A business owner told me his tipped employees will cash their cheques five-at-a-time because they're not that important to them. What they want are the tips.

$15 minimum wage won't work for restaurants

What does "five-at-a-time" mean here?

Thank you.

  • If you had to make a guess about what it means, what would you guess? – Catija Jun 29 '15 at 16:21
  • Most writers wouldn't hyphenate this type of multi-word adjective/adverb usage. The actual number is arbitrary/context-specific, obviously. It's also quite common to use at once instead of at a time. – FumbleFingers Jun 29 '15 at 16:52

This means the employee will let a stack of checks accumulate until there are five of them, and then take all five to the bank.

If a member of wait staff gets paid weekly, this means one trip to the bank every five weeks, instead of five weekly trips to the bank.

The significance of doing it this way is that the employees earn plenty of money from their tips, enough to get by week-to-week.

It's common in the U.S. for wait staff to be paid some nominal hourly amount, an amount that is quite a bit less than minimum wage. Restaurants are allowed to do this because the employees make more than enough money from their tips to compensate for this.

  • 2
    Just a minor note, the article is about Canada. And I think your last sentence is debatable and part of why states (and some individual restaurants) are slowly starting to get rid of the alternative minimum wage for tipped employees. – Catija Jun 29 '15 at 16:40
  • @Cat - Though the article's primary focus is on Canada, it does mention Los Angeles and Seattle as well. At any rate, I mentioned the U.S. in my answer because that's the only place where I have restaurant work experience. – J.R. Jun 29 '15 at 20:16
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    @catija Okay, he should have said "restaurants are allowed to do this because it is assumed that the employees make enough from tips ..." etc. – Jay Jun 29 '15 at 21:04

Ditto JR, but just to add a note of clarification: In general "X at a time" means to group X things together and "process" them all at once -- whatever "process" might mean in context.

Like if you "eat 3 sandwiches at a time", that means that you eat 3 sandwiches at one meal, one after the other. Or possibly that you shove all three into your mouth at once, though that seems unlikely for sandwiches. "Eat 3 potato chips at a time" probably means sticking three in your mouth at once.

If you "take stairs 2 at a time", that means that you run up the steps only putting a foot down on every second step.


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