Before visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art can stroll past the Picassos, they must first deal with the ticket line and the posted $25 adult admission. That amount is merely the suggested donation—the word "recommended" is posted in smaller type just beneath it—but people, especially foreign tourists, either don't see it, don't understand it, or don't question it. And the Met is being sued over it: A class-action lawsuit filed this month contends that the museum is scheming to defraud the public into believing the fees are required.
It asserts that the Met uses misleading marketing and training of cashiers to violate an 1893 New York state law that mandates 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 pricey Fifth Avenue). A rep for the Met denied any deception and said its policy has been in place since the city approved pay-what-you-wish admissions in 1970. The Met 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. Only about 11% of its operating expenses were covered by admissions charges in the 2012 fiscal year, during which 41% of visitors paid the full recommended admission price. Click for more on the suit, including a former museum supervisor's claim about the word "recommended."