A recent post by Idle Words blog caught my eye. It’s about the unscrupulous practices of Legacy.com, the back end machinery behind obituary notices in newspapers across the country, including, but not limited to, the venerable NY Times.
Idle Words did a little research (which Boing Boing then posted) to uncover exactly what’s going on with Legacy—because their mode of operation is less than transparent. At issue is how their online guest books work and the deceptive and manipulative way money changes hands in the process. The process is this: you sign the guest book after which you are greeted with a warning that states that the guest book will expire in a little over a month. You can make sure this doesn’t happen by paying $29 to keep it up for a year, or go for the eternity package and pay $79 to keep the guest book alive “in perpetuity.”
While that might seem a bit crass, that’s not really the issue. Through some investigation, Idle Words discovered that creating an online Legacy.com death notice is a less than forthright when it comes to the money. At no time in the process do they tell you what the charges are (from $79). For that, you need to drill down into the small print back at (in this case) the NY Times rate sheet page—outside of the confines of the obituary creation stage. I dare you to even find where the rate sheet info is because I can tell you it’s under deep cover—and I’m a librarian!
Says Idle Words:
[The] site takes money from bereaved people without disclosing what it’s billing them, gambling on the fact that they’re probably too preoccupied to care. Whether or not this kind of thing is legal, it is completely unethical. Even an undertaker who has upsold you on everything from coffin to funeral buffet has to show you a number before you sign on the dotted line.
I applaud Idle Words for looking into Legacy’s practices. Maybe this exposure will shame them into changing their “business model”.