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Black Friday: Wal-Mart in Covina at 5 a.m.

November 27, 2009 |  8:21 am

At Wal-Mart in Covina, shoppers had been waiting throughout the night inside the store – a break from years past, when an inevitably massive outdoor crowd would rush the doors when they opened.

Sgt. Dave Povero of the Covina Police Department was being paid overtime to work the 3-to-11 a.m. shift outside the store.

“Our goal is to watch, to make sure they don’t get out of hand, because there’s what, 500 people in here and there’s two of us,” he said. “That’s why we can’t sweat the small stuff.”

Indoors, several pallets covered with black tarps hiding popular products were situated around the floor, guarded by vigilant customers ready to pounce.

Becky Willison, 31, of Covina was one of them, standing watch over a boxed Cabbage Patch Kids doll. She hoped to nab the $9 item for her 15-month-old daughter Mackensie because “it’s smushy,” she said.

The former middle-school English teacher, who was laid off in June, saved $550 of her unemployment checks for Christmas shopping.

“You’ll never know when you go,” she said. “It’s really bad, and just really slow.”

But Willison had been out shopping for hours, starting at 4:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at K-Mart, before detouring home for dinner. She then struck out for the Coach factory outlet in Ontario at 10 p.m., where she picked up a purse. Next was the line at Toys R Us, which she abandoned at 1:30 a.m. for the Wal-Mart queue.

“No guts, no glory,” explained her partner in crime, mother-in-law Carol Garnett, 57, of Covina.

Five minutes early, at 4:55 a.m., a sales associate removed one of the tarps from the merchandise, leading to a domino effect of customers stripping off the coverings and going to town. But despite the urgency, the scene was relatively orderly and less hectic than in years past, employees said.

“It’s the greed,” said overnight stocker Betsy Richards, a veteran of a dozen Black Fridays. “But it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.”

-- Baxter Holmes