Essex, England – Want to pad your funeral with weepy guests? A new service, aptly titled “Rent-a-Mourner,” will help you out, guaranteeing no shortage of saddened actors at your wake.
The Essex-based service provides fake mourners for £45 an hour, rented to cry throughout a funeral service in order to give the impression that the deceased was really popular in life. Ian Robertson, Rent-a-Mourner’s founder, admits that the idea is a bit quirky but cites success of similar initiatives in Asia as his inspiration for payrolled guests in attendance at funeral services.
Here’s how it works: The paid mourners are briefed on the life of the deceased, so that they’d be able to talk to friends and relatives as if they had really known their dead loved one. Rent-a-Mourner boasts a modest staff of about 20, who are Robertson’s own friends instead of professional actors.
He says they’re not required to bring on the water-works, just to pad out funeral attendance for paying customers.
“We were actually inspired by the market growth in China,” Robertson said. “The Middle Eastern way is to provide wailers – crying women – as opposed to the quiet, dignified methods we use.
“Our staff will meet with the client beforehand and agree ‘the story’, so our staff will either have known the deceased professionally or socially. They will be informed of the deceased’s background, achievements, failures etc. so they can converse with other mourners with confidence.”
Robertson started Rent-a-Mourner last year, and said that he has had 52 bookings since last January. “It is growing in the UK – our bookings are up 50 per cent year on year,” he said.
He plans on expanding his company after having to turn down more than 60 requests due to lack of infrastructure or distance.
One consumer expert researched the trend, and believes that Britain is experiencing a “cultural shift” when it comes to mourning the dead.
“Hiring a stranger to weep at a funeral may seem strange, but it’s a deep-seated tradition in the East,” expert Jasmine Birtles said. “It’s still a niche market at the moment but demand for professional mourners is increasing year on year as more people from East Asian and Middle Eastern countries move to the UK, bringing their customs with them.
“The rise in popularity shows a cultural shift taking place in how we choose to pay our last respects and like with many other cultural imports, it’s only a matter of time before it crosses over into mainstream culture.
“At the moment it’s not the sort of thing most people can treat as a career, but if it continues to increase in popularity then crying on demand could soon become a highly-prized skill.”
What do you think of Rent-a-Mourner? Do you think it’s a good idea, or is it a bit tasteless?