British mourners are renting “professional sobbers” to blub at funerals to make people believe the deceased was really popular.
For £45 an hour, the fake mourners can be rented to cry for the duration of a funeral service in order to swell the numbers at funerals.
Ian Robertson, the founder of Rent-a-Mourner, in Braintree, Essex, admits the idea may be unfamiliar to the British, although the phenomenon is popular in places such as Asia.
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.
Rent-a-Mourner has 20 staff on its books to hire out for funerals, which Mr Robertson said were friends of his rather than professional actors.
He added that they are not required to well up, but are mainly there just to make up the numbers.
“We were actually inspired by the market growth in China,” said Mr Robertson.
“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.”
Mr Robertson set up Rent-a-Mourner in January last year, and said he has had 52 bookings since the company began, with 15 in the first six months.
“It is growing in the UK – our bookings are up 50 per cent year on year,” he said.
He added that his biggest source of his bookings were for funerals in Hull, and has sent staff to 12 funerals there, adding that he could not explain why that area showed the biggest demand.
The company also has plans to expand, after having to turn down more than 60 requests because the funerals were too far away for the fake mourners to get to.
Consumer expert Jasmine Birtles, who conducted the research, believes multi-cultural Britain is experiencing a “cultural shift in the way its mourners say their final farewell.
Birtles, the founder of personal finance site MoneyMagpie.com, said: “Hiring a stranger to weep at a funeral may seem strange, but it’s a deep-seated tradition in the East.
“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.”
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