A few weeks back Walmart quietly added a new product to their website - caskets. That's right, I said caskets -- as in where dead people sleep. I know that all things vampire are the hottest thing these days (Twilight, True Blood) but with Walmart now involved I think we can declare that death has officially jumped the shark.
So why would Walmart.com enter a space that's traditionally been left to funeral homes and the Adam's family? I suspect one of two things has happened. Either Walmart did a marketing study and found that the Goth community is terribly underserved or they realized that death was the one stage of life that they had yet to monetize. After all, not everyone registers for a wedding or needs a garden hose, but everyone dies. A product becomes hard to resist when everyone needs it at some point.
To be fair, Walmart is following Costco.com's lead on this. Costco.com added caskets to their product list two years ago. More recently Costco started featuring caskets in store. I don't know about you, but nothing gets me in the mood to buy a 160 oz jar of mayo like a nice coffin.
Never to be undersold or outdone, Walmart had no choice but to get in the game. Is there really anything wrong with America's biggest discount retailers dealing in death? I suppose not. After all, if the product is defective or the materials are asbestos laden your customers certainly won't be calling to complain. The only real hiccup is how to offer something so creepy without it appearing to be so, um, creepy.
Seeing as how this is a pretty sensitive marketing issue, I thought I'd check out both sites and do a little comparison shopping. I must say, Walmart.com has come out of the gate strong. They have a larger selection (fourteen coffins to Costco.com's seven) with prices starting at under $1,000. Quite a nice range too, with one model titled (I kid you not) "Executive Privilege" and another adorned with The Pieta and The Last Supper.
As for creepiness, they're both doing a super job. Costco.com's FAQ page asks "Can you order a casket for pre-planning purposes?" (the answer is "yes"), while Walmart.com places their coffins in the "For the Home" section. Maybe they should consider changing their tagline to "Save money. Die better."
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