S&R Fiction

S&R Fiction: "The Customer is Always Right," by Dave M. Osmundsen

Keith Hurgess’ consistent punctuality was the sole reason he hadn’t been fired from his job as cashier at Billy’s Place. He parked his car in the Billy’s Place parking lot at 11:53 AM on a Saturday in the middle of August and took a deep breath, attempting to make his 12:00-20:00 shift sound more bearable. In militant preparation of miserable customers, an insatiable manager and the putrid stench of the restaurant, he placed his black work hat on top of his semi-wet hair, pinned his name tag on his shirt, switched on his verbal filter, etched a placid expression on his face, and courageously stepped out of his car.

Outside the restaurant a poster depicting a monstrously large hamburger proclaimed: “Home of the Famous McBiggy Burger! One Billion (And Counting) Sold!” Under read the microscopic fine print: “560 calories. Billy’s Place and its affiliates are not responsible for diabetes, heartburn, unexpected surgery, or sudden death”. Keith couldn’t fathom that at one time, he was proud to serve these burgers to the populace. When he started working at Billy’s place the year before, he vowed that not one customer would have to wait more than five minutes for their food. But after successive careless mistakes and complaints, Keith’s reasons for staying at Billy’s Place dissolved to a lack of other places hiring, and a steady paycheck. As measly as his hourly $7.75 was, it remained an income.      

This is your last day, Keith reminded himself as he opened the glass door to the restaurant. After today, there will be no more customers talking about how they want to lose weight, and then screaming when their Large McBiggy meal takes more than five minutes. You can go to college, get your BFA in acting, and get out of this place for good.

No sooner did he walk in then he was assaulted by the artificial smell of burgers, chicken and fries that were being prepared in the kitchen, and Candela, his manager, summoning him like a menopausal woman having the President over for dinner. “KEITH! PUNCH IN AND TAKE A REGISTER!”

Keith punched in and, smiling too broadly to be believable, took in the lengthy line in front of him. Candela walked behind him and whispered, “This is your last day. Don’t say anything to offend the customers. You can’t tell customers they are lard.”

Even when they complain about losing weight? “Right.”

“And give the customers what they ask for! Don’t give them diet cokes instead of regular cokes.”

Even if it will lower the obesity rate in this country? “You got it.”

“Good. Now, take next customer.”

Cody, the cashier next to Keith, placed two containers of fries on a tray without spilling a fry. Candela waited for food at the heated landing strip, smiling and nodding in business-like approval at Cody’s transactions. Candela then transferred her eyes to Keith and thrust her head and arm in frustration, mouthing “Take next customer!”

“May I take the next customer?” Keith announced.

A man with a broad waist waddled to the counter. Two little girls trailed behind him, their mouths gaping with eagerness.

“Hi, can I get two five piece Chicken Nugget McKiddie’s Meals with two cokes, and can I get two Deluxe cheeseburgers with extra bacon and no tomato, and can I get a McBiggy size coke with that? Oh, and can I get a large fry with that? Oh, and can we get three McBiggy burgers with extra McBiggy sauce?”

Keith pressed all the necessary buttons on the register and looked up at the man. Can I recommend the Caesar Salad? “Will that be for here or to go?”

“For here.”

”That’ll be $18.78, sir.”

The man gave Keith a twenty dollar bill. Keith opened the register, retrieved the change from it and gave it to the man. He then turned around to gather the cups and fill the drinks with ice. Keith glanced at the man behind him and saw that he was preoccupied conversing with the little girls about the toys they were anticipating. Keith conspicuously placed the McBiggy size cup under the Diet Coke fountain and filled it. Just when the cup was full, Candela shoved him out of the way to fill up her own drinks. The swiftness of her arm splattered Keith’s drinks on the floor.

“Shit,” he uttered under his breath.

“Don’t curse! This is a family friendly restaurant!”

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“And you have to work faster!” she said to Keith. “Mop it right now. What did the man order?”

“Two McKiddy Diets, and a McBiggy size diet.”

“That isn’t what I ordered!” the fat man yelled.

Candela sighed and shook her head in dismay. “Keith! What did I tell you!? Give the customers what they want! You get the mop. I take care of this and the next customers. And get more McBiggies from the back. We’re running out!”

“OK,” replied Keith. Excuse me for trying to help someone lose weight…

Keith walked through the kitchen and down a hallway to the back room where the storage freezer, the bucket mop and a hose resided. Seeing that the mop bucket required filling, Keith placed the hose into the bucket and began to fill it up. As the bucket filled with water, he checked the freezer for the McBiggy paddies Candela had demanded he retrieve.

Keith cautiously crossed over the ice covered floor of the freezer to where the McBiggy paddies were usually stacked. I could probably sue this place for good money if I fell, he thought. At that moment, falling and breaking his back seemed better than hearing Candela screech his name. But this is my last day here, he reminded himself. I can’t screw it up now.

When Keith reached the corner where the McBiggy paddies were stored, he was baffled to find none. Keith searched the freezer to make sure there were no McBiggy boxes hidden amongst the others, but found none. Groaning in anticipation of how Candela would react, Keith decided to inform her of the absence of McBiggy boxes when he returned to mop the front.

When he stepped out of the freezer, the bucket had reached to the point of overflowing. Keith turned off the hose and brought the mop up front. The expectant and hungry crowd on the other side of the counter had increased. Relieved that he wouldn’t have to take any of their orders, he took the mop out of its bucket and cleaned the splattered diet coke.  When he was done, Candela ordered him to “Take next customer.”

Keith took a register. “OK. When I was in the freezer, I saw that—

“Keith, please, just… take next customer… We’re very busy…”

Keith took a register and put the broadest smile he could muster for the corpulent mob on the other side of the counter.

“Hi, may I take the next customer?”

Two amiable, expectant parents and their seven children approached his register. The pregnant woman had a slight sprinkling of facial hair, and the man was already graying and relying on a cane. The children were a plain assortment of freckles, glasses, and stray blonde hair.

“Hi,” the man began in a slight, genteel Southern accent. “May I have two hamburgers, no pickles or unions on both, three five piece chicken nuggets, five large fries, four medium fries, two Grilled Mushroom and Cheese Chicken wraps, and two McBiggy’s for my wife and I, please?”

“We’re out of McBiggy patties, sir.”

The expression in the man’s eyes morphed from congenial to inflammatory. “You don’t have any McBiggy paddies?”

“I’m afraid we don’t, sir.”

The husband and wife raised their arms and slapped them on their hips and foreheads. “Come on,” the two said in unison.

“We’ve been travelling for five hours,” the man complained. “We’ve been listening to our kids whine and scream about how they’re so hungry. We come here expecting McBiggies, which EVERY Billy’s Place should have. How can you not have any!?”

“I’m sorry, sir, I just checked in the back. There are none there. Would you like anything else?”

“No, I would like NOTHING else! We’ll go somewhere that actually has food!”

The man and his family turned to walk away. Candela, always present for the customer, screamed after them, “Sir! Wait! Please! I’m the manager! I can help you!”

The man remained in the restaurant while his wife ushered their children out. “This kid here told me that there aren’t any McBiggy paddies left.”

Candela turned demon eyes on Keith. “Keith, I told you to get more McBiggy paddies.”

“I just checked, there were none there.”

Candela raised her eyebrow. “Are you sure you checked?”

“I looked all over the freezer. There were none there.”

“What the…” Candela stopped herself lest she corrupt the little children among the crowd. She bulldozed to the back to look in the freezer. Keith remained at the register.

“I swear to you,” the man began, shoving his cane in Keith’s chest. “If there are no McBiggies, we are leaving right now. I won’t stand for this!”

“Excuse me, sir,” a large, blonde woman behind the man said. “Did you just say there were no McBiggies?”

“That’s what this boy here said to me,” the man said.

“My manager is going in the back to look for some, but the last time I checked they weren’t there,” Keith explained.

The mother behind the man turned to her son. “Honey, they have no McBiggies.”

“What?” her little boy gawked.

“There are no McBiggies, would you like anything else?”

Keith began to speak. “May I suggest—

“No!” the little boy screamed. “I just want a McBiggie!”

“My manager will be right out to see if there are any,” Keith said. If you cause a temper tantrum, I’ll take this register and shove it up your—

“I WANT A MCBIGGY! I WANT A MCBIGGY!” The little boy furiously jumped and stomped on the floor. Keith hoped his foot stomping would break the brown tiles and plummet to the middle of the earth. Alas, the little boy’s feet only left a crack on the floor.

As the boy’s mother attempted to console him with pats and apologies, customers murmured in disbelief behind her. “Are there really no more McBiggies?” “How can they run out of McBiggies?” “Jason is going to be so disappointed.” “I’ve been looking forward to this all WEKK!”

Candela returned to the front counter with a dejected look on her face. The customers hushed one another and fell silent before her final verdict. “There are no McBiggy paddies,” she announced. Amongst an outcry among the customers, she turned to Keith and Cody. “What are we going to do?”

Cody wordlessly continued working at his register, taking customers whose diets didn’t consist of a McBiggy.

“I don’t know, offer them other food?” Keith suggested.

“Keith, we can’t just tell them are no McBiggies. Look how many customers are turning away!”

Keith turned his head and saw the now thinning crowd on the other side of the counter. Although there were less people, the noise level remained the same. A little boy in an orange t-shirt and yellow bathing suit, screamed and jumped in response to the absence of McBiggies. His sister, in a tight fitting pink shirt, furiously cried and attempted to yank out her brown pigtails. Their frazzled mother, upon seeing the strands of hair her daughter had pulled out, looked at Keith as if he had taken a sledgehammer and whacked her children to Jupiter.

“Are there really no McBiggies left?”

“None, I’m sorry, would you like anything else?” Candela said, dictating the register Keith originally handled.

The mother shook her head and looked down at her kids. “Want to try Hamburger Hut?” The children squealed with excitement and departed with their now relieved mother.

After the mother and her two children left, Candela snapped her fingers and said, “Keith, come to my office right now.”

Rolling his eyes in agitation, Keith followed her to the back of the kitchen where Candela’s office was.

“Where the hell are the McBiggy paddies!?” Candela yelled when the two were in the grey walled office.

“I don’t know, they just weren’t in the freezer. How should I know where they are?” And may I remind you that this is a family friendly restaurant?

“They were there yesterday, weren’t they?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t check the stock yesterday.”

“It was an extremely irresponsible thing for you to do.”

“You didn’t tell me to check the stock yesterday.”

Candela sat at her desk and placed her hands on her forehead. Keith noticed her eyes desperately glancing at a miniature photo case of a little boy, smiling for an elementary school picture. He thought he heard her say “Pedro”, but he didn’t have time to inquire.

“Well, what are we going to do?” Candela wearily asked. “You saw how many customers turned away. What are we going to do?”

“I honestly don’t know.”

“Look, just take care of the customers. I’ll call the shipping house and ask them if they have any more McBiggies.”

“OK.” Keith returned to the front counter where Cody was taking care of a meager slither of customers. These must be the healthy ones, Keith thought as he plastered a smile on his face. “May I take the next order?”

Two elderly women meandered to the counter. The shorter one dug into her purse and pulled out a coupon. “We have a coupon here,” her voice jiggled.

Keith glanced at the coupon and saw that it permitted one to “Buy One McBiggy, get any other item FREE!” At least they don’t have canes…

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have any McBiggies. Would you like anything else?”

The old ladies uniformly glared at Keith. “What did you say?” the taller of them asked, tuning her ear toward Keith.

“I said we are out of McBiggies, ma’am”.

The shorter lady alternated her tone from giggly to condescending. “Well then, how are we supposed to save money? Tell us that.”

“I don’t know. Go to another Billy’s Place?”

“This is the fourth one we’ve been to all afternoon, there are no McBiggies anywhere!”

“I’m sorry, there are no McBiggies in our inventory. Would you like anything else?”

“Listen young man, we’re trying to save money, and you’re being rude!”

“I just suggested you go to another McBiggies. There should be another one within a half an hour of here.”

“No thank you. We’ll take our business somewhere else.” The two old women piously turned to leave the counter.

“You can take that business up your scraggly, bottomed out asses,” Keith impulsively muttered.

The two women darted around. “Excuse us!?” they screamed in unison.

“May I take the next customer, please?” Keith smiled. A young Asian woman approached the counter.

“Excuse me a minute,” the shorter old lady marched to the front counter towards Keith, shoving the Asian woman to the side.

This is my last day, this is my last day, this is my last day…

“You do NOT make comments like that,” the short old lady glanced at his name tag, “Keith.”

“I apologize,” Keith said on autopilot. He redirected his head to the Asian woman. “May I take your order?”

“You can wait a minute,” the short old lady spat at the Asian woman. The latter scowled and placed her order with Cody. “I don’t know HOW people like you get hired. I’ve dealt with many rude cashiers in my time, and you are the worst one I’ve ever came across!”

“I just told you there were no McBiggies,” Keith said. “And that was the truth.”

“And then you made a comment I don’t even care to repeat. That was very rude of you.”

“As you’ve said, you’ve taken your business to four Billy’s Place. You can definitely take your business to another one. Now I’m going to take the next customer. Have a nice day, ma’am.”

“I’m not finished–”

The woman blasted a tirade about the values of working and how many job holders fail to deserve their positions. Keith tuned the old lady out and watched Cody bring the Asian woman a Caesar salad and an orange juice. Someone’s making the smarter choice, Keith thought to himself. The Asian woman smiled and said “Goodbye” to Cody and exited the restaurant, opening the door for the ranting old woman. “…a word that wasn’t even USED back then. I want to see your manager! Where’s your manager!”

“She’s not here,” Keith lied. Just then, a dirt stained construction worker entered. “There are many customers here who probably want McBiggies just as much as you do.”

“I’m going to wait right here until the manager comes out.”

“Have fun waiting,” Keith replied. Cody took care of the construction worker. He ordered five McBiggies for him and his buddies. “I’m sorry, sir, but we are out of those,” Cody informed him.

The construction worker grunted in disbelief and left. “Thank you for coming to Billy’s Place!” Cody yelled. The man didn’t respond.

Just then, Candela came to the front counter. “The shipping house got the order late. They’ll be here soon, though.”

“Good for them,” Keith responded.

“Excuse me, are you the manager?” the short old lady asked.

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“I don’t know WHAT kind of establishment you think you run, but this boy is the rudest cashier I’ve ever had in all my experiences here.”

Candela turned to Keith. “What happened?”

“He told us to go to another Billy’s Place AFTER we informed him we had already been to four. And then he said something that I’m not even going to repeat.”

“What did you say, Keith?” Candela again turned demon eyes on Keith.

“I just suggested they go to another Billy’s Place. That’s it. I never said anything else.”

“You’re lying! You told me to… Nope, I won’t even say it.”

“Look, ma’am,” Candela calmly began to explain. “I’m sorry we are out of McBiggies. More should be coming, I just called the shipping house, they’ll be here any minute.”

“That’s what they all said!” the short old lady exclaimed. “That’s it, we’re out of here. Come on, Ethel, let’s go.”

The two old ladies left the restaurant, leaving it empty other than the cashiers and kitchen workers. Candela, Keith and Cody waited at the front counter for ten minutes, but no customers entered. Cody waited patiently, a smile on his face. Keith had his fake smile at the ready. Candela, anxiety agitating her face, tensely tapped her fingers on the counter. “You shouldn’t have told the customers there were no McBiggies,” she chastised Keith.

“You really think they would wait for an hour? People complain if they have to wait five minutes.”

“Trust me, people will wait for McBiggies,” Candela informed him. “They’ll do anything for them.”

As if on cue, hordes of angry people came into view and marched in a circle outside of the restaurant. Keith recognized the Southern parents with seven children, the two old ladies and the construction worker among the plethora of protestors. Makeshift signs sticking above the crowd declared “WE WANT MCBIGGY’S!” “NO MCBIGGY’S, NO LIFE!” and “I ❤ MCBIGGY’S!” In unison, they chanted, “We want McBiggies! We want McBiggies! We want McBiggies!”

Cody watched with a vacant expression. Candela placed her elbows on the counter and rested her face in her palms. “Keith, see what’s going on out there.”

“It’s pretty obvious what’s going on.”

“Just go out there and try to calm them. I need to relax. It’s been such a long day…”

Candela retreated into her office. Keith and Cody exchanged glances. “They’re being a BIT ridiculous, aren’t they?”

“They know what they want,” Cody shrugged. “They have every right to get it.”

“That doesn’t mean they should protest about it.”

“They want their McBiggies,” Cody shrugged. “That’s all.”

“But why are they making such a big deal about it?” Cody remained silent. Shaking his head, Keith resolved, “That’s it. I’m going to go out there and tell them ONCE AGAIN that we just don’t have those McBiggies.”

Keith marched from behind the counter to face the angry mob outside. At least I’ll have a good last day of work story. When he got outside, he hadn’t uttered a word before individuals from the crowd berated him.




Keith raised his hands. “Calm down, everyone,” he ordered. “We are sorry that we don’t have any McBiggies. However, we just called the shipping house, and there are more on our way. You can definitely wait an hour or so before eating each other’s arms off.”

This did not console the crowd.

The mother of the boy who cracked the floor spoke up. “All week I’ve been promising my son here that he could have his first McBiggy for his birthday. All week we’ve been looking forward to this. I set aside my $12.00 an hour just so we could have a nice meal together. And we come all the way out here only to find out that there are no McBiggies. You would deprive a child of his first ever McBiggy?”

The crowd roared in supportive approval. A handsome young man, who was holding hands with a young woman, spoke up next.

“My girlfriend and I here only get to see each other four times a year. We share a love for McBiggies. We just want to share something we both love together. It’s not right that it isn’t there! It’s not right!”

The girlfriend nodded her head in agreement, and the crowd once again roared in support.

The short old lady with the coupon spoke up. “I talked to this couple, and they have ALSO been to every Billy’s Place in this area. They ALSO carry coupons, and have ALSO been disappointed by every Billy’s Place they’ve been to. How can this happen?”

“Listen, everyone,” Keith resumed. “I suggest you go somewhere else. Maybe another Billy’s Place you haven’t looked at yet, maybe even another restaurant, I don’t know. But we just don’t have any McBiggies! You can either wait, or leave.”

“No!” the crowd shouted in unison. A pudgy young girl of six or seven walked to the front of the crowd. “Sir, isn’t there anything you can do about the McBiggies? My brothers and I love the McBiggies. We look forward to them every week at school!”

Keith squatted in front of the girl and said, “Listen, just go back to your mom, and tell her—

The little girl kicked Keith in the knee. While Keith held his leg in pain, the crowd laughed and cheered the little girl. A few men touched her shoulder in recognition and support.

“Everyone deserves the right to a McBiggy!” one man in a red, white and blue proclaimed.

“Yeah!” the crowd responded.

The red white and blue shirt man began to rhythmically clap his hands. “What do we want!?”


“When do we want them!?”


The crowd evolved into a circle encompassing Keith. In the midst of the chanting, men and women pushed and kicked Keith from one side to the other. Over the current of the chant and the verbal poundings against his body, Keith heard individuals shouting, “Selfish bastard!” “Greedy jerk!” “Apathetic asshole!” The construction worker spat on Keith.

Where’s Candela when you need her? Keith thought to himself as the same pudgy little girl from before kicked him in the shin, knocking him to the ground. Why can’t that truck just come by and put all these people out of their misery?

Through the circling of the crowd, Keith saw Candela and Cody outside of the restaurant. They were waving their arms and shouting something, but their shouts were rendered unintelligible by the crowd.




Keith turned his head toward the “Home of the Famous McBiggy Burger! One Billion (And Counting) Sold!” sign plastered on the window. A few rabid customers scratched at the poster, hoping that the depicted burger was a real one.

“WILL YOU SHUT UP!?” Keith shouted to no avail. The crowd continued to circle him in protest. For every scream Keith emitted, the crowd notched up a decibel louder. By the time the crowd had calmed down in obedience to Keith’s pleas, his voice was hoarse and nearly dried up.

“I know you’re mad about your McBiggies,” he said as he struggled to gain his footing. “But you can’t get mad at me for it! Your lives cannot revolve around something as pathetic as a glorified burger.”

The crowd gasped at Keith’s audacity. Before he could continue speaking, an elderly man in a t-shirt and overalls stepped forward.

“Let me tell you a story—When I was little, my dad took me to this very Billy’s Place. My dad and I both ordered McBiggies. He made me promise to live each day as it came, to revel in every bite of the McBiggy each day. Live life as you can, he told me, live life by each bite of the McBiggy. The next day, he died in a car accident coming home from work. If I don’t have a McBiggy today, I am betraying my daddy, AND breaking a years-strong promise. That McBiggy is a symbol of life, and if you dare call it a glorified burger–” here, the old man lifted his cane (Those damn canes) to Keith’s chin. “—then you have no comprehension of life whatsoever.”

The teary crowd applauded in support of the old man. Unmoved, Keith continued to speak.

“They’re just hamburgers! There are so many more food options out there—Salads, for instance. No offense, but I see that some of you could afford to eat more than a few salads. You can also eat fish sandwiches, a veggie wrap, chicken strips, even. But you still decide to blow both your savings AND your health on a pathetic burger.”

“There are starving children all over the world who would LOVE to have that ‘pathetic burger,” one rather chubby lady pointed out.

“Then why don’t you give it to them instead of wolfing all of them down yourself?”

“I get hungry too!”

Keith eyed her stomach. “Very frequently, I would assume.”

The crowd gasped. “You have NO right to say that!” the chubby lady cried. She swung her purse, sending Keith onto the ground with a declarative smack. Keith felt a warm wetness creep out from behind his head.

The old man repeatedly wacked Keith’s shoulder with his cane. “That McBiggy is a beacon of life, hope, justice, peace…”

The old man continued to list off symbols as the crowd began to close in on Keith. Shouts of “How dare you!” and “You sick person!” polluted the air around him. The rotten stench of their breaths insulted his nostrils. More than a few farts were released in his face. He felt himself suffocate from the weight of those who sat on him. “You can’t… Why are you… Your lives can’t… I’m only trying to h…”

What Keith had planned to say now failed to matter.

When the crowd realized that Keith wasn’t resisting anymore, they stood back and took in what they had done. There was an air of confusion among them. Questions such as what to do with the body, who to tell and who to blame were considered, but unasked. Candela and Cody approached the crowd. Their complexions betrayed disgust and disbelief. Candela opened her mouth to speak. “How—

All of a sudden a giant truck bearing the words “Billy’s Place” steamed and hissed into the parking lot. Relief enchanted the atmosphere. Her prepared speech neglected, Candela led the crowd to the truck, where a cheerful truck driver hopped out and announced, “Who wants McBiggies?”

The crowd cheered. “I see all of you do. Sorry that they took so long to get here.”

“We understand, stuff happens,” a men in a yellow and red-stained shirt replied.

“Now, who can help me carry these boxes in?” A few strong men volunteered. The truck driver led them to the back of the truck. “We don’t know what happened to the McBiggies,” the driver explained. “One day, they were all just gone. I think someone must’ve stolen them late last night. We don’t know how we missed it.”

“Guess some people just can’t handle their McBiggy cravings,” one of the volunteers replied. The crowd responded with laughter.

The men loaded the boxes into the restaurant while the women watched in admiration. After twenty minutes, the McBiggy paddies had all been loaded into the freezer of the restaurant. The truck driver announced, “I have to make about twenty more stops today. And it’s only lunch time!”

The crowd laughed and moaned in sympathy. “Good-bye! Good luck! Thank you!” they called after the truck driver.

The truck driver saluted the crowd and drove off. “What a nice and generous man,” the women replied. “Hopefully not as nice or generous as I am,” their husbands replied. The couples chuckled lightly.

The crowd casually stepped around Keith’s body. The pudgy little girl who had kicked his shin walked up to him and almost touched him, but the mother dragged her away. “He didn’t understand.”

Cody remained and looked at the body. Just as Candela walked past him, he forlornly asked her, “What are we going to do about the body?”

“Just clean it up,” Candela replied without looking at either Cody or what had once been Keith. “Then take care of the customers. We’re expecting to be very busy now.”

Inside, the only complaints were of too much McBiggy Sauce or not enough juice in the meat. But aside from these somewhat inevitable complaints, everyone was perfectly content to sit at their tables with their families, friends and McBiggies.

The line stretched out the door, but Candela took every order with an amiable smile and a “Have a nice day!” As Cody went to the back of the kitchen to retrieve gloves and a bag, she was thankful to have a hard worker as Cody was. As she watched the boy swiftly and effectively clean up the mess of Keith, she wished there were more deferent workers like Cody. When the boy returned from disposing the body, Candela patted him on the back.

“You’re a good worker, Cody.”

“Thank you, Candela. What are we going to do about the car?”

“We’ll figure it out. Just take next customer.”

“Yes, ma’am.”