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Special Money Issue, Scams and how to Avoid them, A Charity Helping to Pay Medical Debts

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
July 30, 2023 4:43 pm

Special Money Issue, Scams and how to Avoid them, A Charity Helping to Pay Medical Debts

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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July 30, 2023 4:43 pm

Jane Pauley hosts our "Money Issue." In our cover story, David Pogue dramatizes how online or phone scams are costing us billions. Also: Mo Rocca looks at ways to cut the glut of meetings; Martha Teichner finds out how a charity is cancelling billions of dollars' worth of Americans' medical debt; Tracy Smith sits down with actress Donna Mills; Lucy Craft explores companies in Japan that are more than a century old; Rita Braver looks at ways retailers are combatting shoplifters; and Luke Burbank checks out online sales of caskets. (Portions of this broadcast originally aired April 16, 2023.)

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C-E-R-E-B-R-A-L dot com slash Wondery. Good morning. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is a special edition of Sunday Morning. It's the money issue.

Our annual look at the many ways money impacts how we work, save, spend, live our lives, and yes, even how we cope with death. And we'll begin in the office conference room where Mo Rocco will take the floor to ask the question, are meetings bad for business? Grab your coffee and hurry.

Everybody's waiting. Meetings where minutes are taken and hours are wasted. When you have a bad meeting, you feel compelled to tell others about the bad meeting. You spread the poison.

It absolutely can negatively affect your productivity. Coming up on Sunday morning, meetings. She made a name for herself as the villain on a primetime soap. Now Donna Mills is getting attention for a business she's growing right in her own backyard. With our Tracy Smith, we'll pay her a visit.

You know, I don't think this stuff is as good for you as they used to think it was. She's someone who isn't afraid to get dirty on screen. You get these gurgles often? You never know. Or at home. Do you pick the grapes? Yeah. The hard part is you have to start at six in the morning.

But you can have wine afterwards, yes? Oh, yeah. And she looks good doing it all. How do you stay healthy and looking the way you do?

Oh, it's hard. The timeless Donna Mills ahead on Sunday morning. Also ahead, David Pogue looks at the epidemic of scams costing consumers billions. Martha Teichner reports on a charity working to stamp paid on America's mounting medical bills. Plus, Luke Burbank on No Frills Funerals.

Lucy Kraft with some made-in-Japan companies that truly have stood the test of time. And more. It's Sunday morning's money issue.

We'll be back in a moment. Throughout the podcast, we explore what makes Michael Jackson seemingly uncancellable. And we dig into the complicated feelings so many of us have when we hear Billie Jean at the grocery store. Through dozens of original interviews with people who watched the story unfold firsthand, think twice as an attempt to reconcile our conflicted emotions about Michael Jackson, the man with our deep-seated love of his art.

Listen to Think Twice, Michael Jackson, wherever you get your podcasts, or you can binge the entire series ad-free on Audible or the Amazon Music app. Casey Shane was murdered in the middle of an August night, shot point blank while idling in his Dodge pickup truck in North Indianapolis. There was no physical evidence, no known motive, and no one coming forward with information. Except one woman, who swears to this day she saw Leon Detroit Benson pull the trigger. Leon Benson was sentenced to 60 years in prison, all because one person swore they saw something. But what if she was wrong?

And what if we could prove it? From Wondery and Campside Media comes season three of the hit podcast Suspect, co-hosted by me, Matt Scher, alongside attorney Lara Bazelon. This is a story of a botched police investigation, the dangers of shaky eyewitness testimony, and a community who feared law enforcement with good reason. Listen to Suspect, five shots in the dark, wherever you get your podcasts, or binge all eight episodes ad-free on Wondery Plus.

Find Wondery Plus in the Wondery app or on Apple Podcasts. It's probably happened to you. You get an email, a phone call, or text that seems like the real thing, only it's a scam. And they're getting ever more sophisticated. If you're smart or lucky, you don't get fooled.

But many of us do, and it's costing billions, as our David Pogue discovered. One evening I got an email. One day last year, Jeff Pliskin opened an email that looked like it came from a good friend of his. He was trying to buy a gift card for his niece, and that his card was being rejected. And could I please make the purchase, and that he would be happy to just completely reimburse me. So I did it, and then he wrote back a little while later saying, unfortunately, I wanted to gift her this so that she could buy a particular item, but this is not enough to buy the item.

Could you do another $200? By the time it was over, Pliskin had bought $600 worth of Amazon gift cards and unwittingly sent them to a scammer online. That was a $600 lesson.

Last year alone, we saw losses in excess of $10.3 billion through over 800,000 complaints. Those are just the ones we heard about. Mike Driscoll is a cybersecurity consultant.

We met him earlier this year when he ran the New York office of the FBI. Is it your impression that scamming is getting more prevalent? Just based on the numbers we're seeing, the calls we're getting on a regular basis, yes, it is. In fact, the amount of money Americans lost to scammers more than doubled during the pandemic. People over age 60 lost the most money of all. Why do you think that is? They've got resources that can be exploited.

It may be that they're more trusting, and there's an element where that population is somewhat less tech savvy than perhaps younger people. There are hundreds of scams. To help you spot the patterns, it's my pleasure to welcome the Sunday morning theatrical players, David Del Grosso and Alicia Spielman. The phishing scam. Here's an email from my bank. There's a problem with your account. It is fake. I sent it. Click here to fix the problem. OK. Now I will log in. It is a fake website.

Now I have her name and password. The tech support scam. This website says there's a problem with my computer. Call this number. Thank you for calling Microsoft tech support.

You have a flux capacitance overflow, ma'am. May I take control of your computer to fix it? Permission granted.

Now I will steal all of her information. The romance scam. I am widowed or divorced, and I am so lonely, I will use this dating app. He is so handsome. My profile is fake. That photo is not me. We talk on the phone.

He is charming and attentive. I have medical and or legal problems. Will you send me money or gift cards?

Of course, my love. And the grandma scam. Hello? Grandma? It's really staticky. Eric, is this you?

Yes, it's Eric. I've been mugged, and I'm overseas, and I need money. Oh, you poor thing. How much do you need? Is the end goal of all of these things you giving money to somebody else? Money or information? And sometimes people discount how much value is in their information, whether it's your personal identifiers or your health care information. So now you know how you can get scammed. Later on Sunday morning, the three golden rules for not getting scammed. Let's meet in the conference room. Words that can strike dread in the hearts of workers everywhere. So are meetings a necessary evil or a waste of time and money?

Let's consult with Muraka. The building of the pyramids, do you think there were a lot of meetings? Can you imagine? Ping, stop building, come to an HR meeting. Like millions of workers, Kasnejachin felt entombed in what seemed like one endless meeting. I was spending nine to five in meetings. I was doing my actual work after five and that just made me worse at home and made me worse the next day at work.

And as chief operating officer at commerce tech giant Shopify, he knew his coders and designers felt the same way. So people who build things, people who create things require focus. So if you're thinking about a problem and you're constantly interrupted, nothing good comes out of it. On average, meetings are taking up nearly half of our work week.

Since the pandemic began, the number of meetings has jumped 153%, according to Microsoft. Who is to blame for the preponderance of bad meetings? Companies started valuing managers over crafters. We started building companies to optimize for people whose job it was to manage other people rather than do anything. Those who can't make something schedule meetings. We need to actually have you prove that you can build something before we give you Google Calendar.

And then I think the world will be better. So in January, Shopify imposed a meeting moratorium, deleting almost all meetings with more than two people and cautioning employees about setting up new meetings, liberating 300,000 hours for this year alone. While we definitely could do with a little fewer meetings in our schedules, for sure, the bigger problem is ineffective meetings. But Steven Rogelberg says the issue is less about the quantity of meetings and more about their quality. But if we do our meetings better, there's lots of positive outcomes that come from it. As a meeting scientist at University of North Carolina at Charlotte, Rogelberg's been studying the causes of bad meetings and their effects. There was a meeting where I work.

I wasn't there for it. But this meeting was so bad that it's already become legendary. I heard from people afterwards about this terrible meeting.

They seemed rattled, maybe even traumatized. Sounds horrible. There's something called meeting recovery syndrome. When you have a bad meeting, it sticks with you. It's not good enough to keep it to yourself.

You've got to tell someone else. I know what you're talking about, like people sort of huddling in the hallways and talking about how horrible it was. I mean, bad meetings, they hurt your productivity, they drain you, they fatigue you. If you're experiencing MRS, it may be due to meeting bloat. That's when more and more people keep getting added to the meeting. Or it could be due to Parkinson's Law. Parkinson's Law is the idea that work expands to fill whatever time is allotted to it. So if a meeting is scheduled for one hour, magically it will take one hour.

But here's the good news. You can prevent meeting recovery syndrome with these tips from Steven Rogelberg. First, ask yourself, do you even have to have this meeting?

Could it instead be an email? As for your agenda, formulate it as questions to be answered rather than bullet points to be delivered. If you're the meeting host, don't do all the talking. In fact, software company Atlassian has a rubber chicken named Helmet.

If someone squeaks it, you've been talking too long. Now let's circle back to Shopify for its innovation in meeting mitigation. This is a regular calendar invite that I just sent out. The meeting cost calculator assigns a price to a meeting based on who's invited and for how long. Cost is $841.

How did you get to that? So it's an estimated cost. What would an average engineer cost? What would an average hour of a designer's time cost?

And add that up and put it down there. Meetings are not just neutral time. They cost money. Yeah, so people ask questions. What is this meeting for? Why are there this many people in it? And those questions will put an immense amount of pressure on organizers to organize fewer meetings and leave the rest of us alone. Okay, that's our heart out.

Now I'm going to give you back the rest of your Sunday. You've heard about it. Maybe you've seen it happen. America, Rita Braver tells us, is in the throes of an epidemic of shoplifting. What are some examples of things that people have shoplifted from this store?

It's luxury handbags, perfume and sunglasses, and also luxury clothing items. Krista Johnson says that over the 13 years she's co-owned EllaRoo, a high-end consignment shop in Washington, D.C., shoplifters have stolen hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of goods. She now keeps her door locked, lending in only one or two shoppers at a time, still last November. These girls stole over $10,000 in handbags, and I chased them into the alleyway, and they dropped the items, and they fled in a getaway car. It's happening everywhere. We've all seen video of dramatic smash and grabs and had to deal with merchandise locked in cabinets to block thieves. There are 224 devices in here. In this whole room? Wow.

Just in this lab alone. Reed Hayes and his team at the Loss Prevention Research Council at the University of Florida are developing even more ways to outsmart shoplifters, helping businesses develop products like this power drill implanted with a chip that must be activated at checkout. This will not function unless you purchase it. Or this locked case that lets you enter your cell phone number. You'll get a quick text that will give you a unique code.

You enter the code, and it will open for you. That is crazy. But most thieves do not want to share their cell phone. Their cell phone, right.

That's right. I could just pop it off. The team actually interviews admitted shoplifters to see what works. Wouldn't mess with this one. Why not this one?

Because those are hard to come off. And Reed Hayes says his best estimate is that $20 to $30 billion worth of merchandise is shoplifted from U.S. retailers each year. It's probably like measuring the wind right now, because most retailers don't apprehend or detain people that are stealing from them.

It can be very dangerous to the employees, of course, and it can be dangerous to customers. Right now, we're in a home improvement store. But this virtual reality setup shows that just a few simple additions can deter shoplifters. As you can see, an area of high-loss items, gloves. A monitor. Right.

That's right. A monitor in there. And then to further draw attention, we can add in some signage in here. Some shoplifters work alone, while others, like the ones who swarmed into this shop in East Hampton, New York, belong to gangs. It's known as ORC, organized retail crime. It goes from a very local level to the international level, where you have organized retail crime rings that are stealing large quantities of product. And while some of the stolen product is fenced locally, research scientist Corey Lowe says other items actually end up online. In some cases, you'll actually see that they leave the EAS tags or the security tags on the stuff that they're taking pictures of. And that's a really good sign that it's stolen. As the thieves get more sophisticated, so do the retailers, especially trying to foil smash-and-grab gangs. So if a vehicle comes in here and they commit a crime, we now have information about their vehicle, make, model, color, damage, customization, their tag number and state. If something suspicious looks like it's going on, will these machines alert personnel in the stores?

They will. And while retailers say customers should not intervene, this Walmart shopper was clearly fed up. You've just jacked up the price for everybody else because of you. Medical bills are one of the leading causes of debt in this country, a burden that can sometimes be devastating. Martha Teichner has word of a unique charity starting to make a dent in all that debt. RIP medical debt, that sounds like a scam. Natasha Pemsel, a preschool teacher and mother of four living in Covington, Georgia, received her letter in October 2021. We're sending this letter to you to share the good news. It sounded too good to be true. The $1,500 medical debt for her son Michael's emergency room visit way back in 2011 suddenly erased. It said abolished.

I said abolished. Okay, I know what that means. But this was no scam. I just kept picking up the letter and reading it over and over again. Like, this is amazing. How amazing? Since 2014, RIP medical debt has abolished more than $9.5 billion worth of medical bills for more than 6 million American families. How it came to exist is the story of a massive change of heart that began here of all places, in New York City's Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protests of 2011.

I have never experienced so much energy in my life. Jerry Ashton and a friend, both of them executives in the debt collection business, dropped in on the protesters. The experience upended their lives. When they discovered that there were bill collectors in Occupy Wall Street, they came to me and Craig Antico and said, could you help us go to the debt market and buy that debt so that we can forgive it and publicize it? In 2014, Ashton and Antico turned the concept into RIP Medical Debt, a charity that buys up delinquent medical debt at pennies on the dollar, just as debt collectors do, meaning even small donations have a big impact. We take $1 and turn it into at least $100 of medical debt relief by acting like a for-profit debt buyer.

Allison Sesso is president and CEO of RIP Medical Debt. Once we get our hands on those debts, we identify people that are 400% of poverty or if the debt is 5% or more of someone's income. As it happens, Natasha Pemsell's $1,500 debt is just about the average amount that RIP relieves.

You'd be surprised. It's not large amounts of money oftentimes that people are struggling under. Sometimes the debts we relieve are $500, $1,000, $2,000. One in every five households does have some medical debt in the U.S.

Yes, one in five. Dr. Steffie Woolhandler is a professor of public health at New York's Hunter College, who has studied medical debt. How big a factor is medical debt in bankruptcies in this country? Well, medical illness and medical bills contribute to the majority of all U.S. bankruptcies. Just how much medical debt is out there?

Prepare to be shocked. $80 to $120 billion. In any given year?

Yeah, at this moment. Compared with the $9.5 billion of medical debt, RIP has abolished. RIP is not the solution.

RIP is a charity that sweeps up after the parade. The health care system is producing more people with unpayable debt than we can even handle. It is disheartening when you work and you contribute to society, and you pay your taxes, and you're a law-abiding citizen, and then if something happens to you or your children, it's earth-shattering. For Natasha Pemsell, though, what RIP medical debt has been able to achieve is a kind of miracle. It makes anyone who is doubting, is there any good in the world still? It gives you hope that there is good somewhere. Most of today's online scams originate in organized call centers in India, which are beyond the FBI's jurisdiction.

Thank you for calling support. But this man has found a new way to fight them. I keep getting messages on the computer. He goes by the pseudonym Kitboga. I try to bring some entertainment to an otherwise dark world. In his videos, he spends hours talking to the scammers. Okay, yeah, I'll let you take care of it since you're the expert. My job is to waste as much time as possible with scammers on the phone so they're not on the phone with somebody else and then hopefully educate people about how the scam works.

It says certified tech created the directory. You see that? To fool the scammers, he uses a voice-changing device. It'll sound something a little bit like this. Hi, sweetheart, how are you? Sometimes I try to do maybe some sort of... I don't even know what kind of accent this is, if I'm going to be honest.

I don't really know. Half the time I just wing it and try to have fun. Remember that God is patient too.

His goal is to drag the scammers off of their prepared scripts. Sometimes I say something like, What do you want your kids to be when they grow up? I bet they want to be just like you. And you can hear the voices breaking.

No, I don't want them to be like me. I want to come out from the dark, but I cannot. But he's not the only soldier in the scammer wars who's using fake voices. Remember the grandma scam? I've been mugged and I'm overseas and I need money. Nowadays, an enterprising scammer can create an AI voice clone of your grandson using an app like this. The better to fool you with.

Grandma, it's me, David. I've been mugged and I need money. But according to former FBI Assistant Director Mike Driscoll, even the most sophisticated scam can't work without your cooperation. There's a term we use when we talk about security in general, physical security, and it's called hardening the target, where you put up gates, you put up locks, you secure the location. You can make yourself a hard target by being smart about what these scams are.

So how do you harden your target? Three rules. First, hit pause. There's always this sense of urgency, and if you don't do this now, you're not going to get that $300 refunded. If you don't do this now, you're going to go to prison or whatever it is. You can say, like, all right, give me the reference number, but I'm going to talk to a professional.

I'm going to get a second opinion. Rule number two, every scam begins with scammers contacting you by phone or text message or email or a website pop-up. So ignore or hang up and contact the real organization yourself.

You're not going to get a call from Google that says, hey, we need to fix your system. Don't take that call, don't take that email. Whatever that organization is, reach out directly to them and verify that. Let's say I get an email from Amazon that says there's a problem with your order. Click here. Don't click on it.

Go directly to Amazon and enter your information there. And rule number three, report the scam right away. Our ability to get those funds back is very, very limited by time. We have to act very quickly, so reach out immediately.

They will freeze what they need to freeze and protect you as much as they can. Those guidelines could have saved scam victim Jeff Pliskin the money he lost last year. Well, I think you're kind of noble to admit that this happened to you.

It's embarrassing, but, you know, maybe somebody will see this and say, oh, this is a good thing to watch out for. On television, Donna Mills stole hearts and husbands on the hit 80s show, Notts Landing, right here on CBS. She's now an award-winning vintner and having a very good year.

Tracey Smith has our Sunday profile. The hills above Los Angeles aren't exactly what you'd call wine country, but from the air, you can see rows of grapes growing smack in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Welcome to Mandeville Vineyards, also known as Donna Mills Backyard. What kind of grapes grow here?

These are Cabernets. This crop will become another vintage of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon under the Mandeville Vineyards label, a project she started 10 years ago with longtime partner Larry Gilman. We say we're farmers, you know, and to be a farmer is kind of fun. Watch things grow?

Yeah, yeah, I love it. And it seems Donna Mills has a knack for making things grow. From the twisted mind of V.C. Andrews.

The long lost eutremia. At the moment, she's co-starring in the Lifetime series based on V.C. Andrews' Dawn, playing a grandmother with a mile long mean streak. I can't say I'm surprised to find you in your current condition.

I assume you know who the father is. This character, Lillian, is probably the evilest I've ever been. How does that feel? Good. I know.

It's so much fun to play the evil character, it really is. Did you expect to be treated like some long lost princess? Hard to imagine that she's really just a nice Midwestern girl. Born and raised in Chicago, Donna Mills dreamed of being a dancer, but found success on the stage and in soap operas like The Secret Storm.

This is The Secret Storm. And love is a many-splendored thing. Of course any woman would be proud to have a husband who wanted a life like that. She'd feel safe and she'd know that her children would have the best possible future, but I can't see that woman, John. She also did guest shots on primetime shows. With guest stars, Donna Mills.

Including the short-lived cop series, Dan August, with Burt Reynolds. Hi. Oh, hi. I was glad you called. I've been wanting to talk to you. And I did it.

It was great. And I get a phone call from my agent saying, uh, you got this movie with Clint Eastwood. I'm like, how did I do that? I never met him. I said, well, he ran into Burt in a bar one night and said, I'm looking for a girl for this movie I'm doing.

I can't find anybody I like. Burt said, I just worked with this girl from New York. Careful. Careful.

I might put your eye out. Her performance in 1971's Play Misty for Me was well received, but afterwards she found herself typecast as a damsel in distress. God, you're dumb. Frustrated, she found a role that would make her one of the best-known villains on network TV. When I took Knotts, when I got it, I'd never watched it. I thought it was a show about a houseboat with Andy Griffith. I swear to you, I did. Like Don Knotts Landing?

Well, Knotts Landing, I thought it was like a boat kind of thing. Her turn as the ruthless, husband-stealing Abby Cunningham Well, who is this? made her famous I'm not coming between you two, am I?

and infamous. Even if something did happen, it wouldn't be the end of the world, would it? I mean, men say that to me all the time. There was a time when people that I would meet at a party or whatever, like the woman would be like, hello, and kind of pull her husband away.

Don't steal my husband. Knotts Landing was a major hit for CBS, and Mills says playing Abby gave her a certain confidence, which was not always perceived as a good thing. You know, a confident man is like everybody thinks that's great. You know, a confident woman is sometimes a bitch. Did you run across that?

Yeah, been called that more than once. Off screen, she remained happily unmarried, but she sensed something was missing. I had had a hit series. I had my own production company. I was doing all this stuff, and I said to myself, well, this is great. I've achieved almost everything that I've wanted to in my career. What about my life?

How does that look to me? And I thought, do I want to go through life without knowing what it's like to be a mother, which is the most important thing in the world? No, I want that in my life. And by that time, it was kind of past the time when I was going to be able to have a baby, so I thought, I'll adopt. And that's probably what I feel is my greatest joy. In 1994, Donna Mills, 54 and single, adopted a daughter and named her Chloe. Do you remember that moment when you saw Chloe for the first time?

Oh, yeah, yeah. Probably the best moment of my entire life when she was put in my arms. She was four days old, and there she was. Those were my happiest times in my life, sitting in the rocking chair with her on my chest, singing to her. Mills says she knew early on that she wanted to be a full-time mom, but she put her career on hold for 18 years and raised Chloe from an infant to a schoolgirl to an accomplished young woman. And when Chloe left for college, Mama said it was time to go back to work.

You know, it's going to be kind of a struggle to get back, you know, because the casting directors are 12 and they don't know who I am, and it was a bit of a struggle. Power. Privilege. They persevere. Scheming. Secrets.

Fair warning, poor Charles. Nobody does it like Donna Mills. A guest role on General Hospital got her an Emmy. I know.

It's so weird. I'm so thrilled and grateful that I won an Emmy, but I don't at all feel I did my best work on that show. I think maybe the Emmy was kind of maybe for other work.

One of those things. She deserves it this time around, so we're going to give it to her, really? Yes, that's the way I feel. I don't know for sure. Here she is, everybody.

Take a look at all of that. Still, she was back. Your name is O.J.?

Even making an appearance last year in Jordan Peele's acclaimed horror film, Nope!, playing what else? Well, I'm ready to do one. A star. You are 82?

Mm-hmm. How do you look like this? How do you stay healthy and looking the way you do? Oh, it's hard. It takes me hours to get ready.

Do you have aches and pains? Oh, God, yes. You just have to get past that. You just have to say, I'm going to do it anyway. The hard part is that you know it's the last chapter, and I don't want to go away. So I'm hanging on as long as I can and trying to be as much as I can be for as long as I can be. Do not tolerate insolence. We have this extended life cycle now.

Let's make the last part of it one of the best. No retirement, clearly. Oh, God, no. No. Well, I figure they have to have somebody to play the grandmother.

I'm available for those things. It's brought new life to an industry you might describe as Moribund, an online casket company complete with a sense of humor. With Luke Burbank, we pay our respects.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my dad. Christo Ayub was the kind of person who believed his treasures were stored in heaven. His main concern was to just bring light to people that were not aware of God. But that also meant, according to his daughter, Carol Safare, that here on Earth in Orange, California, finances were tight when it came time for Christo's funeral. So she turned to the place many people do to try to find a deal. Did anybody in your family initially think that you had lost your mind when you said, I found a casket on the internet and it's more affordable? Did they think, oh, wait, Carol's losing it?

Yeah, a little bit. Facing mounting costs, Carol learned she didn't have to buy the casket from the funeral home. Did you even know that was an option?

No, I asked because the price was so, you know, outrageous. You can only save in so many areas, so you just have to cut corners where you can. And her search for savings led her to Josh and Liz Siegel's company, Titan Caskets. There are two large casket manufacturers that control 85% of production, and they only sell to funeral homes. And when a family walks into a funeral home, they're often not shopping around.

They don't know what things should cost. So those dynamics over time have meant that there's massive markups on caskets. I have a casket company.

Yeah, they're sitting in your dining room. The Siegel's are looking to, as they say, disrupt the casket industry and they want to see all the different features and they love the red color. By changing how people buy them and what they pay. The average American funeral costs about $10,000. The average casket more than $2,000. Titan Caskets average around $1,000. We see ourselves more as providing a service and education for people who contact us. We want everybody ultimately to feel like they have had a choice. You have to buy a casket from a funeral home?

The answer is no. And that choice is largely due to an obscure Federal Trade Commission ruling from 1984 called the Funeral Rule, which says basically that funeral homes must provide customers with a list of prices for their services and allow them to buy a casket from wherever they choose, including, these days, from Amazon. This right here is our Coppa Orion Series casket.

Where Titan co-founder Scott Ginsburg got his start. As technology has changed, this industry hasn't changed in over 100 years, why not? But is the real difference, you're just not marking these up as much? That's correct.

We're not marking them up and we still have a great company and we're not taking advantage of the consumer. We're asked all the time how strong a Titan casket box is. Let me show you. I can sit on it.

I can even lay on it. Titan says they now sell thousands of caskets a year, correct to consumers. But even with that success, they may be trying to grow in an industry that, pardon the pun, is dying. Cremation right now is the dominant method of disposing of a dead human body in the United States. Almost 60% of people are cremated and not all those people need a casket. Caitlin Doughty is a mortician and writer who says Americans should really reconsider the funeral. And so when you take away the embalming and you take away the casket, it's kind of like, what is the role of the funeral director? She says the sooner we get comfortable talking about death and dying, the better the decisions we'll be able to make.

I absolutely think what Titan is doing to offer lower prices is important because everybody should be able to make really informed choices. So this is my mom and my dad. And Carol Spher would agree. She says an informed choice and a little internet clicking helped her honor her beloved dad.

It is really the only casket that suited him, so I believe he would be happy with that. More than half of the world's oldest companies are concentrated in a single country, Japan. And some 50,000 of those companies are more than a century old.

Lucy Kraft on the secrets of aging well. There are old hotels and then there's Hoshi in central Japan. Its ads say, thanks for 1,300 years of business. They've been serving customers since 718.

To put that in perspective, that's 500 years before the Renaissance, 700 years before Columbus set sail, and 1,000 years before George Washington slept, well, anywhere. Hoshi isn't just one of the granddaddies of hotels. It's one of the oldest businesses in the world. Typical of Japan's superannuated firms, Hoshi is a family business. And for Zengoro Hoshi, 46th in line from the founder, it's almost a sacred trust. Transmitting the culture and the civilization of the past is one of our roles. The inn and its hot springs once drew princes, warriors, and monks. Hoshi still embraces the Zen spirit, animating Japan's famed reputation for hospitality.

If you think of each guest as a once-in-a-lifetime encounter, you are able to offer the best service. Only a few companies here date back one millennium, but Japan boasts tens of thousands of companies at least one century old. Centennial companies range from modest eateries to multinationals like Kikoman Soy Sauce, Shiseido Cosmetics, and Nintendo, originally a playing card company founded in 1889. Japan University of Economics professor Toshio Goto tracks shinisei, or superannuated businesses.

Customers, citizens pay respect to those companies because of not only a long history, but also the high quality of the product they are serving. So in Japanese, shinisei has such kind of special meaning. So when you call a company a shinisei, it's almost like a seal of approval.

Exactly, exactly. Wreathed by ancient trees, Sudo Honkei is believed to be Japan's oldest sake maker. Gen Uemon Sudo, 55th descendant of the founder who began the company in 1141, said conservation is baked into his company's DNA. Our ancestors taught us never ever cut down the trees. The best water for making sake comes from a natural, unspoiled environment.

While perfecting their unpasteurized rice wine, the Sudo family cooked up a formula for super longevity. Of course we could go for short-term gains or chase fast, but pursuing big profits can only lead to ruin. It does nothing to cultivate a long-term market for quality.

The ancient capital of Nara is home to national treasures, Buddhist heritage, and sacred deer who roam the city with impunity. It's also home to a retailer founded before America's Declaration of Independence. Nakagawa Masashichi opened in 1716 as a hemp cloth dealer. Planner Natsumi Sato said the firm has continually pivoted through setbacks.

When demand dried up for mosquito nets, the durable fabric was revived to make a new bestseller, fast-drying dish towels. With Japan's traditional handicrafts industry in severe distress, skilled artisans down by 80% in recent decades, the company now works hand-in-hand with craftsmakers, commissioning modern designs and offering business advice. Old companies here are on the rise. For them, focusing on their communities, customers and employees, not shareholders, is the secret to longevity. Thank you for listening.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-30 18:15:51 / 2023-07-30 18:32:31 / 17

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