This post was part of AOL Money & Finance's Best & Worst of 2007 feature. Voting has now closed and readers have chosen rising fuel prices as the most worrisome consumer trend. Be sure to let us know in the comments if you are pleased with this result.
The most Worrisome Consumer Trend of 2007 is ... whichever one you choose. The following is my analysis of four candidates -- ranging from can't sleep at night to minor complaint:
- China product recalls. 30 million Chinese products -- many of them toys -- have been recalled in the last several months. With the holiday shopping season in full swing, this has to be among the most worrisome consumer trends. It's not easy to find out if a product is made in China. This list of U.S. made toys might help, and this list of Made in America products might also be useful.
- Subprime and mortgage meltdown. The cost to society of the subprime mortgage meltdown could be as high as $4 trillion. Two million people are expected to lose their homes to foreclosure by the end of 2008. If you are one of these people, this trend is definitely costing you sleep. And since there's no way of knowing how widespread the damage will be, everyone in the world should be worrying about this one.
- Rising oil prices and affects on gas, heating bills, etc. The price of oil is up over four-fold since January 2001 and gasoline prices are up 40% over a year ago. And a 24% rise in the cost of heating oil -- to $2.91 a gallon -- will certainly cost New Englanders some sleep this winter. When people have to choose between driving and keeping their home warm, that is more than a little worrisome.
- Food safety breakdown and rising food prices. This spring dogs and cats were dying due to melamine in their Chinese food. There have been several recalls related to E. coli bacteria -- like the September 2007 Topps Meat ground beef one. And if that's not enough, food prices are rising fast -- for example, beef prices are up 12.8%. These trends are pretty scary, but they're not the worst of the lot because the food safety problems seem isolated and many can afford the price increases.
Share the reasons for your pick of the most worrisome consumer trend in the comments, or let us know about any contenders we overlooked. Also be sure to see the rest of AOL Money & Finance's Best & Worst of 2007.