Chicago Tribune

We toured The Peninsula Chicago with an AAA inspector. Here's why those formal rankings still matter — even in the Yelp era

Sitting on a couch in a nook of The Peninsula Chicago's lobby, the man in the brown sports coat could be anyone - local, tourist, salesman.

It's a chameleonlike quality that comes in handy: He's Inspector 40, an inspector with AAA, and his job is to visit hotels and restaurants - often anonymously - and score them according to the company's Diamond-rating system.

In the last three decades, Inspector 40 has doled out enough diamonds to fill a mine. Last year alone, he inspected 664 hotels in Illinois, Wisconsin and Northern California.

Today, I've been invited along because I'm curious about the value of legacy rating systems, such as AAA and Forbes Travel Guide, at a time when everyone

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