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Web Extra: Go Online and Harness the Collective Wisdom of Shoppers Everywhere

How to Shop Smarter

For practically anything you might buy, there is a Web site where consumers sound off on what they like and don’t like on everything from stuff (Epinions and Amazon.com’s reviews) to services and businesses (Angie’s List and Yelp) and beyond. To make life easier, we compiled a list of our favorite user-reviews sites. Just click on the links and go

 

APARTMENTS

Apartmentratings.com: Ratings of landlords and management companies, with apartment searches as well as the rates for similar nearby apartments.
Apartmentreviews.net: Not searchable by ZIP Code, so this site is most useful when you’re looking for reviews of specific apartment buildings, landlords, and management companies.

BOOKS & MEDIA

Bookslut.com: Chicago-based book review blog with quirky, literate original content and lots of reviews.
BooksWellRead.com: Blog forum for book discussions.

BUSINESSES

Better Business Bureau: At this Web site, you can find out whether complaints have been filed against a business; check locally at chicago.bbb.org.
Planetfeedback.com: A forum for complaints after a service mishap, with a letter-writing system to report poor service back to the company.
Yahoo Local (local.yahoo.com): Offers user reviews of a wide array of businesses—from the usual (restaurants, dry cleaners, bars) to the uncommon (private preschools, fire departments, and hospitals). Lots of unreviewed entities and a couple of strange ones—for example, the “City of Chicago” gets four stars.

CARS

Automotive.com: Well-established car review site with discussion forums.
Cars.com: Comprehensive car buying site with reviews from critics and consumers in its “research” section.
Edmunds.com: Check out the “consumers’ most wanted vehicles” feature, which summarizes the results of popularity polls conducted by the site’s editors.
Tirerack.com: Expert advice and user reviews on purchasing tires, wheels, brakes, suspension systems, and wipers.

CONTRACTORS

Angieslist.com: Member site requires registration and fee to access reviews of contractors such as handymen, plumbers, remodelers, roofers, painters, and landscapers.

DINING & ENTERTAINMENT

Burritophile.com: Chicago is among the cities included at this site, where burrito lovers rate the best and the worst.
Citysearch.com (Chicago):  A comprehensive online city guide with a mix of professional reviews and user ratings.
Corkd.com: Catalog wines and read what others are drinking.
Lthforum.com: Where Chicago’s obsessive foodies gather to compare notes about restaurants, cooking, and grocery stores.
Nosewine.com: Share tasting notes and recommendations with other members.
Metromix (metromix.chicagotribune.com): Provides reviews and user ratings for Chicago entertainment options including restaurants and bars.
Roadfood.com: Recommendations of where to eat while out on the road.
Skillet Doux: Blog reviewing and plentiful photos of dishes from Chicago restaurants.
Yelp.com (Chicago): Under the tag line “real people, real reviews,” this site takes a community approach to rating restaurants, stores, and services in a phonebook’s worth of cities across the U.S. Locally, it’s yelp.com/chicago.

GOODS & GADGETS

Amazon.com: The original e-commerce pioneer also offers robustly populated user review sections, with star ratings, for nearly every product it sells, and price comparisons.
Bizrate.com: A search engine operated by Shopzilla.com that includes price comparisons, merchant ratings, and some user reviews of products.
Cnet.com: Long established review site for technology gadgets, assessed and written by editors, and accompanied by user reviews.
Coffeegeek.com: Consumer reviews of coffee makers and espresso machines as well as online forums to talk about java.
Consumerreports.org: Requires a paid subscription, but one of the most trusted sources in rating and recommending products and services.
Engadget.com: Bloglike entries on new tech products, with lots of reader commentary.
Epinions.com: The mother lode of consumer opinions on more than 100,000 products, as well as travel, music, and movies.
ResellerRatings.com: Price comparison site for consumer electronics with store ratings by users.
Shopping.com: Acquired by eBay, this online comparison shopping site is utterly devoid of personality but does provide well-organized ratings and comparison price charts for many goods; reviews are linked from epinions.com, its sister site.
Viewpoints.com: Founded by Chicagoan Matt Moog, former CEO of Cool Savings, this heavily designed Web site compiles user reviews of consumer products, travel destinations, restaurants, and movies, among many categories.

TRAVEL

Airlinequality.com: Barebones forums allow passengers to review—and mostly complain about—airlines, airports, and airplane seats.
Epictrip.com: Travel-blog aggregator with search features.
Flyertalk.com: Chat forums that focus on how to use and maximize frequent-flier miles.
Fodors.com: An easy-to-navigate online guidebook that includes user reviews and rankings alongside editorial advice.
Hotelchatter.com: A professionalized Web blog about hotels, with dishy, inside information from destination around the world. Searchable, and has a user review forum.
Igougo.com: Travel community created from worldwide travelers on suggestions of where to travel, where to eat, where to stay, and what to see.
Kayak.com: Travel aggregator that links hotel listings to guest reviews from several Web sites.
Lonelyplanet.com: The online version from the well-known budget travel book publisher. Go to its Thorn Tree forum for user reviews of destinations.
Onebag.com: A blog of tips for packing and traveling light.
Ricksteves.com: Check out the “Graffiti Wall,” a low-tech repository of thoughtfully written travel advice.
Travelpost.com: Hotel ratings and reviews, with lots of photos, posted by travelers.
Tripadvisor.com: One of the most popular travel sites on the Web, this member community rates resorts, hotels, and vacation destinations.
Tripconnect.com: A Friendster-like service for travelers.
Wikitravel.org: A spinoff of Wikipedia, this site creates user-generated entries about vacation destinations.
Zoomandgo.com: Great travel picture galleries. Videos, too.

PROFESSIONALS

Doctoroogle.com: Patient rankings of dentists. Pay a one-time fee of $12.95 to view the complete list—or you may view the listings for free if you contribute a review of a dentist that the site accepts.
Pickaprof.com: Students rate professors on campuses nationwide.
RateMyProfessors.com: One of the most successful ranking companies, allows college students to rate and review professors. Site format now also branched out to RateMDs.com, and RateMyTeachers.com.

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