When looking for a repairman, a restaurant to try, or a place to buy something, I prefer to depend on the recommendation of someone I know. That is not always possible, so sometimes I have to look to "raters". But now I am beginning to wonder about them.
For example, I recently read an article about the Better Business Bureau, an organization I used to turn to to check out, say, a landscaping company. In a recent "The Haggler" column in The New York Times, I learned that if an organization is a paying member of the BBB, complaints about that organization seem to be buried in, or even disappear from, the Better Business Bureau website. The article was compelling and the BBB's response to it a week later was anything but reassuring.
We also have checked out Trip Advisor for travel advice. Last January, when we were in Tubak, Arizona, an artists' town near the Mexican border, we visited a number of shops, and bought some lovely gifts. Before we left, we remembered that Trip Advisor had recommended one store (and one store only) in Tubak, so we looked for it. It turned out to be a tacky souvenir shop. So much for our trust in Trip Advisor.
Our neighborhood of seventy-five homes has a listserve. We ask each other for advice about just about anything. I'll take my neighbors' recommendations over the Better Business Bureau or Trip Advisor any day.