David Perlman is what the funeral industry calls a "pre-need salesman."
That euphemism may obscure Perlman's work selling something all of us will need someday—burial plots, cemetery furniture and funeral services.
Perlman's 18-year career in the death trade ended Jan. 13 when the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board canceled his registration and slapped him with a $13,000 fine for "fraudulent and dishonest conduct."
The board's file shows that Perlman's treatment of customers—who are often either aged or in a fragile emotional state dealing with the prospect of their own deaths—would make a used-car salesman blush, and earns him this week's Rogue honors.
The first offense for which the Mortuary Board disciplined Perlman involved his dealings with an elderly couple in 2007 when they massively overpaid for the "opening and closing" of their burial plots in Medford.
"[Perlman] told Keith and Betty T. that a change in state law required them to make the purchase," according to the board's final order disciplining Perlman. "Respondent also confirmed that the price for an opening and closing service was $495 per person with a processing fee of $75."
"[Perlman] knew that there was no change in state law that required Keith and Betty T. to make such a purchase," the board said. "[He] also knew that Memory Gardens charged $95 per person for an opening and closing service in its Scatter Gardens, and that a processing fee was not charged for purchases totaling less than $500."
The board found that Perlman had charged the couple a total of $1,065 for services—a mark-up of more than 460 percent over the actual retail cost of $190.
When a Mortuary Board investigator contacted Perlman, he denied knowledge of the contract. But colleagues who had joined him on the sales call admitted what happened.
Perlman, a former Southeast Portland resident, is no stranger to the Mortuary Board. The board issued warnings to him in 2005, 2006 and 2008 for other alleged misbehavior.
But it was Perlman's sale of a burial plot and granite bench in June 2009 that appears to have killed his career in Oregon. (Perlman has relocated to California.)
Perlman met two clients referred to in Mortuary Board documents as Doug and Linda W. at the Prayer Garden in Salem's Restlawn cemetery.
"Mr. W. wanted to be buried near his mother in the Prayer Garden," the Mortuary Board final order states. "Doug and Linda W. decided to purchase a granite bench with burial rights in the Prayer Garden across from Doug W.'s mother."
Perlman sold them the spot and an "emerald green" granite bench for $6,115.
There were two problems with that deal.
Another salesman had previously sold the spot in 2003. And Restlawn granite benches, the board found, do not come in emerald green.
The Mortuary Board found Perlman's actions lacking integrity, canceled his registration and fined him $13,000 for those and other misdeeds.
Perlman says he will appeal. He says both situations have been fully resolved to customers' satisfaction and he is innocent. "There was no deception," Perlman says.
We'll reserve judgment whether there's any afterlife of hellish punishment for those who lie to people on transactions that transition their mortal souls.
But there is a name for them in this life: Rogue.