Free Pre-Paid Cremation! (And Other Bullshit Offers That Arrive in the Mail)

“ Free Pre-Paid Cremation! Details Inside”

Purveyors of direct mail have many different ways to get you to open junk mail. The most common tactic is to create a sense of urgency. The actual verbiage can vary but the undertone is this: Open this fucking letter or you might die. Many also allude to a free offer lurking inside the envelope. I thought I had seen everything until I got a letter, addressed to my father as a woman, Ms. Carmen Seminara, from the Neptune Cremation Services Company offering a Free Pre-Paid Cremation! on the lower left corner of the envelope.

When you live the kind of nomadic life I’ve lived, moving nearly every year and using your parents’ address to collect mail for spells of travel in between, your direct mail identity is altered forever. My parents get junk mail addressed to me and I get plenty intended for them. My dad is 82 and he gets a lot of offers from funeral homes and cremation parlors. Shouldn’t there be a law against this? How depressing must it be to reach a stage of life where one is courted so vigorously and brazenly by a death industry that just can’t wait for us to croak?

I opened the letter because I wanted to know and why a company would offer free cremation services. Mind you, it didn’t say “win a free cremation” on the envelope, it said, “ Free Pre-Paid Cremation! Details inside.” I was curious about the free cremation, yes, but also flummoxed by the inclusion of the phrase “pre-paid.” If something is free, what is there to pre-pay? And wouldn’t any cremation service being rendered to a dead person, by its very nature have to be pre-paid? You couldn’t very well bill someone in the hereafter, would you?

I opened the letter, and discovered that you have to enter a sweepstakes to win the goddamn free cremation. And in order to enter the cremation sweepstakes, you have to give the parasites at Neptune Cremation your phone number. Why? Oh, just read the double asterisk. It says, “We must have your phone number to determine which plan fits your family’s needs.” Plan? Are there different ways to be cremated? Is it like grinding coffee beans, where you can decide how finely you’d like to be ground up?

The note claims that last month’s winner was someone named Elmer Hillstrom.  If such a person exists, and he truly did win the right to be cremated free of charge, don’t you bet that old Uncle Elmer just can’t wait to die as soon as possible?

The accompanying letter is even more fun. There are 8 sentences and 4 of them (4 of them!) end in exclamation points. Folks are finding that a meaningful service can be held without the need for a fancy and expensive funeral home! If you are not interested in spending your family’s inheritance on embalming, caskets, vaults, markers, fancy funeral homes or cemetery property, then we have the answer!

I love this last sentiment. Let me translate it for you. You want to buried in the ground? Man, you are one selfish motherfucker!

The letter concludes with an ominous postscript and a smarmy disclaimer/apology. P.S. Sometimes deaths happen before you have had a chance to put plans in place. Neptune stands ready to assist at a moments notice should you need immediate help.

What they mean here is: you will probably die tomorrow, if not sooner, so act now. And then beneath their phone number, there is this: Please accept our apologies if this letter has reached you at a time of serious illness or death in your family. This means: We are so, so sorry if our letter has reached you at exactlythe right time .