Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, May 1, 2002


Page 8


Board Tells Coroner Set Up to Sell Products Via Credit Card


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The county Coroner’s Office, already under fire for allowing rodents to nibble on corpses stored in its central crypt, was given another stern directive yesterday by the Board of Supervisors: Get your toe-tag sales online within two weeks.

The coroner grabbed headlines nearly a decade ago when employees began selling morbid souvenirs to raise money for a program to keep teenagers from driving drunk.

But the store—Skeletons in the Closet—has been left for dead by the e-commerce revolution. Nearly two years have passed since the department began exploring how to accept credit cards. No credit cards, no online sales.

“It seems to me you should be able to do this just like other retail outlets that go into business,” county Supervisor Michael Antonovich told department officials.

There already is a website——where visitors are greeted with a photo of a foot sporting the toe tag used to label the dead which fades into a graphic of a coroner’s sweat shirt and the slogan, “Part of you thinks it’s in bad taste, part of you wants an XL.”

But while people logging onto the site can make their selections online, they can’t click and buy because the county can’t take credit cards. Shoppers have to download an order form and send in a check. They can also buy in person at the store, located under the morgue at 1104 N. Mission Rd. just east of downtown Los Angeles.

Antonovich’s motion gave the coroner until May 14 to get ready to take credit card orders and ship out toe tags, beach towels featuring chalk outlines of bodies, “body bags” made for holding suits, and other gruesome but popular mementos.

Department director Anthony Hernandez acknowledged that sales would likely soar as soon as the store masters credit card sales. But he said it’s not that easy.

“There’s a whole host of issues,” Hernandez said. “It requires standard setting by the county, and a certifying system, before you get the security audit that’s required by the credit card companies.”

Hernandez’s department, the county chief information officer, and the Internal Services Department have been working on the credit card issue since October 2000. They are “extremely close” to being ready, Hernandez said.

But Hernandez has had other priorities lately. In response to press reports the board yesterday ordered him to dispose of unclaimed bodies within a year and to report back this month on new measures to keep vermin away from the crypts.

Once Hernandez is able to focus on the credit card issue, his won’t be the only county department with goods to sell over the Internet. Visitors to the county website already can browse through a catalog featuring shirts, caps and other items sporting the county logo.

But for now they still have to print the order form and write the check.

Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke seemed puzzled by the delay. She told Hernandez to hurry.

 “I can help you” Burke said. “I know how to do this. I can tell you who to call.”


Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company