NYC's Met Museum accused of duping on fees
In this Tuesday, March 19, 2013 photo the exterior of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is photographed. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
NEW YORK (AP) — Before visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art can stroll past the Picassos, Renoirs, Rembrandts and other priceless works, they must first deal with the ticket line, the posted $25 adult admission and the meaning of the word in smaller type just beneath it: "recommended."
Many people, especially foreign tourists, don't see it, don't understand it or don't question it. If they ask, they are told the fee is merely a suggested donation: You can pay what you wish, but you must pay something.
Confusion over what's required to enter one of the world's great museums, which draws more than 6 million visitors a year, is at the heart of a class-action lawsuit this month accusing the Met of scheming to defraud the public into believing the fees are required.
The suit seeks compensation for museum members and visitors who paid by credit card over the past few years, though some who choose to pay less than the full price pull out a $10 or $5 bill. Some fork over a buck or loose change. Those who balk at paying anything at all are told they won't be allowed in unless they pay something, even a penny.
"I just asked for one adult general admissions and he just said, '$25,'" says Richard Johns, a high school math teacher from Little Rock, Ark., who paid the full price at the museum this past week. "It should be made clear that it is a donation you are required to make. Especially for foreign tourists who don't understand. Most people don't know it."
Met spokesman Harold Holzer denied any deception and said a policy of requiring visitors to pay at least something has been in place for more than four decades. "We are confident that the courts will see through this insupportable nuisance lawsuit," he said.
"The museum was designed to be open to everyone, without regard to their financial circumstances," said Arnold Weiss, one of two attorneys who filed the lawsuit on behalf of three museum-goers, a New Yorker and two tourists from the Czech Republic. "But instead, the museum has been converted into an elite tourist attraction."
In this Tuesday, March 19, 2013 photo visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York congregate in the main lobby. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Among the allegations are that third-party websites do not mention the recommended fee, and that the museum sells memberships that carry the benefit of free admission, even though the public is already entitled to free admission.