Disgruntled museumgoers Filip Saska and Tomas Nadrchal, both of the Czech Republic, and Stephen Michelman, of Manhattan, say the Metropolitan Museum of Art engages in “an intentional campaign of misdirection that includes misleading signage and fraudulent marketing,” according to the Daily News.
The new lawsuit demands millions in damages, and charges that the Met’s admission policy is deceptive — confusing the public into paying admissions fees even though it’s supposed to be free.
For example, the museum’s ticket booths list admission prices of $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students, with the word “recommended” appearing in small print below the word “admissions” at ticket booths.
“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that, as reflected in the complaint filed today, No. 1, an overwhelming majority of people who visit the museum are completely fooled into believing that they are required to pay the museum’s admission fees; and No. 2, museum officials know all about it,” Michael Hiller, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Reuters.
In response to the allegations, museum spokesman Harold Holzer told Reuters that the museum is “confident that our longstanding pay-what-you-wish admissions policy meets the spirit and letter of our agreement with the city … and ensures that the Met is fully accessible to and affordable by all.”
The original decision to add a suggested donation was made by the Met’s administration in the 1970s, and the writing has been there ever since. But it is only in recent years that the museum has started taking heat for it.
A similar lawsuit was filed in November of 2012, when two Met members sued the institution for fraud over the same fine print. Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson demanded that the court ban the museum from collecting any fees, claimed they had proof that the words were originally placed to “deceive and defraud” the public.
At the time, Mr. Holtzer shared his thoughts with various media sources over the occusations, calling the lawsuit “frivolous.”
“The suggestion we’ve been defrauding the public is ludicrous and outrageous,” he said. “The suggested admission is $25, but it’s not mandatory,” he said, adding that the museum’s surveys have shown its patrons understand that. “It’s on the signage.”
However, a recent survey conducted by Grunewald and Nicholson found that 85 percent of nonmembers polled (out of a total of over 360 visitors) believed they had to pay in order to get in to the museum. Of Met members, 65 percent of those polled said they had originally signed up for a membership in order to be exempt from paying an entrance fee.