“I wouldn’t shop at Old Navy if they gave me the stuff for free.”
That has been my credo for the past two decades. Then, a month ago, the clothing superstore opened on 86th Street and Lexington, four blocks from my house. The staff is about to start greeting me by name.
In the early 90s, Old Navy became part of my shopping landscape. The stores were designed like supermarkets, replete with shopping carts, impulse purchases by the checkout counters, and aisles so overflowing one couldn’t always distinguish the merchandise. Very basic, but the retailer met my needs.
Although I shopped in the “better” stores if I needed something for a work or social reason, my day-to-day uniform was jeans, a t-shirt or button down often paired with a v-neck sweater. I was a vision.
As I got older and more successful, I wanted to dress the part.
Of The Gap, Inc. companies, Banana Republic was Marcia Brady, The Gap was Jan, and Old Navy was Cindy — cute, but easy to ignore. Besides, it was nowhere near my life anymore and not worth the pre-Q train trip. It fell to the wayside. (The Gap didn’t fair too well either, even though it was in my neighborhood.)
I still frequented Banana, along with J.Crew, but grew to become a 3-Bs gal: Bergdorfs, Bloomies, and Bendels (may it rest), with the occasional appearance at Saks. I headed to the lower priced H&M only when I wanted to jump on a trend that I knew wouldn’t be around for more than a season: Chartreuse is the new black! Harem pants replace skinny jeans!
In fact, H&M and I have had quite a good relationship. Hence, I now feel like I’m cheating every time I slip through the double doors of its rival looming large across the street.
Last week alone I was at Old Navy three times.
Truth be told, as lovely as the items are, I would have never traveled to the store’s 34th Street location, even in our current post-Q train world, or purchased online to get what I now own. I go, “Because it’s there,” the words immortalized in 1923 by George Mallory, when he was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest.
Donuts in the Break Room
We all know this way of thinking goes beyond impulse shopping, which ends up with us examining items and wondering aloud, “What possessed me?”
You get the heads up that there are donuts, which you don’t really like, in the break room. Next thing you know you’re smacking sugar off your lips.
A super friendly person has moved in next door. Even though they’re not really your type, you figure it’s good to know your neighbor.
At the holiday party, you reluctantly drink the fun and fruity mystery concoction being passed out.
Allowing Because it’s there to be your decision-making tool isn’t just impulsive, but lazy, ultimately resulting in regret.
Not thinking things through — as in, do you really like/want/need what a store/job/person is offering — can lead to a closet full of clothes that end up at Goodwill, toxic relationships, or a compromising photo on social media.
Old Navy is a great addition to the UES’s collection of mall-stores, but before I shop again, I think I need to come up with a better reason than proximity.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels "Fat Chick" and "Back to Work She Goes."