MET sued over misleading admission fees
Courtenay Brown Special to the AmNews | 5/23/2013, 2:58 p.m.
For the second time in the last four months, one of the most popular museums in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET), is being sued for seemingly misleading admission policies.
While the admissions fee is advertised as a recommended $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 dollars for students, there are several museum-goers who insist that it is not clearly advertised that these prices are only a mere suggestion, not required.
Three visitors who felt they were deceived by the signage aligned with law firm Weiss & Hillar to file a class-action complaint against the museum on March 5th. One of the visitors misleadingly purchased a membership to the museum because she thought it would allow her to gain free access from thereon out, while the other two were Czech tourists who paid the full entrance fee without knowing that by law, the public is supposed to be given free admission.
Because the MET is a publicly funded institution much like the New York Public Library, it is required by law to have free admission for its visitors according to Arnold Weiss of Weiss & Hillar, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs. The lawsuit calls for an injunction where damages are awarded to those who-- like the plaintiffs --have unknowingly paid an admission fee to enter the museum.
"Everyone without means is supposed to be able to see the treasures," Weiss said. "They have turned it into an elitist institution."
Upon entry to the museum, visitors are can enter the exhibition after paying their entrance fee from three different locations in the main hall. Above each cashier is a sign that lists the fees for adults, seniors, and students. The word "Recommended" appears in a smaller print above the prices.
Weiss, whose law firm is currently involved with a similar lawsuit filed against the MET last year, asserted that besides the "misleading signage," the museum trains cashiers "to mislead the public."
However, Harold Holzer, the MET's Senior Vice President of External Affairs, denies that there is any truth to this claim. He said that when visitors approach the stand where they can gain entry into the exhibits, the cashiers inform them that "there is a suggest donation of $25, but they can pay what they wish."
In regards to the signage, Holzer insists that it is not misleading nor is it a "small sign by any means."
"We have been operating under this system for 40 years and there are museums in the city who operate under this system as well," Holzer said.
Some tourists, eager to see what the MET has to offer, wish that this system was better advertised to the public.
"I saw that it was $25 and the students got the $12 student fee," Gail Love, a high school principal visiting with her students from Houston, Texas, said. "If the fee was only recommended, it would have been nice if it had been in print because I was under the impression that it was required."
Despite the complaints, Holzer said that they will respond, but continue to "defend the policy."
A lawsuit filed against the MET by two members of the museum in November called for an injunction which would require the museum official to make its policy more clear to visitors and tourists. The suit is still pending.