funeral services. Just for fun, I ran this past a few of them. The verdict: low class and no class. People in these fields simply do not express themselves as though they are hanging out at the sorority house, not if they expect to be taken seriously. And “If U know of anyone let me know “? Why? So you can pester someone for their email address and then offend THEM, too? I don’t think so!

Reply

CJCarville January 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Yes, the cousin could have been more modest and sympathetic about it. Clueless? Yes. But she sounded like she was trying to be helpful. I’d like to know what this cousin is like normally.

Not the same, but I tried to help out a friend once on wedding planning. She was getting her AA in wedding planning while planning her own wedding on a tight budget. I emailed her some information (a website and blog) on how to plan your wedding without breaking the bank. She responded that she knew exactly what she was doing, she was getting her AA in this field, she was going to do things the way she thought they needed to be done, and she didn’t need any other help.

Okay then!

Still can’t believe she didn’t submit that story here.

Reply

Elle January 22, 2013 at 3:34 pm

1. This is something my dad would totally do.
– except he writes in bullet point format and not txt
– no xtra words than bare min to get point across
– & lots of acronyms and abbreviations
– like this obv.
2. He means well. Loves a deal tho
– & any chance to save family $$ he makes sure we know about
– even if its tacky
– b/c its one of the ways he xpresses his love
3. Some people just rly suck at writing emails

Reply

yankeegal77 January 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

First, my deepest condolences.

Second, whether a misguided effort or not, it sounds like the cousin was trying to help the OP (and honestly, it could have been a good opportunity to help out, offering a discount on a potentially needed service) but HOO BOY was this EVER the tackiest way to convey it! Text speak?? Really???

A call or a personal visit would have been so much more appropriate to the solemnity of the situation, yet the cousin, who should understand this in their line of work, came off as not only remarkably crass but completely unprofessional.

It wasn’t the ‘what’ in this case, but the ‘how’ if that makes sense.

Sorry this happened to you, OP.

Reply

Arrynne January 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

The offer itself isn’t a bad thing, but the way it was presented was. “Hi Cuz, I hope you are doing well. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Uncle. I understand this is a difficult topic, but if you don’t have plans in place already, my company is offering a discount for pre-planned funeral services. If I can help with this, or anything else you may need, please let me know. Love, Cousin.”

When I was caring for my dying mother, she wanted me to take her down to the funeral home so she could make her arrangements (taking the burden off of me). I convinced her that my husband and I could handle everything. We got a 15% discount for pre-planning, and my mom passed less than a week later.

Reply

Spuck January 22, 2013 at 4:12 pm

And here is another example of why you shouldn’t do business with family. My cousin has a husband who is an excellent insurance salesman but he can never turn himself off. Even at family events. It’s just hard to be around.

Reply

hakayama January 22, 2013 at 4:42 pm

@CJCarville: If I had seen this somewhere else, I’d think (in “back on the block” style) “they’re manure-ing me”…. An actual ACADEMIC DEGREE in wedding planning?
And to think that ages ago, basket weaving was ridiculed. Holy smokes! Wedding planning. Tsk, tsk.
For the consolation of some of us, script (as in cursive writing ;-) is alive and well… in tattoos with illogical messages and horrendous spelling.

Reply

Karen January 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I am most annoyed by this: “IF U KNOW OF ANYONE LET ME KNOW.”

I don’t respond to marketing emails written in text speak.

/adjusts onion

Reply

LovleAnjel January 22, 2013 at 4:57 pm

I find it odd that it’s an offer from a financial group which sounds like a loan. So tacky on another level – it seems to assume that OP’s family doesn’t have the means to pay for funeral and needs a loan.

If she actually worked in the funeral industry she would have A) been trained a hell of a lot better than this and B) OP would know about it already and “Cuz” would wait to be approached. They’re family, she’d know they would come to her for at least advice.

Reply

babs January 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm

I agree with most of the posters. Not much of a promotion there either. 10% down, 0% interest? What are we buying here, a CAR?? Hospice can also guide you through affordable options. I don’t feel shameful at all for being critical of “cuz’s” unfortunate email. This man dying is her UNCLE for goodness sake! It was very inappropriate, unprofessional, showed a lack of compassion and just plain… well, I just don’t have the words.

Reply

White Lotus January 22, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Uhhhh…OP, how many cousins do you have? When you take the firsts, the firsts once and sometimes twice removed, the seconds, and so forth and so on, I personally have well over a hundred. The Prof boasts a goodly number as well. One might know Uncle X is elderly and in poor health, but one might not know his death is imminent. If one worked in your cousin’s industry, and the marketing program revolved around self-generated leads, it is possible one might come up with the idea of a “personal” (and therefore casual, and this is certainly casual) email to all of one’s cousins. It is at least possible that this was a mass mailing and not sent specifically to you. Clueless, certainly. Tacky? Well, yeah (all that kind of “prospecting” seems tacky to me), but not necessarily malicious. If you only have three cousins, well, that’s another story.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: