For the past 25 years I have been a strong supporter of a large, not for profit, youth organization that helps young men become strong, valiant adults. I have contributed financially, but more importantly—I’ve contributed endless time and personal resources.

Thursday I had occasion to go into the regional offices for some administrative approvals on behalf of a young man attempting to do a service project. As I walked in I actually bristled, expecting a negative exchange. Regretfully the very negative exchange I was hoping not to encounter, did in fact occur. As I approached the high desk, a smug woman peered over her glasses at me in a condescending manner, before any words were spoken. The following exchange was caustic, demeaning, and completely inappropriate. In the end I was denied both verbally and emotionally. The organization refused to discuss this young man and his project.

As I drove home I not only felt a bit of sadness, but a little bit of right indignation. I came to the conclusion that I would not be able to support this organization any longer.

The woman behind the desk had no idea who I was, my background, or the level of contribution that I have made to the organization through the years. Sadly most of my peers and influential colleagues have privately expressed this same level of frustration with the organization.

Although very powerful in its values, the organization does not espouse to live and operate by these same values. Instead the leadership conducting the bureaucratic portion of the business reflects values that are the exact opposite of helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, and cheerful.

When I think of failed businesses I know some met their demise because of these kinds of rough exchanges.

The reality is—as we treat our customers poorly, as we exchange caustically or negatively—very seldom do we get the luxury of having someone come out and vocally make a proclamation like I have just made. We live in a world of social media, and tweets and like buttons. Therefore what happens is word spreads, customers vote with their dollars, and they quietly vanish.

In your business, remember to take care to be respectful, to listen, and to treat your clients kindly. You never know who will be walking through the doors or standing across the desk from you. It is now easier than ever to share bad customer service stories.

Repeatedly mistreating an individual has a huge negative impact. Each interaction has social consequences that can literally make or break your business.

Luckily, I have several inverse examples of this too. I am continually impressed every time I pull up to my local tire store and the individuals run out to my car to greet me. They actually run out to my car to greet me.

I’m equally impressed with the organization where I now buy all my computers. I’m basically in love with Apple. Every time I go into one of the stores the geniuses at the bar greet me appropriately. They are courteous. They go out of their way to engage and help me resolve my problems. Often they go to the point of covering things that aren’t even under warranty.

Now what is the result of that kind of behavior?

Well, I don’t have any PC computers; every computer in every one of my offices is now a Mac. That’s the result of treating a customer properly. You catch more bees with honey.

Indeed, I begin where I started. We vote with our dollars and we go silently for good or for bad.