At the entrance to a Macy's department in the LA suburb of Arcadia last year, operators were quick to smile and hand out brochures when approached. But they kept their distance until people came to them.
It was the same at a mall in Glendale last week, where people stopped to examine cremation urns ranging from one with a subdued design of leaves to another that brightly featured the logo for the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.
Also on display was a recruiting poster for potential future Forest Lawn employees, complete with a picture of the great Dodgers pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, who urged them to consider "joining a winning team."
Still, not everyone is thrilled with the idea. "You're in a shopping mall and you're walking along and there's a funeral place?" retired high-school teacher Stan Slome said incredulously. "That sounds too deadly."
After thinking it over, however, he acknowledged it's something that could catch on.
At age 86, Slome said, he gets his share of mail from funeral operators inviting him to seminars at local restaurants, where he can have a meal on them while he hears a pitch on why he should use their services when he exits this mortal coil.
He doesn't care for that either, he said, but he figures somebody is attending those seminars.
If the mall effort catches on, said Jessica Koth of the National Funeral Directors Association, credit the aging Baby Boom generation at least in part. Historically, people have not wanted to talk, or even think, about their demise.
But Baby Boomers, the oldest of whom are pushing 70, are different. Many are beginning to press for so-called green funerals that don't require the use of coffins or burial vaults, Koth said. Others want custom-made coffins or urns that say something about who they were.
That often means something that represents a favorite car or sports team, said Smith of Til We Meet Again. He pointed out he even got a request once for a coffin built to resemble a portable toilet — from a guy whose company made portable toilets.
With that mindset, could going to the mall and planning the whole deal just steps away from the Merry-Go-Round really be that unusual?