Met museum accused of duping visitors on fees - Los Angeles Local News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

Metropolitan Museum of Art accused of duping visitors on fees

Posted: Updated:

By ULA ILNYTZKY | AP

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."

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.

Lined up to testify is a former museum supervisor who oversaw and trained the Met's admissions cashiers from 2007 to 2011, said Michael Hiller, the other attorney representing the plaintiffs.

The supervisor is expected to testify that the term on the sign was changed in recent years from "suggested" to "recommended" because administrators believed it was a stronger word that would encourage people to pay more, Hiller said.

The Met's Holzer denied the former employee's allegations. He also said the basis for the lawsuit — that admission is intended to be free — is wrong because the state law the plaintiffs cited has been superseded many times and the city approved pay-what-you-wish admissions in 1970.

"The idea that the museum is free to everyone who doesn't wish to pay has not been in force for nearly 40 years," Holzer said, adding, "Yes, you do have to pay something."

As to the wording change on the sign, he said the museum "actually thought at the time, and still thinks, that 'recommended' is softer than 'suggested,' so the former employee is quite wrong here."

New York City's Department of Cultural Affairs agreed to the museum's request in 1970 for a general admission as long as the amount was left up to individuals and that the signage reflected that. Similar arrangements are in place for other cultural institutions that operate on city-owned land and property and receive support from the city, such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum. It's also a model that's been replicated in other cities.

The Metropolitan Museum is one of the world's richest cultural institutions, with a $2.58 billion investment portfolio, and isn't reliant on admissions fees to pay the majority of its bills. Sixteen percent of its $239 million budget in fiscal 2012 came from admissions. That same year, the city paid 11 percent of its operating budget. As a nonprofit organization, the museum pays no income taxes.

Holzer also noted that in the past fiscal year, 41 percent of visitors to the Met paid the full recommended admission price — $25 for adults, $17 for seniors and $12 for students.

A random sampling of visitors leaving the museum found that there was a general awareness that "recommended" implied you could pay less than the posted price.

But Dan Larson and his son Jake, visiting the museum last week from Duluth, Minn., were unaware there was any room to negotiate the admission price. They paid the full $25 each for adult tickets, with a credit card.

"My understanding was you pay the recommended price," said Larson, 50. "That's clearly not displayed."

Alexander Kulessa, a 23-year-old university student from Germany, said friends who had previously visited New York tipped him off about the admission fee.

"They said, 'Don't pay $25,'" said Kulessa. "They said it will be written everywhere to pay $25 but you don't have to pay that. You don't even have to pay the student price."

For Colette Leger, a tourist from Toronto who visited the museum with her teenage daughter, paying the full $25 was worth every penny.

"It's a beautiful museum, and I was happy to pay," she said.

___

Associated Press writer Jake Pearson contributed to this report.

  • Manhattan NewsManhattan NewsMore>>

  • Search for woman who tried to snatch baby in stroller

    NYPD: Woman tried to snatch baby in stroller

    Friday, April 18 2014 7:37 AM EDT2014-04-18 11:37:43 GMT
    Police want to question a woman who tried to push a stroller with a baby inside away from a nanny in Chelsea. The incident occurred on 8th Ave. and 17th St. at about 4 p.m. on Thursday. The 8-month-old baby was not harmed. People who were in the area jumped in to stop the woman before she took off southbound on 8th Ave., according to police. A sketch was released on Friday of the suspect.
    Police want to question a woman who tried to push a stroller with a baby inside away from a nanny in Chelsea. The incident occurred on 8th Ave. and 17th St. at about 4 p.m. on Thursday. The 8-month-old baby was not harmed. People who were in the area jumped in to stop the woman before she took off southbound on 8th Ave., according to police. A sketch was released on Friday of the suspect.
  • Manhattan restaurant proactive on food allergens

    Manhattan restaurant proactive on food allergens

    Thursday, April 17 2014 10:48 PM EDT2014-04-18 02:48:47 GMT
    From the St. Louis spare to a rack of beef, ribs are the specialty for Chef Eddie Montalvo at Blue Smoke Restaurant in the Flat Iron District of Manhattan. While the ribs are smoked for flavor, they are cooked gluten- and nut-free. The restaurant pays special attention to food allergies. Sloan Miller, president of Allergic Girl Resources, says 15 million Americans have a diagnosed food allergy. Eight foods typically set off reactions: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, dairy, egg, an...
    From the St. Louis spare to a rack of beef, ribs are the specialty for Chef Eddie Montalvo at Blue Smoke Restaurant in the Flat Iron District of Manhattan. While the ribs are smoked for flavor, they are cooked gluten- and nut-free. The restaurant pays special attention to food allergies. Sloan Miller, president of Allergic Girl Resources, says 15 million Americans have a diagnosed food allergy. Eight foods typically set off reactions: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, dairy, egg, an...
  • NYC to overhaul Superstorm Sandy rebuilding program

    NYC to overhaul Superstorm Sandy rebuilding program

    Thursday, April 17 2014 9:30 PM EDT2014-04-18 01:30:41 GMT
    Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a sweeping report Thursday that examined New York City's recovery progress from Superstorm Sandy and promised to reform a much-maligned program that was supposed to rebuild wrecked homes. Speaking to about 50 homeowners, officials and community leaders in a storm-battered Staten Island neighborhood, the mayor said the city is aiming to start rebuilding an ambitious 500 homes through its federally funded Build-It-Back program.
    Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a sweeping report Thursday that examined New York City's recovery progress from Superstorm Sandy and promised to reform a much-maligned program that was supposed to rebuild wrecked homes. Speaking to about 50 homeowners, officials and community leaders in a storm-battered Staten Island neighborhood, the mayor said the city is aiming to start rebuilding an ambitious 500 homes through its federally funded Build-It-Back program.
Powered by WorldNow

KTTV FOX 11
1999 S. Bundy Dr.
Los Angeles CA 90025

Main: (310) 584-2000
News Tips? (310) 584-2025

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices