Just a few years ago, Yelp was used primarily by San Francisco-area residents to exchange opinions on local restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
The idea caught fire, and Yelp has successfully expanded to include other cities, including much of Southern California. The range of businesses reviewed has also ballooned, making Yelp a good place to find opinions on a wide assortment of neighborhood services, including dry cleaners, bakeries, hair salons and even churches.
At the home page, simply enter the type of business or service you're looking for and a ZIP Code or city. Yelp will serve up a selection of choices with user reviews and ratings.
Although it's wise to approach any Web review with some skepticism, Yelp comments have the ring of real people sharing opinions over coffee. Two reviewers of a Silver Lake florist, for example, mention the owner's two dogs who bask outside the shop, and another confesses, "I still don't understand why women like flowers but they seem to make them happy."
By becoming a member -- free -- you can post your own reviews.
-- Scott J. Wilson