How Much Do You Pay At A Pay-As-You-Will Manhattan Museum?

squid, whale, back of jesse eisenberg's headHere’s a math problem for you. It’s Father’s Day, and three adults and a child approach an electronic kiosk at the entrance of the Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. The kiosk informs them that entry for children over two years old is $13 each; entry for adults is $22 each; and entry for adults who can’t wait to see the supposedly mind-blowing new Neil deGrasse Tyson show at the Planetarium is $27.

One of these adults is excited for the Planetarium and the group is here for him, after all; it is Father’s Day and he is a father. Two of these adults would be just as happy playing with the child for free in Central Park across the street since the sun decided to surprise everyone by bursting out. And the child is already talking nervously about sea monsters.

One of the adults, also a father, has already paid for breakfast. The child has never paid for anything in her short, sweet life. The decision, then, remains with the other two adults — the one who is excited and the one who isn’t. Full price for the family is $84.

“All right,” says the less excited adult, who is nonetheless a Good Sport or, at least, attempting to be a Good Wife and Mom. “$84.”

“I saw on the Internet that we can also pay-as-you-will,” says the more excited adult. The full price is only the suggested price.

“Oh,” says the less excited adult. She reflects. Though she and her husband are both freelancers and parents, meaning they are paying for both day care and health insurance, technically they can afford to pay full price for themselves, the child, and the other adult. $84 won’t make or break them. And the Natural History Museum is a worthy institution, despite its imperialistic frills. On the other hand, they will only be able to stay at the museum for two hours at the most. Perhaps the more financially responsible thing to do is to leave the kiosk and offer the employee at the window a more reasonable sum: $50, say, or even $60.

How much do they spend, and how much should they spend?

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