Don't Pay the Metropolitan Museum of Art's 'Recommended' $25 Fee

Don't feel bad. The Met has a $2.5 billion investment portfolio and uses admissions to cover only 11 percent of its operating costs
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The_Houses_of_Parliament_(Effect_of_Fog).JPGMurkiness makes for lovely impressionistic ambiance, but it's less attractive in price marketing [Met/Wikimedia Commons]

Many of the Met's 6 million annual visitors pay $25 to see the country's largest collection of art. Some pay out of a sense of obligation. Many pay because they don't know they have a choice. It's easy to read the board listing prices for adults and children without seeing the small font saying "Recommended." Ask for a ticket, and you will be told "$25."

It's pretty clever nudging. But maybe too clever. Like, illegal-clever.

A new lawsuit accuses the Met of violating the spirit of a 1893 New York state law "that mandates the public should be admitted for free at least five days and two evenings per week," according to the AP.

If you still feel guilty about not paying the full price, consider that the museum receives annual grants from the city without paying taxes or rent, has a $2.5 billion investment portfolio, and uses admissions to cover only 11 percent of its operating costs. Six in ten Met tourists don't pay the full $25, but as the AP reporting reveals, many of the people who don't pay are locals who know they don't have to, while it's the unwitting out-of-towners who get yoked into chucking up the full price. Third-party websites don't say the fee is recommended.

Still, the suit goes way too far, "seeking compensation for museum members and visitors who paid by credit card over the past few years." Clearly, the museum can't be expected to find and interview 20+ million people to discover who would have paid what amount between $0.01 and $25 had the font size for "Recommended" been slightly bigger. Let's just hope the suit encourages the Met's signage to be clear enough to out-of-town groups who don't realize they have to pay $100 to see public art.

(via Max Read)

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Derek Thompson is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he writes about economics, labor markets, and the entertainment business.

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