Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Death Be Not Proud: Indiana Casket Company Lays Off 100, May Shut Down

The continuing effects if the Great Recession are being felt in all industries as financially strapped consumers cut back spending. And now there is evidence that it is even following people right into their graves. Here's a local Indiana television station with the gory details:
The Batesville Casket Company is cutting 100 jobs, its entire second shift, starting in March.

FOX19 spoke with two employees facing pink slips who wanted to remain anonymous but say they were expecting the move.

"We all knew this day was coming we just didn't think it was coming this soon," says a 13-year veteran utility worker.
This story actually fascinated me because it has a bunch of different aspects to it beyond just the usual sad tale of people being laid off. First up, the corporate FlackSpeak:
The company explained the cuts, "As part of our continuous process of maximizing production capabilities to meet the needs of our customers."
So exactly how do you "meet the needs" of dead people, anyway? I'm just curious.

Sorry, I'm being a smart ass again. Bad habit of mine. Please continue:
"As longstanding members of the Batesville community, we continue to make investments in our manufacturing facilities and in innovative, growth-oriented products and services that give families more ways to honor their loved ones."
There they go again with the up is down, black is white, left is right and day is night bullshit. No, fuckheads, you are cutting production, which obviously means there will be fewer ways for families to "honor their loved ones."

But beyond that nonsense is the story of a community facing severe hard times:
"It's hard, I don't know what I'm going to do, there's not a lot of jobs in this area," she says.

The cuts, she says, already has people talking about shutting down the entire plant, a move that could severely impact the entire town.

"It is what makes Batesville, if Batesville Casket were to shut down it would be a ghost town," she says.
Must. Not. Laugh. At. Unintentional. Pun.

The biggest problem here, of course, is that caskets these days cost too damn much money. I just did a quick Google search and found a casket price list where you can procure a box for your dearly departed for anywhere between $1,200 and $6,000. When you include the cost of the funeral service itself, the preparation of the corpse and the cemetery fees, that quickly adds up to being beyond the means of the average family. Back when times were good, people were willing to pay such a (ahem) stiff price because of the emotional blackmail used on them by the funeral home industry to sell its products. But when people are broke, those kinds of appeals become less effective.

I've joked around with my wife that should I pass on before she does she can just put my body out with the trash. I mean, I'm dead, so what do I give shit about my empty vessel being buried in some hole under a stupid headstone? I'd much rather be cremated and have my ashes spread in some field where they could help fertilize the crops, or something. As the Rodney Dangerfield line from Caddyshack so memorably stated it, "cemeteries and golf courses are the two biggest wastes of prime real estate."

Face it folks, the mortuary business is yet another unnecessary luxury in the era of peak oil-induced economic contraction--just another economic (ahem) zombie where the body hasn't stopped twitching yet.

Bonus: A beautiful noise the dead will never hear


  1. My hope is with each new piece of evidence, more people will begin to see clearly the bigger picture of permanent economic contraction across countless industries. And with that awareness, they will make personal plans that enable them to live intelligently going forward.

    Even in the permanent economic contraction of the industrial, non-renewable resource based economy, there is room for meaningful living.

    It just isn't going to be cushy like many fortunate people in the USA have experienced for the past half a century.

  2. This is a fascinating story, one that warrants further digging (er, investigation). People just don't stop dying because they can't afford it. Our culture has so thoroughly bought into the model developed by the funeral industry that people will go into debt to "properly honor" their loved ones with the big, expensive send-off. And most state laws are really restrictive in giving people options (guess who lobbied for those laws?).

    I can't believe there are now so many people going out to Home Depot for a sheet of plywood and some nails to make their own casket that Batesville has to shut down an entire shift of workers.

    So what is it? Must be something big. More people renting caskets and then going to cremation? Suddenly more competition from rival casket makers? Letting the state take on the expense by not picking up the bodies from the hospital or morgue? Is Batesville selling more of their low-end models with lower profit margins?

    Seems like casket-making was one of those businesses that are always in demand, like beer-making.

  3. *start excerpt*
    Batesville Casket already had enough to worry about, with rising cremation rates creating flat sales for its core products.

    But it can’t ignore another nagging trend: Imports from China make up a rapidly growing portion of the U.S. industry.
    *end excerpt*

    More at

    This article is a few years old, but I'm sure the trends have, if anything, accelerated.

    It just shows you that all manufacturing in this country (and even in Mexico) must compete with Chinese imports. That will continue to be the case until 1) the Chinese standard of living matches that of the US and/or 2) it costs too much to ship products around the world (just a matter of time).

  4. Just throw me in a hole in the ground with a blanket over me and a rock with my initials carved in it on top. Wanna honor me? Say some nice words, don't put me in a shiny mahogany box.

  5. I intend to go out like that Brad Pitt charachter in Legends of the Fall... fighting a big ole bear with a knife.

    Anything else is just damn unnatural.

  6. Used to see their trucks all the time around here in Illinois. Sad, but I to would not pay for an expensive funeral. I will opt out for cremation. After they have removed all good vital organs from my body to be used by somebody else. Then they can cremate me and put in an urn. Cobalt blue please.

  7. I say that your blog is awesome! Happy New Year!

  8. My late father, ever the practical engineer, insisted that he be cremated and not we not have any elaborate funeral. A service in the backyard was as much as he'd allow because of the wasted expense of the whole process. If there'd been a way we could have done the cremation at home I suspect he'd want that instead. We paid like $700 to get a bag of ashes (he didn't want an overpriced urn either) and to have the government legalities handled. He's in the backyard now with his garden. Probably strictly violates some stupid law (great fertilizer, dad is).

  9. I know this post is late but jobs in this area (Batesville) are still non-existent. The company had been doing overtime after the closing of second shift. They are running 10 hrs a day most of the time. A lot of good, hard working people lost their jobs at no fault of their own and are now having a hard time finding new employment. As far as the "importing" caskets from China, the hardware on the caskets are from China. They sent some work to Mexico and other work to Tennessee. The only thing this company has been worried about since it was taken over by "a board of directors" instead of being family ran, in money. HR and upper management do not like "associates" that have an opinion or a brain. If you can be a robot and let them tell you how, when, and what to think--you are fine. I would not buy a Batesville Casket for any family member, go with Aurora or Genesis. Cremation is not hurting the business, we make cremation caskets also.

  10. This is a sad day in the world of casket companies, as if it wasn't already a sad trade.