For better or for worse, funerals send out a certain social signal about the life of the person who has recently passed. If a lot of people show up to mourn the dearly departed, that typically means that she was well-loved and respected. But if a person passes and no one shows up to his funeral, that’s sad for an entirely different set of reasons. It probably doesn’t matter to the person in the casket, though — vanity is fleeting in death — but like any rule, there are exceptions. If you want to make sure that people show up to your funeral (and you don’t want to have friends or the like), there’s a solution:You can rent some mourners, at least in the UK.The service is called “Rent a Mourner” — the name doesn’t leave much to the imagination, not that a dead person can imagine anything. Per the company’s website, Rent a Mourners are “typically invited to help increase visitors to funerals where there may be a low turnout expected.” The company notes that this isn’t a service reserved for those who were jerks while still alive — it “can usually be a popularity issue or being new to an area, or indeed, the country.” Rent a Mourner doesn’t care, as long as you (or your estate or whomever is paying your funeral bills) can pay up: the service costs £45 ($70) an hour per mourner hired.
The rent-a-friends aren’t stooges, either. As Business Insider reports, “the mourners-for-hire are briefed on the life of the deceased and would be able to talk to friends and relatives as if they really had known their loved one.” TIME reports that the company promises that the mourners will be “professional, polite, well dressed individuals” as well — one wouldn’t want their fake friends to appear boorish or aloof at one’s real funeral. It’s unclear if tears are guaranteed.
As outlandish as the practice sounds, it’s actually not uncommon in other parts of the world. The Huffington Post reported that “In some African countries, China and Middle Eastern countries it’s tradition to hire professional mourners who come to publicly grieve at funerals. In Ivory Coast, the job is a sought-after career for some women, who can make make up to several hundred dollars per day for their weeping services.” And an article from the New York Times (pdf) dating back to 1877 reported that the practice of hiring “professional weepers” was a custom in China at the time.
For those in the U.S, there isn’t a well-established way to rent funeral-goers — at least not yet. Rent a Mourner’s founder told the press that he’s looking to expand in the UK, and a hop across the pond can’t be long out of the question. After all, there are dead people with $70 and no friends here, too.
From the Archives: Stichting de Eenzame Utvaart: The rent-a-mourners who work for free, and you don’t even have to contact them. They just show up. (The bonus fact is perfect for today’s email but, alas, I already used it.)
Take the Quiz: Mozart or Not Mozart? Can you identify whether the provided songs were composed by Mozart?
Related: “Mortuary Confidential: Undertakers Spill the Dirt,” by Todd Harra and Ken McKenzie. 3.9 stars on 133 reviews.