Peddling fear

Brian Keith South lives in North Highlands and works for the New Careering Institute, Inc.

I felt depressed as I browsed through the Sacramento Bee in search of my dream job. I wanted a meaningful career with limitless income and advancement potential. So I chose mortuary sales. Though I felt suicidal, I believed I could take charge of my life by helping others prepare for their death.

The next day, I met with the slick-talking Texas-twanging manager of a mortuary. He hired me on the spot.

For one week I rehearsed a dry sales script. My co-workers were as lively as a corpse. After a seemingly endless sales meeting, I watched motivational tapes that killed my incentive to sell death products.

Additionally, I had to cold-call strangers to arrange face-to-face meetings to discuss the end of their lives. Every time I picked up the phone, I felt scared to death.

My manager drove me around the rural Sacramento area to meet with the few people I set appointments with over the phone. “Remember,” he said, “you have to plant the seed of urgency in these people. Inform them that even though they will spend 15 to 20 thousand dollars in funeral products, they are saving money in the long run. An unexpected death could bankrupt them.”

For some reason, I sensed that he did not care about these clients. Like a vulture, he feasted on their vulnerabilities and insecurities.

I discovered that mortuary companies were making a killing off grief-stricken clients by selling them outrageously expensive death products. I felt mortified.

Four out of five people I set appointments with over the phone were not home. The one live person I had the pleasure of meeting was a little old lady with Alzheimer’s. She had no recollection of my calling her. Even if she did, I doubt she cared. She was not interested in preparing for her death, because she could not communicate with the living.

Ultimately, I learned that the business of death is designed for the living. The dead always rest in peace, while the living worry themselves to death plotting their funerals.