Customers Described As ‘Gazelles’ By UK Funeral Firm, Claim Whistleblowers: Guardian

Elderly people in the United Kingdom have been subjected to dozens of calls a week made to sell expensive funeral packages by employees at a call centre which describes customers are “gazelles” meant to be hunted, claimed a report published by the Guardian.

According to the report quoting whistle blowing former employees at Prosperous Life that is into the funeral business and sells more than 1,000 pre-paid funeral plans every month, the company had forced them into pushing the elderly as well as others to accept and purchase schemes of the company that are way beyond the financial means of the targeted people customers. The corporate culture in the company was inspired by the movie ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ which put immense pressure on the staff to sell the plans.

Funeral companies “must not pressurise potential customers to buy funeral plans” states the code of conduct of UK Funeral Planning Authority. The Prosperous Life does not subscribe to this code of conduct. However the Guardian report stated that a number of former employees of the company were put under intense pressure to push sell such funeral schemes to even the elderly without adequate income means to finance the schemes.

While dismissing the claims, Prosperous Life told the Guardian its schemes strictly conformed to the minimum income levels as prescribed. The company refunded in full to those customers who later changed their minds of purchasing the schemes, Prosperous Life said.

The company says that it takes pride on “reputation and expertise” and calls itself to be one of the leading funeral service providers in the UK.

However the Guardian report claimed that the those whistleblower former employees who worked for the firm  till earlier this year claimed: “Staff were instructed to suggest that low-income customers who said they could not afford deposits for the £4,000 packages should split their payments over several weeks – even if they had to use a credit card to do so.”

They said that the management and staff referred to themselves as “lions” while calling the potential clients to be “gazelles” which was a result of an aggressive sales culture.

A life-sized cardboard cutout of Leonardo DiCaprio as the disgraced fraudster Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street movie was placed in the office.

The company forced its employees top make dozens of calls to households even after they had clearly expressed that they were not at all interested in the offer before hanging up. One of the customers claimed that the company had made 57 calls in a week from the company.

The calls are made by the staff of the company primarily from its single call centre in Cheadle Hulme, near Stockport, in Greater Manchester and there are more than 100 employees in the company.

The cost of funeral schemes of the company range between £3,595 and £4,195 and the company also offers the opportunity to the customers to pay in monthly installments spread over a number of years before their death.

(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)

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