Visitors to the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art might not realize they could waltz in for free.
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And a new lawsuit charges that is because the museum sneakily makes visitors think they should pay for tickets at $25 an entrance.
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday, accuses the museum of fraudulently collecting millions of dollars in what it calls an admission-fee scheme.
The museum posts recommended admission prices, but visitors can pay what they wish.
The Met must admit members of the public for free at least five days a week, but they charge fees every day, the suit alleges, and "defrauds people into believing that fees are required for admission."
Met spokesman Harold Holzer called the lawsuit "frivolous" and referenced earlier lawsuits raising the same "unreasonable questions about a 30-year-old pay-what-you-wish policy fully authorized by the city."
"We firmly believe the 'recommended admission' system encourages full access to the Museum for all, regardless of ability to pay," Holzer said in a statement.
The word "recommended" isn't enough, said Arnold Weiss, attorney for the plaintiffs. Two are Czechoslovakians who paid $25 because they thought they had no option, and the third is a New Yorker who bought a membership for the annual free pass, Weiss said.
"Here’s how they fleece people," Weiss said. "The signs are deceptive. The big bold print, it says 'Adult $25' ... Down in small print, if you have eyeglasses, it says 'recommended.'"
Cashiers push people to open their wallets, Weiss said. "If you come in and say, 'I’m paying nothing,' they won’t let you in," he said.
Weiss said they randomly surveyed more than 300 people outside the museum and 85 percent thought they had to pay admission.
Many Met visitors yesterday paid less than the recommended $25 fee, with mixed results.
"I paid a quarter," NYU art student Marina Zheng, 18, told Metro.
French tourist Claude Allenou, 65, had read about the lawsuit.
When she tried to go in for free, someone told her it had never been free, and she paid $1.
"The man gave me the ticket, and he didn't look very happy," she said.
Upper East Side resident Eric Hendricks, 33, said he paid $10 for two people, and the clerk was "very nice."
"She was very clear that it was a recommended donation," he said.
Evelyn Cheng contributed reporting.
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