1. customer, shopper
■ Shop clerks use お客様 when addressing their customers mainly to get their attention. The colloquial form お客（きゃく）さん may be used in casual places. (Note: Both words should be used sparingly. Overuse of the word is considered to show a lack of respect.)
□ Unlike in some other countries, shop clerks and other staff workers in commercial establishments in Japan are regarded as having a lower social status than their customers. The status differences between the two parties are maintained even outside the workplace. Consequently, they may speak to each other with different politeness levels.
◇ お客様、こちらのブラウスですと、いまお召しのスーツにもよく合いますが。(Note: usually from a short distance. If the clerk is close by, he or she does not need to address the customer.)
(A typical announcement broadcast in a store.)
■ The audience, especially of a theatrical and musical performance. Theatergoers are also called 観客（かんきゃく）and the audience for musical performances are called 聴衆(ちょうしゅう).
□ Many older Japanese may associate this word with 南春夫（みなみはるお）, a singer who expressed his appreciation for his audience with the phrase "お客様は神様です."
3. guest, visitor
■ A guest or visitor either at a business or in a private home. Usually a guest or a visitor is not addressed お客様. This is the term used to refer to the guest by members of the receiving party. Thus, the compound word お客様扱い（おきゃくさまあつかい）can mean both "to treat somebody very well" and "to treat somebody like a stranger when the person wishes to be treated more like a member of the group." The guest in the latter situation may complain by saying "どうぞ、お客様扱いはしないでください."
◇ 「健太、お客様にご挨拶は？」 「ああ、いらっしゃいませ。」
■ Euphemism for "menstruation" between females. Women, especially young girls, try to use euphemisms for bodily functions. Boys may be better off pretending that they do not understand what the word お客様 really means. Other, more direct expressions for this are 生理（せいり）, 月経（げっけい） and 月（つき）のもの.
This entry was created by Masako Sato.