A couple of members at the Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered that the Met is admission-free, and now they want reparations. Longtime members Theodore Grunewald and Patricia Nicholson have filed suit on the grounds that the vast majority of visitors were likewise unaware that the museum is admission-optional:
The suit cites a survey Grunewald and Nicholson commissioned that found that 85 percent of non-members thought they had to pay to get into the museum, and that 74 percent of respondents were unaware they could get in for free. Fully 65 percent of members said they’d signed up for memberships so they could get in for free.
Well, duh. The museum’s just one of many New York institutions to capitalize on public habit. Not everybody takes the time to learn that art supplies are a tax write-off, for example, or that MTA single rides are far more expensive than unlimited passes, or that there are apps that allow you to text for free. It’s not like you can’t access that information.
Yet even if the suggestion to pay the “recommended amount” keeps people signing up for memberships, one could argue that a lot of that gets taken back out of the Met Store, where members get discounts (double on holidays). Besides which, all of this goes towards keeping these world-class exhibitions available to the rest of us who can’t afford them.
But shhh. The first rule of the deal: don’t talk about the deal. In 2006, when the Met raised its suggested admission price from $15 to $20, museum spokesperson Harold Holzer told The New York Times that, in response to the hike, “The Met has worked long and hard to find ways to address a longstanding operating budget deficit.” He then went on to add, “This is an effort to remain as accessible as possible, without resorting to mandatory options like charging extra for special exhibitions.”
Let’s hope that doesn’t happen.