The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of New York City's most popular tourist destinations, faces a class action lawsuit claiming its admission's policy is misleading and that its cashiers are trained to deceive the public into believing the suggested entrance fee is in fact required.
The "recommended" admissions fee for the Metropolitan Museum is $25 for an adult; however by law the museum must provide museum access to anyone so long as they make a contribution first.
The 120-year law mandates that the public should be admitted for free at least five days and two evenings per week, in exchange for annual grants and free rent along the city's pricey Fifth Avenue, The Associated Press reported.
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The suit was filed on March 5 by three museum-goers, a New Yorker and two tourists from the Czech Republic, seeking compensation for museum members and visitors who paid full price by credit card over the past few years.
The suit claims that the institution defrauds the public by not publicizing enough the fact that the $25 admission fee is recommended, thereby taking advantage of non-English speaking tourists and others who are not be familiar with the museum's policy.
"The museum was designed to be open to everyone, without regard to their financial circumstances," Arnold Weiss, one of two attorneys representing the plaintiffs, told the AP. "But instead, the museum has been converted into an elite tourist attraction."
Met spokesman Harold Holzer dismissed the claim, telling the AP that the policy of requiring visitors to pay something before gaining admission has been in place for more than four decades.
"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 . . . We are confident that the courts will see through this insupportable nuisance lawsuit."
Having an investment portfolio of $2.58 billion, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is a nonprofit and therefor pays no income taxes, is one of the world's richest cultural institutions.
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In fiscal 2012, just 16 percent of the museum's $239 million budget came from admissions while the city through its grants provided 11 percent of the institution's operating budget, the AP reported.
According to Holzer, 41 percent of visitors to the museum in 2012 paid the full recommended admission price, which is $25 for adults, $17 for seniors, and $12 for students.
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