(screenshot by Hyperallergic via Groupon)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has offered an $18 admission voucher on the social deals site Groupon, a seeming continuation of their longstanding tendency to mislead New Yorkers about the official “price” of admission. Though the museum is required by law to allow free admission, the institution has been criticized for obscuring this fact. The “recommended” ticket price is $25, but as two ongoing lawsuits allege, the Met is “deceptive” about the fee, pushing it on patrons as the price of entry rather than a voluntary donation.

Gothamist spoke about the Groupon with attorney Arnold Weiss, who represents the plaintiffs in one of the lawsuits, and he reiterated the charge that this was “highly deceptive advertising.”

Dubious deals are increasingly the norm for the struggling coterie of social sale sites like Groupon and Livingsocial, once perceived as the future of retail but now just the latest victims of the insatiable startup hype machine. We particularly like the final sentence of fine print, which notes: “Admission tickets are required at time of admission or standard recommended Museum entrance fees and conditions apply.” Caveat emptor — if you lose your $18 Groupon, you might have to pay nothing!

Mostafa Heddaya is the former managing editor of Hyperallergic.

7 replies on “Met Museum Offers $18 Groupon for Free Admission”

    1. Hi Kurt, The guidelines are of the Cultural Institutions Group in NYC (of which the Met is a member):
      All the material online is a little incomplete but there is some language that hints at that, such as:
      “The 33 members of this group are each located on City-owned property, and receive significant capital and operating support from the City to help meet basic security, maintenance, administration and energy costs. In return for this support, these institutions operate as publicly-owned facilities whose mandate is to provide cultural services accessible to all New Yorkers.”

  1. I work at the Met and it is NOT FREE. It is extremely frustrating dealing with all the misinformation out there and people can get pretty upset when they find out it’s not free, even when we explain they can pay ANY amount. I REALLY wish the title of this article would be changed to say “pay what you wish” instead of free. You can pay as little as a penny per person but everyone has to pay something unless you have special circumstances such as a press ID/reciprocal membership etc. I often have to explain the policy multiple times before people “get it” and it is especially difficult with the many tourists who do not speak much english, but believe me we make every effort to explain the “pay what you wish” policy and it does say “recommended” under the prices.

    As far as I know it originally was free and the policy was changed in the 70’s so that they were allowed to charge admission so long as the visitor was allowed to decide how much they wanted to pay. I have no idea why there is a groupon however, I noticed someone come into the museum recently with one and was pretty perplexed by it. I suppose these days groupon is just another form of advertising.

    1. I think this confusion is the result of the MET not being clear and consistent. There are plenty of museums that don’t run into this problem.

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