If you’ve ever tried to enter the Metropolitan Museum of Art, only to receive judgmental stares from staff for foregoing the (technically optional) entrance fee, this one goes out to you: The Met is tied up in two lawsuits over its allegedly “deceptive” pricing tactics, which plaintiffs in the suits claim include the Met’s new Groupon offer: $7 off the admissions fee, which, again, is supposed to be optional.
The full “recommended” admission fee is $25; there are “discounts” for students and seniors. But under an obscure 1893 state law, any group that gets its space from the city for free is not allowed to charge for entry. The Met has been leasing its Fifth Avenue location since 1880.
In the new suit filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court, two Czech tourists and a museum member claim the Met’s advertising of its fees leads museumgoers to believe the entrance fee is mandatory.
The Met’s Groupon, which opened at the beginning of the month, advertises an $18 admission fee. The deal goes on for just one more day, since many of the limited-supply tickets have already been snapped up.
Groupon has not responded to Runnin’ Scared’s repeated requests for comment.
Arnold Weiss, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the two lawsuits, points to the Groupon as yet another “deceptive tactic,” along with the signage in the museum atrium that makes it seem like patrons must pay to get in.
“It’s a violation of the statute that requires free admission to the museum five days a week and the lease that requires four designated free admission days,” Weiss explained to Gothamist.
Museum administrators take issue with the suits, saying that the pay-as-you-wish system has been in place for decades, and no court has ever found it illegal.
Met spokesman Harold Holzer told the Huffington Post back in March–when the first of the two lawsuits was filed–that the legal action was “friviolous.” And in April, Met Director Thomas Campbell posted a statement to the Met homepage claiming that $25 a head was already a markdown.
“The fact is, even if future Museum admission rates were fixed at $25, the Met would still be underwriting the expense of every visit, which on average costs the institution more than $40.”