maybe i should sell caskets??? thats where the money is????

Tucson man creating affordable caskets

Scott Simonson Arizona Daily Star Apr. 9, 2006 12:00 AM

TUCSON - Norman Ginther's business began with a flash of insight during the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

It was April 2005, and as Ginther watched the pope's funeral on television, he noticed that the pope's casket appeared to be an unadorned, wooden box.

"I thought, 'That's terrific,' " Ginther said. When he discovered that inexpensive, wooden coffins were hard to find in Tucson, he decided to make them himself.

Last June, Ginther started Kiva LLC to make and sell affordable wooden caskets.

Ginther's business joins an array of options to buying a metal casket from a funeral home, usually at a cost of thousands of dollars.

These third-party casket sellers - which include corporate giants like Costco and Internet businesses - have changed how funeral homes do business, said Al Asta, president of the Arizona Funeral Directors Association.

Consumers who want to save on caskets have more information and options, he said, which has caused many funeral homes to charge less for their caskets and more for other services.

The average price of a metal casket exceeds $2,000, with some models costing more than $10,000, according to statistics from the Federal Trade Commission.

Ginther's caskets sell for less than $1,000.

Ginther said his wooden caskets have been receiving attention from people looking for a less ostentatious, more environmentally friendly, less expensive alternative to metal caskets.

"I've been getting a good response. I think people have been happy with the choice," Ginther said. "There's no reason to bankrupt families over the burial of a loved one."

The typical American funeral runs about $6,000 according to the Federal Trade Commission.

Ginther is trying to establish his caskets as a low-priced alternative. Before entering the casket business, Ginther worked as a software engineer. Woodworking served as a hobby for about 30 years. He said he also knew he wanted to do work that offered some professional independence.

"I can't do battle against Intel in the computer business, and I can't do battle against Microsoft," he said, "so I had to set my sights differently."

Ginther said he started researching the costs for caskets, and was dismayed by what he found.

Consumers usually buy one of the first three casket models that they are shown, so it's in the interest of casket sellers to show high-price models, the FTC warns.

Ginther said he believes that too many casket sellers are trying to fleece consumers who are grief-stricken and vulnerable.

Ginther said that he was initially reluctant to introduce himself to strangers as a coffin-builder.

"I used to say, 'I build boxes,' " Ginther said. He found that many people are curious about caskets. Now, he tells people he builds caskets.

"They say, 'Well, that's an interesting idea.' "

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