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Consider the following situation at the grocery store, on a normal day (i.e., not including out-of-the-ordinary cases like Black Friday) in a medium to large town (i.e., where almost no one will know anyone else in the store):

Everyone (say 4 to 5 people) is lined up behind the only open till. A cashier comes and opens the adjacent till and motions to the line of people she is open.

Is the general etiquette (rule?) that the people who change lines and arrive roughly at the same time line up in the same order as they were in the original line, or is it more like a race and people just line up in the order they arrive (which usually results in the person near the back of the original line begin first as they had the shortest path/best visibility)?

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  • Could you provide a location tag? What country/culture does this take place in? – Jess K. Jun 8 '18 at 20:26
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    I'm voting to close this question as too broad. I think this depends highly on the situation. Etiquette in New York on Black Friday is going to differ drastically from a small town where everyone knows everyone else by face. – scohe001 Jun 8 '18 at 21:10
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    Town where, though? The US? Canada? China? Where? – Catija Jun 10 '18 at 22:18
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    That's not what we do here. If you can't be specific, we can't reopen the question. This is a Q&A site, not a research site. – Catija Jun 10 '18 at 22:20
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    Generally it is not required to specify a country. But etiquette relies strongly on the culture and can vary from country to country. Therefore you need to be a little more specific about your location. together with the latest edit, it will be enough to reopen the question. – kscherrer Jun 11 '18 at 8:34
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Your question specifies particular lines for registers and not common feeder lines where the problem would not occur.

I looked to see you are from Canada, and I will imagine my US based response will be good enough.

In the original line, there is a Person-Being-Served, who naturally cannot move. There is Next-In-Line, who also will not move because they are next.

Because of how some lines have an end-cap where they entice children with candy and adults with gossip magazines, there may be space where another 1 or 2 folks cannot conveniently move.

Whoever can conveniently do so should be the one to move to the newly opened line. However, this should not change the real order of the queue. If a person from the end moves up out of sequence, they are line jumping, but the worst they will get are stern looks.

Whenever practical, courtesy and advantage should be yielded to the pregnant, elderly, and disabled (unless declined by the target) but that should be a general rule regardless.

And of course, there are times when the person who logically should be the first to move gives the "No-You-Go-Ahead" verbal or non-verbal signals, in which case they have forfeited their advantage spot in the new line.

So, official answer: second person still to be served has first option, unless design of the checkout lane keeps them from moving easily, at which point it goes down the line until someone can move over.

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  • My experience is different. The original line order only plays into the new line order if they move to the new line at the same time, if you have to duck in front of the other person sure. But more often than not a person at the back of the line may notice and follow the cashier to the new checkout and if they simply arrive first, the etiquette is different. If you pick up your items and move to the next line in a relaxed speed, my experience is that you will only be perceived as jumping in front of someone if you physically do so. – Jesse Jun 11 '18 at 4:09
  • @Jesse this may be better suited as an own answer, than as a comment on this answer. – kscherrer Jun 11 '18 at 8:40

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