When Mary Bail died a few weeks ago, she was buried in the same plot where her husband, Harold, had been buried seven years before.

At the time of Mr. Bail's death, the family had purchased a tombstone bearing both his name and his wife's. So when Mrs. Bail died, the family did not need a new tombstone. They merely needed to arrange for a stonecutter who would inscribe the date of her death on the tombstone that was already beside the grave.

But for some people, a death is just another sales opportunity.

The phone rang the other day at the home of Mary Bail's son and daughter-in-law in Chevy Chase. A slick, fast-talking voice identified himself as a salesman from "Standard Memorials." He wanted to offer Julia Bail a superspecial deal on a new tombstone for her mother-in-law.

Obviously, the salesman had cribbed Julia's husband's name right out of Mary Bail's obituary notice in The Post. Just as obviously, there was nothing illegal in what he tried to do. But as Julia points out, many grief-stricken families may not be thinking too clearly so soon after a death -- and they may sign a multithousand-dollar contract without meaning to or needing to.

Couldn't this salesman at least have asked whether the family had already made arrangements for a tombstone? That would have been the humane approach. But apparently this guy is short on humaneness.

He's also short on credibility. There's no "Standard Memorials" listed in any of the local phone books.

My nose detects a funny smell. If a Standard salesman calls you, I hope your nose does the same.