Consumer Corner

Articles on this page were written by Mo & No Mo.

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Bath and Body Works: A Feast for the Senses

 What is your main goal when you take a shower or bath? To be clean and smell good – right? Some people prefer body washes, soaps or lotions that smell like the beach, while others prefer a sweeter fragrance, like vanilla. Where, oh where, can you go to purchase all the “smell-good” items that help you get squeaky clean and relax? Bath and Body Works, of course!

As I walk in there are a plethora of fragrances that touch my nose. I look around at the vast variety of products that make me daydream about pedicures and long bubble baths. When I come back to reality, I think which scent do I want to smell, first? I pick up a bottle of lotion with the scent of pink chiffon. I set the bottle back down and move on. I find another shelf with teeny, tiny bottles that catches my eye; it’s anti-bacterial hand gel! Ahhh! It comes in all sorts of scents and colors! Next to those, I find a bowl with small rubber gadgets in it. Putting two and two together, I see that this little object is a holder for the small bottles of the anti-bacterial gel, with a part on the end by which  you can attach it to your purse, keychain, or belt loop. How convenient, I muse!

I select five bottles of gel, with scents ranging from cookies to eucalyptus, and two bottle holders. I carry my selections to the counter and the friendly salesperson asks, “Will this be all for you, today?” I smile and tell her “yes”.  I complete my purchase, and she invites me back. I smile and say “most definitely!”  So, I urge you to visit Bath and Body Works, in Leigh Mall, and get your “smell-good” on!

Originally Published in the June 6, 2012 Print Edition

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The Pit and Cone: Pure Down-home Goodness

A burger and a milkshake; this is a classic combination as old as Oreos and milk, and as American as apple pie. When you experience that craving, do you go to the drive-thru at some chain restaurant? Most people would probably answer, “Yeah!” That’s all well and good, but, to me, there is nothing like a hand- patted burger, along with a milkshake made from hand dipped ice cream, then spun into smooth, creamy goodness. At The Pit and Cone, you get that and so much more.

Eager for some good food, I pulled into the parking lot, exited my vehicle, and opened the pink front door of the restaurant, allowing the amazing aroma of hot pit BBQ to tease my nose.

Greeted by friendly servers, I find a seat and look over the menu, as my waitress brings me a huge cup of fresh-brewed sweet tea. It proves difficult to make a selection, because everything on the menu looks so good. Finally, I decide on the large cheeseburger. Waiting on my sandwich, I continue to look over the menu, which ranges from pulled pork BBQ plates, to a wide variety of sandwiches and other BBQ pit items.

Soon, my smiling waitress arrives with a red, paper-lined basket, which contains my order, sets it down in front of me, and asks if I need anything else. I tell her, “No thank you” and she walks away. As I peer down at the fully-dressed mammoth of a burger, I pick it up and take a bite. I, then, experience a taste so amazing that all I can do is close my eyes and go “mmmmm”. After savoring the rest of this delicious sandwich, I walk to the front and pay my bill, so full that I can barely walk. The ladies thank me and invite me back again; all I could muster was “I will definitely be back for more!”

 The Pit and Cone Ratings

Cleanliness: Two Thumbs Up

Price: $ ($10 or less, per person)

Value for the Money: Two Major Thumbs up

Friendliness of Staff: Two Thumbs Up

Variety of Menu: BBQ, Burgers, Chicken Tenders, Chicken Salad, Hand-dipped Ice Cream, Milkshakes, and much more

The Pit and Cone is located at 302 Tuscaloosa Road, across from Cattleman’s Steak and Fish, both owned and operated by Glenn Baldwin.

Stop in and see April, Delilah, and Timber you’ll be glad you did!!

 Originally Published in the May 30, 2012 Print Edition

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Thai-riffic Cuisine

Summertime is here and we could all use an escape.  Traveling to an exciting locale and experiencing exotic cuisine would be wonderful, but, for most of us, that is not on the agenda.  Luckily, a new restaurant has opened in Columbus, where we can partake in a bit of escapism, without even needing a passport!  Sao Thai and Sushi Bar is a little piece of paradise, right at our back door.

Owner Sao Timrathana moved all the way from Chicago to Columbus to open a restaurant that takes you away, at least for the length of time it takes for the average meal.  As soon as you walk in the door of Sao Thai, you feel worlds away from the monotony of everyday life.  Timrathana has filled his restaurant, located on Wilkins Wise Road in Littlewoods Mall, with beautifully carved wooden tables, gorgeous light fixtures and unique artifacts from his travels.  The sushi bar, in itself, is a piece of art, encasing a rainbow of different colored fish and vegetables to be presented to you by their talented sushi artist.  And, you couldn’t ask for better fish, both in quality and variety.  Everything from eel to tuna is served at Sao Thai, and all of it is flown in fresh from Hawaii, once a week; talk about quality ingredients!

Then there is the Thai food.  Whether this is your first time dining on Thai cuisine, like myself, or you have indulged all over the world, you are sure to be impressed!  There are several different types of noodles, the best quality fish and meat you could ask for, and so many delightful spices, you will feel like your mouth is on vacation!  I highly suggest the pad Thai, which is a noodle dish, served with your choice of meat, in a delectable peanut sauce; it’s unlike anything you have ever tried.  But, no matter what you choose from their vast menu, you will surely be pleased.

If you are still hungry after all their magical savory offerings, then you must try the sticky rice with mango.  I was skeptical at first, but the initial bite changed my mind.  It completely redefines dessert, in the best way possible.  The rice is sweet without being overpowering and the mango is the perfect way to end this decadent meal and still feel good about yourself!

So if you are in the market for something a little different for lunch or dinner, Sao Thai and Sushi Bar is a must.  You will feel welcomed and right at home in this delightful new establishment.  And, feel free to ask questions about the menu, if you are a novice to this particular fare; the friendly staff will be happy to guide you through this unique dining experience.  You will leave feeling as content and relaxed as if you just left a four-star resort.  But, alas you will still have to work the next day!

Sao Thai and Sushi Bar is located at 411 Wilkins Wise Road, in Columbus. Phone calls reach them at 662-889-8898.

Originally Published in the May 23, 2012 Print Edition

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OBSERVATION:  With more and more violence happening in our city, it seems that our Police Department is becoming more secretive, with each passing day.  Doesn’t it seem to make sense that when you are transparent, the citizens feel safer and more secure, because they actually know what the CPD is doing to protect them.  Secrets only cause suspicion and doubt.

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Walking into Buffet City, on Saturday evening, filled me with anticipation, as the experience impacted each and every one of my senses.  I love seafood, and it seems that, on this particular evening, they had shrimp in just about every way imagined, and then some.  Next there was crab – oh my.  I never knew there were so many ways to prepare crab meat.  Add all of this to the already full variety of dishes available, and you have a buffet that satisfies even the toughest critic out there.

The restaurant is clean and roomy.  The staff seems to be pleasant, but a little distant.  Customer service is adequate. This is not the cozy down home feeling of some of the restaurants in our area but the wide variety of food more than makes up for that. If you enjoy Asian food with an American twist, give Buffet City a try.  If you especially like seafood, then try them on the weekend for some yummy shrimp and crab.

Originally Published in the May 9, 2012 Print Edition 

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As you walk in the door of Smackers, you are greeted by friendly young ladies who let you know, right away, that they are there to help you in any way they can. They show you how the machines work and offer you a taste of any of the ten frozen yogurt flavors available at any given time. Some of the flavors are always available, while some flavors rotate, every week or so.

Once you fill your very large cup with your favorite frozen yogurt, you turn around and are overwhelmed by the 60 different toppings you can heap on that already-delectable frozen concoction. Just when you think that it couldn’t get any better, try one or two of those toppings. Frozen yogurt just gets better as you add toppings – YUM!

Some of the choices are fat-free, some are no-sugar added, and some are regular. Several diabetics that we spoke with, claimed that it didn’t matter which frozen yogurt they got. Those wonderful frozen confections didn’t seem to have any effect on their blood glucose levels. How exciting is that?! Be warned, though – some sugary toppings will drive your glucose levels up, so you do have to be careful. Temptation is hard to resist!

They are really cute tables and comfortable chairs for customers to use, inside the shop, or you can sit in the fenced-in patio area, so that you can munch your frozen treat and enjoy fresh air, at the same time.

All in all, Smackers is a delight, from start to finish and will leave you wanting more of the same.

This local eatery is an asset to our community. Let’s support this bright spot in our town!

 Originally Published in the May 2, 2012 Print Edition

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Have you ever been sitting at your desk, working hard, when all of a sudden – grrrrrrrr.  What on earth was that sound?  Sitting back in your chair to ponder the sound that broke your train of thought and, then, suddenly – grrrrrrrrrrr – there it goes again.  Yes, your stomach is talking to you.  Placing your hand on your belly to calm that unrelenting beast, you notice an empty feeling.  Looking at your watch, you realize – yes – it’s time for lunch.  Where oh where are we going to eat today?  Getting tired of the “same ole same ole”, you decide to try some place new. You get in your car and point it toward that new restaurant – Farmstead.

The first things that grab your attention, when you walk through the doors of Farmstead, are the tables and chairs.  How refreshing to be able to sit in a nice comfortable chair with arms, and huddle around a table that is just the right size to promote conversations while you eat.  The decor is rustic; we are having trouble walking because we are fascinated by the novel use of buckets for lighting (you have to see this, to believe it).

There are many choices, here; you have the a la carte menu, plus there are some slips of paper on your table, from which you can select one of the plate lunches.  To be honest, our group always eats the plate lunches, and we have never been disappointed.  Upon speaking with many of the other diners, I only hear good things about the a la carte menu items, as well.  Good food prepared the Southern, home-style way – it just doesn’t get any better than that.  Can I recommend any one particular item? No, because it’s too hard to narrow it down to just one.  There are favorites among our group; for instance, we barter and trade among ourselves for the squash dressing, but it is all good.

The folks that work there are friendly and fast.  But, be careful, the lady in the green outfit will twist your arm to take the dessert – just kidding!  Oh, but they are all so tempting and wonderful!

The atmosphere feels like home.  You are comfortable, from the minute you walk through the door.  For a place to enjoy a delightful meal with all the fixin’s, as well as great service, drive over to Farmstead Restaurant on McCrary Rd., across from Magnolia Bowling Lanes. You’ll be glad you did!

Originally Published in the April 25, 2012 Print Edition

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The skies are blue, with big white puffy clouds floating by, in the shapes of bunnies, sheep and other imagined creatures.  A gust of wind sends a kite off to locations only dreamed of.  Yes, spring fever is here – oh boy, is it here!  Stores are full of shoppers; the parking lots are full.  Upon entering a store, the first obstacle you encounter is the hunt for the elusive shopping cart.  There are a few lined up against a wall; so, you walk over to them, only to discover that most of them don’t want to go in the store, they want to go to the parking lot; the others have at least one flat tire.  How do you resolve this challenge – you go back out to the parking lot where you ran the obstacle course of buggies to get your car into an empty parking space.

Back in the store, the aisles are in gridlock – crowded with buggies filled with crying babies or toddlers; small children running around, playing hide and seek or tag; items spilling off the shelves and scattered across the floor. You ever-so-gently navigate around the frustrated young woman, whose “little darling” is throwing a tantrum because mommy won’t buy him that Easter basket or chocolate rabbit.  It doesn’t take long to realize that you aren’t going to get anything done, this day, so let’s go to another store and take care of some of those other errands.  Let’s see – envelopes, file folders, ink cartridges – yes, Office Depot is the place for me.  Jumping in the car, I head towards that magical place where my shopping list intersects with a peaceful environment and plenty of help to locate the needed items.

Walking in the door this Saturday morning, I stop to breathe in the calm and quiet of a nice, well stocked (and all on the shelves – not the floor) store.  Taking notice of the large number of customers, I venture out to find the first item on my list.  After several minutes, I stumble upon the envelopes, and place this much-needed item in my basket. Continuing with my quest to locate items on my list, it becomes apparent that a store associate is needed to complete this task.  What, no assistance is available?!  But this is Office Depot; they are supposed to be there to assist you in your every need.  Walking through the store, I am amazed to discover how many customers are having the same issues I am – at the last count it was around 23.

Not surprisingly, it appears that only one register is open.  The cashier has about eight customers lined up, and waiting to check out, so no help is available to assist me, there. Ahhh, I see one associate.  He is sitting over at the copy desk, using a computer. The woman who should be working behind that counter is hunkered down behind a display, chatting and laughing with her co-worker, who is at the computer.  Finally, I hear one customer walk over and ask if she is working, and she replies to the customer, “I guess I am, now.”  Should we blame this whole scenario on spring fever, or is this simply indicative of bad customer service and bad business practices?  You be the judge. All we can do is report what we see.

Originally Published in April 4, 2012 Print Edition

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This week, we are going to take a brief tour through Lowe’s Hardware Store.  There is no need to play around with where we are or what we are doing.  Let’s look at Lowe’s.

One of my favorite things to do is watch people.  Be it weekends or weekdays, you can go into Lowe’s, take a seat in the patio furniture section, and just sit back and watch. The only thing missing is a box of popcorn and a drink; it’s like a movie.

Some of the sights include: the elderly man, using a walker, that a store employee almost plows over.  At least he the steadies the gentleman on his feet and apologizes; the young up-start that is too busy with “whatever’ to wait on customers or answer the phone.  All he is good for is to cause Cecil (more on him, in a moment) more work and, oh yea, holding up that riding lawn mower by leaning against it.

Then there is Cecil.  Ahhhh, he is the man of the hour, since he works over in the lawn mower section, and is one of the very few people around there willing to help customers.  He is constantly juggling customers and answering the phone.  Cecil is a one-man force to be reckoned with. Too bad they can’t get him to train some of the younger employees.

The store is busy today.  Folks are planting new spring flowers and trying to get their lawn mower running so they can cut that grass that has sprung up all of a sudden. There are shrubs to be pruned, ants and bugs to be killed, lawns to be mowed, walks and driveways to be edged – my goodness.  It’s almost like an ant farm, with people running around, and they all have spring fever.

Yes, Lowe’s has its problems with lazy employees, missing stock and other assorted problems; however, at the end of the day, they do a pretty good job.

Next time you are there, ask for Perry.  He is the greatest asset Lowe’s has.  He will make you feel welcome, and will always greet you with a warm, gentle smile on his face and will help you find any item you might be looking for.

If they could clone Perry and Cecil they would have the best Lowe’s in the country!!!

Originally Published in March 28, 2012 Print Edition

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A gentle scent of spices catches the imagination as you open the doors to The Golden Star Restaurant.  Flavors only dreamed of as you swallow because you are salivating from the aromas of the orient.  Let’s go on in and sample the delicacies offered at this delicious buffet.

The oriental decor is inviting and interesting.  Pictures, lanterns and what-nots catch the eye and promote dreams of days gone by in foreign countries.  You are greeted by a warm and friendly host or hostess who seats you pretty much anywhere you ask to be seated.  Customer service seems to be the name of the game at this restaurant and they know how to make their customers happy.  We have been there during the week for an evening meal and on the weekend for a noon meal; the food and service exceeded our expectations both times.

As you look at the buffet, you are struck by the small portions in each container.  As I sat back and looked at this unusual aspect of a buffet, it became clear pretty quickly that this is done with the intention of providing quality food for the customers, at all times.  Most restaurants in our town fill the containers up and walk off and leave the buffet until somebody complains that they are out of food – this is not true at The Golden Star.  Employees constantly work the buffet, filling containers with just enough to provide their customers with ample servings, but not enough for the food to become stale, dried out or burned; but to remain fresh at all times.  There is a wide range of flavors and foods to try, all of which are good.  My personal favorite – the green beans -are to die for; but it is all good.

No matter whether you have a group, are there as a couple, or just by yourself – walk on in and try The Golden Star Restaurant, located in Leigh Mall (where Garfield’s used to be) for some of the best oriental food in town. Eat a green bean for me!

 Originally Published in March 21, 2012 Print Edition

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OBSERVATION:  On March 1st, we were warned of the severe weather headed our way.  As a matter of fact, we had warnings for several days in advance of the storm.  Gratefully, the storm did not come as far south as was first expected, so our weather was not as bad as had been predicted. With all of this advance notice, you would think the authorities would have a well-thought-out plan to handle any and all possibilities.  It seems the local authorities have not given any thought to the Bypass off-ramp, at Hwy. 50.  On this night, when the lights were out, it seems cars were exiting the bypass in total darkness, skidding and sliding, because there were no lights and no officers at the intersection to assist; all the while there was a squad car, blue lights flashing,  posted at the Lehmberg Road-Hwy 50 intersection, where lights from the Nissan parking lot helped in visibility.  Maybe the people that plan for these emergencies need to ride around in the dark some nights, to see where emergency help is needed.

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As stated last week, we have been getting a lot of phone calls and e-mails about local establishments, and we have saved each and every one of them.  We are still working on using all of these comments in one giant Consumer Report; however, after receiving so many complaints about one particular business, we felt it imperative that we share this information with our readers.  I have picked two of the most recent complaints, one a call and one an e-mail, with pictures included.  We feel that what these customers have to say kind of says it all, so we really don’t need to add much, only the name and location of the business. I will tell you it is a local pizza shop – the name and location will be provided at the end of the story.

First Complaint – “While sitting outside, waiting for my order to be prepared, it disturbed me to see a young male employee with not-so-short curly, blonde hair shaking his head, laughing and having a good time.  The fact that there was no hair net or cap to contain any loose hairs bothered me. Before my concern over the loose hair diminished, I noticed two young employees standing close to the cash register, playing “keep away” with dollar bills.  Then, without slowing down to wash their hands or wipe their hands off, one goes and starts making pizzas, while the other young man moves to the back of the pizza parlor and starts cutting and boxing up pizzas that come out of the oven. Nasty – just plain nasty!!!”

Our second complaint arrived by e-mail, with pictures included.  ‘On Tuesday, March 6th, I decided to treat my husband, and surprise him with pizza for supper.  I called Papa John’s to order our pizza at 5:37 P.M.  It was clear from the very start that the young woman that answered the phone wanted to be anywhere but there.  After struggling to give my order, in between her conversations with others around her, and being very clear about the pizza being extra-extra light on the sauce, we hung up.  (My husband is diabetic and the sauce is what drives his sugar up, so ordering extra-extra light on the sauce allows him to have pizza as a treat, from time to time.) My order consisted of one medium meat lover’s pizza and one personal pan pizza with mushrooms, onion and black olives.  Both pizzas were supposed to  extra-extra light on the sauce.)  Once hour later, I call to find out what the delay is in my order being delivered, and was told it was on the way.  Twenty (20) minutes later, the pizza arrives barely warm.  When the young man walked up with the pizza, I asked him why it had taken so long and he was almost rude stating he had six stops to make before he made my run.  No apology, no offer of a discount – nothing, but attitude.  I paid my $27 for these two rather small pizzas, and went in the house.  At no time should it take one- hour-and-twenty-minutes to receive a pizza order!”

“The meat lover’s pizza had maybe five slices of pepperoni, and we never did find any of the other meats.  The sauce was slopped on and pouring out the sides.  The personal pan pizza was a small pizza, not personal pan size; there were no onions or black olives and the sauce was thick under the cheese.  Both pizzas were soggy and stuck to the box.  My husband attempted to eat his pizza, but my small pizza was not edible and went to the garbage.  I am enclosing pictures of the pizzas, so you can see how they looked.  Needless to say, we won’t be doing business with this company, again.”

The name of this business is Papa John’s Pizza on Hwy, 45 N., across the street from Kmart.

We want to thank these two contributors for helping us to keep our local restaurants honest and clean.  Maybe when the managers read this, they will start taking a little pride in their places of business and realize that customers and how they are treated determine whether they have a job or not.

Originally Published in March 14, 2012 Print Edition

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OBSERVATION: The “Underground Grapevine” is working overtime these days.  After hearing whispers about one of the most important requirements for our Columbus Police Department (CPD), I was shocked to learn that, according to McQueen, it is vitally important for “his” officers to “look good.”  We have gone back and re-read his comments in the papers and reviewed clips and pictures spanning the last several months and, guess what – he has repeatedly stated that it is important that “His” officers look good. All pictures and footage show McQueen in starched and pressed clothes, with never a wrinkle.  Folks, police work is dirty work – how can you solve crimes, knock on doors, investigate crime scenes and deal with criminals, without getting mussed up and dirty?  At least a wrinkle!!!  Again, it seems that the leadership of the CPD has lost focus. I admit that it is important for our police officers to look good but at no point in time should looking good replace the most important mission for our officers – to protect and serve.  Again McQueen, you are working to demoralize and put down our dedicated and loyal officers.

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Several weeks back, we had planned on writing this review, then we heard that Cattleman’s was going to incorporate Kountry Kitchen.  We opted to take the wait-and-see approach, to see if they were going to be able to maintain the impeccable reputation for an outstanding lunch that Kountry Kitchen had earned over the years, while still being able to serve some of the best steaks and fish during the evenings.

Walking in the door, you are greeted by some of the friendliest waitstaff in town.  If you frequent Cattleman’s, they know you by name and they know where you prefer to sit.  Not only that, they know what you like to eat, how you like it prepared and can make you a cup of coffee just the way you like it.  It’s been a long time since I visited a restaurant with such a loving atmosphere, and we visit a lot of businesses, especially restaurants.

We loved the little bowl of black-eyed peas with hush puppies, as an appetizer.  Those of us at our table who ordered steak raved on and on about how tender, moist and delicious their meat was.  Some ordered fish and had nothing but good things to say, in between stuffing their mouths.  How refreshing it was to get a fresh baked potato that was soft, hot and swimming in butter – YUM!

Clean, friendly and some of the best food in town – you just can’t get any better than that.  Be it lunch or dinner, they satisfy all of your culinary needs, for a meal that pleases with a down- home feel.  Go on down to Cattleman’s Restaurant, on Tuscaloosa Road, and enjoy.

Originally Published in March 7, 2012 Print Edition

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OBSERVATION:  We keep hearing that a new guard is in town and we can trust him. However, I have heard, through the “underground grapevine”, that the patrolmen now have a 15-ticket-per-month quota that they must meet, to stay out of trouble. Is this the way a new Chief creates a feeling of trust between the Police Department and the citizens?  I think not!!!    This is just another way to sabotage the morale of the Police Department.  Enough is enough!!

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OBSERVATION: I want to take a moment to thank all of our readers who have called the paper, to give comments on local establishments.  We have kept them all and I will be devoting one “Consumer Corner”, each month, to the readers’ comments.  If you would like your name added to your comment, you can let us know and we will do so, or you can remain anonymous.  So, call or write if you have had a good experience or a bad experience, and let us know.

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For those of us who have hard-to-manage hair, hard-to-cut hair, maybe hair the texture of straw – having a good hairdresser and stylist is extremely important.  Once you find somebody that can meet all of your cosmetological needs, it is important to keep them. You stay with them for years; they become a member of your family. Losing your cosmetologist can be traumatizing.  Having gone through just such a change, I am pleased to let you know that I have found a place that meets all my needs at one of the newest salons in our town – Coconut Salon & Spa.

Friends can be wonderful resources when you are in need, and praise from a friend helped me to give this new salon a try.  With hair full of cowlicks and waves, a haircut, for me, can be a trial.  If I don’t get a good haircut, my hair will stick up in all the wrong places and it takes the strength of cement to make it lay down.  If I get a good haircut, even after a night of sleeping, my hair falls into place and will look like it has just been combed when I get out of bed. I got the best haircut that I have ever received, at Coconut Salon & Spa.

As you walk in, you are instantly comfortable with your surroundings.  It is nice to sit in the styling chair and be close enough to chat with the person in the chair next to you, but you don’t want to bump elbows with them.  This is just the way things are set up at Coconut’s.  It’s roomy and rustic.

Consquella Townsel and Stephanie Gayle are there to meet your every cosmetological need, with knowledge and a love of people.  With their pleasing personalities, you can only find warmth and friendliness here, with an overriding knowledge of coloring, perms, manicures and haircuts or styling.  When you add the tanning bed and other benefits of the spa section, you can only find happiness and joy with one visit to Coconut Salon & Spa , located at 3445 Hwy. 50 E.  They have just celebrated their grand opening, so run by and give them a try.  You won’t be disappointed.

If you have a local business or establishment you would like us to consider for review, please e-mail us at: consumercorner@realstorypublishing.com.  You will get out honest opinion of the business, their personal customer service, and the services offered.  We strive for fair, unbiased reporting, so we hope to hear from you.

Originally Published in February 29, 2012 Print Edition

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