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CVS to stop digitally altered images in its store brand advertising, will label other brands’ manipulation

CVS is making sure its beauty ads live up to real life. 

It’s stopping the practice of photo manipulation on its store-brand beauty products and will mark other company’s advertisements with a notation on images that have been Photoshopped, USAToday reported.

The company will also mark photos that have not been altered with what it is calling the CVS Beauty Mark. 

>> Read more trending news 

The initiative has a deadline of 2020, the company announced.

CVS has 9,600 stores across the country and is considered one of the largest sellers of beauty products with 80 percent of the customers women. 

CVS Pharmacy President, Helena Foulkes told USAToday, “We’re all consuming massive amounts of media every day and we’re not necessarily looking at imagery that is real and true. To try to hold ourselves up to be like those women is impossible because even those women don’t look like how they appear in those photographs.”

The company hopes to have the CVS Beauty Mark on photos this year.

Walmart to raise starting wages, expand benefits: 6 things to know

Walmart officials on Thursday announced plans to increase starting wages for hundreds of thousands of the company’s employees, affecting the wallets of more than a million people across the country.

>> Read more trending news

In a news release Thursday morning, Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon characterized the wage increases and other announced benefits as “building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development.”

“It’s our people who make the difference and we appreciate how they work hard to make every day easier for busy families,” he said.

>> Related: Sam's Club abruptly closes locations across the country

The announcement came on the same day that dozens of Sam’s Club locations announced they were closing for good and just days after company officials said they planned to expand Walmart’s “Mobile Express Scan & Go” app to 100 more locations. The app allows users to pay for their Walmart purchases in-store from their phones without the need to go through a checkout line manned by a cashier. The expansion has led to speculation that Walmart, the country’s largest employer, might replace some of its workforce with technology.

“(The app) means no waiting in line at the register, but presumably also means that cashiers will lose their jobs,” the Arkansas Times reported

It was not immediately clear how many jobs would be affected.

Here are six things to know about the planned changes:

1. The starting wage rate for all hourly associates in America will rise to $11, $3.75 over the federal minimum wage of $7.25 and $2 over Walmart’s previous starting wage of $9. The wage change will apply to all hourly associates in the U.S. who work in Walmart stores, Sam’s Clubs locations, eCommerce, logistics and Home Office, according to company officials.

2. The pay bump will take effect starting during the Feb. 17 pay cycle. Walmart officials said its employees will determine which associates qualify for the cash bonuses before February, “and payments will be paid as quickly as practical thereafter.”

3. Some associates will also be eligible for cash bonuses of up to $1,000, depending on how long they’ve been with Walmart. Officials said the $1,000 bonus would go to those with 20 or more years of Walmart employment.

4. The company plans to expand on its maternity and parental leave policy. Full-time hourly associates will be eligible for 10 weeks of paid maternity leave. Both hourly and salaried employees will also get six weeks of paid parental leave.

5. Walmart will create a benefit to help associates with adoption expenses. The company will provide full-time hourly and salaried associates who are adopting children with $5,000 per child to help cover expenses like adoption agency fees, legal costs and translation fees.

6. McMillon credited the recently approved tax reform bill for the changes. Company officials said they are still reviewing their options for additional investments.

“We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business, all of which should benefit our shareholders,” McMillon said Thursday. “Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.”

Subway's $5 footlong could bankrupt franchises, some owners warn

While the $5 footlong from Subway is one of the best bites for your buck in the fast food industry, business owners aren’t always fond of the deal. Some of them say it could even threaten their business.

Keith Miller, who owns three Subways in North Carolina, told The Washington Post that the ingredients in the sandwich cost him about $2, but after paying his employees and adding up all the overhead — electric, gas, rent and supplies — his store brings in a measly profit on the hoagies. When the company decided to drop the prices of its famous subs to $4.99, Miller and a number of other franchise owners sent a letter telling the higher-ups that such a move would have them staring down bankruptcy.

>> Read more trending news 

Subway isn’t the only company to keep prices low with the hopes of enticing hungry customers; Taco Bell, Wendy’s and McDonald’s both boast dollar menus. You’d probably have a tough time finding a franchise owner happy with the low-priced items, but Subway owners have been the most vocal about their complaints. They recently wrote a petition to the big wigs at the company, asking them to reconsider. Owners admitted that the cheap options bring in more customers but that even the increase in traffic “insufficient to make up for the lost margins.” The petition was signed by almost 900 people in 39 states.

Subway says the promotions are optional and that the majority of franchise owners don’t share Miller’s views. In a statement given to the Post, Subway claimed “we are in constant communication with our Franchisees and Development Agents … they are actively involved in many aspects of our decision-making process, and we welcome and encourage their feedback.”

As the minimum wage continues to rise, the prices of some products (like Subway’s sandwiches) haven’t risen to the level necessary for owners to make a profit. Miller says that when he bought his first franchise, he was bringing in profit margins as high as 18 percent. But that number has drastically dropped in recent years.

There are also a number of other problems facing franchise owners. The fast food restaurant industry has become more crowded and, on top of that, people are shopping less and less at fast food stops. And for most owners, the problems show no sign of letting up.

New Year's resolutions: 4 tips for avoiding gym membership scams

The holidays are over and it’s time to get back in shape, but officials are warning consumers about potential gym membership scams.

>> Read more trending news 

In 2017, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office received about 140 complaints involving fitness or health club memberships. Top problem areas included cancellation and billing issues. Under Ohio’s Prepaid Entertainment Contracts Act, consumers generally have three business days to cancel a contract for gym memberships and other “health spa services,” martial arts training, dance studio lessons, or social referral services (such as a dating service).

>> How to keep your New Year’s resolutions this time

“This is a time when many people are thinking about joining a gym, and that can be a great way to get in shape. We just want consumers to understand what they’re signing up for,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “A little bit of prevention can go a long way.”

>> PHOTOS: Most controversial figures from 2017

DeWine’s tips for avoiding scams include the following:

1. Research the gym. Look for complaints on file with your local attorney general’s office or Better Business Bureau, and check online reviews for feedback from current or past customers. Pay attention to how a business addresses customer complaints.

2. Read contracts carefully. Make sure verbal agreements are put in writing. Otherwise, they are not guaranteed.

3. Watch out for extra fees. Determine the total cost of your membership. Find out if there are any extra fees for services like fitness classes or personal training. Also find out if payments will be withdrawn automatically from your account.

4. Check the cancellation policy. Understand what you would need to do to cancel your contract and how far in advance cancellations must be made. Many contracts renew automatically, so be sure to check the total length of the contract. 

Goodbye signatures? Credit card firms make big change

Don’t take this too hard: Your autograph isn’t worth what it once was.

>> Read more trending news

American ExpressMastercard and Discover have each announced that, starting in April, they will no longer require signatures on any U.S. and Canadian credit card purchases.(Actually, American Express is making the change for all its transactions worldwide.)

Visa hasn’t announced any plans to do the same. But there’s speculation it may eventually do so.

That pretty much would fully evaporate what may be the most common reason U.S. consumers still bother writing signatures, which were once the most prominent symbol of our financial integrity and proof of our identity (It’s also another blow to the general use of cursive writing, for those who remember what that is.)

“Signatures may be going the way of the lava lamp,” said William McCracken, the president of Phoenix Synergistics, a metro Atlanta-based consumer market research company focused on financial services.

“They will not be part of Gen Z. Signatures won’t be part of their stored memories.”

The shift away from signatures also hints at the fantasy we all pretended to believe: that signatures actually proved something.

“The industry’s unspoken secret is that signatures on a credit card receipt are relatively worthless from a security standpoint,” McCracken said.

Thieves only had to look at the signature on the back of a credit card, practice it a few times and come up with a fake good enough to pass.

But even that involves some quaint thinking. Because almost no one in places where we shop or dine is even glancing at signatures these days, whether you signed on paper or a glitchy electronic pad using a faulty stylus or your finger.

That would seem to explain why I’ve never been flagged for using my finger to draw a line across checkout signature pads.

Signatures are still used on plenty of legal property documents, government-issued IDs, artwork, acknowledgments of medical privacy notifications, cards to grandma and anything fans can ask celebrities to scribble on.

Yet, in other ways signatures have been slipping from the economy.

Instead of putting his “signature” on new dollar bills earlier this year, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin used a handwritten mix of upper- and lower-case block letters that could have been thumbed out on a smartphone.

Signatures became less necessary as check writing shrank. And while credit card use continues to grow — there were more than 37 billion U.S. transactions last year totaling $3.27 trillion dollars — most of that is going unsigned.

John Hancocks aren’t required on typical online purchases.

And credit card firms already scaled back signature requirements on small transactions. More than 75 percent of face-to-face Visa card transactions in North America don’t require people to sign their name, according to a Visa spokesman.

Thar is just as well.

Who hasn’t gone to sign for a credit card purchase using a pen that doesn’t work and “you just scribble anyway,” said Kim Sullivan, the senior director of payments solutions for Georgia-based transactions technology giant NCR.

Dropping signature requirements should speed up lines at retailers, Sullivan said, which is exactly what store owners are seeking.

“It’s going to improve the experience” for merchants and consumers, she said.

“It’s all about faster and frictionless,” she said.

Sullivan guesstimated that eliminating signatures might save an average of three seconds on each credit card transaction. So retailers can increase the number of customers they serve and generate more money, she said.

Some customers may feel a little unsettled with the idea that purchases of hundreds or even thousands of dollars could be made without signing anything.

Security is already the biggest concern people have about using credit cards, said McCracken from Synergistics.

For now, there has been no widespread rush to require use of PIN codes with credit card transactions in the United States. And some consumers are creeped out about the idea of entrusting credit card companies with personal biometric data that could help verify their identity.

Other security measures are already in place, such as checking the cards’ three- or four-digit CVV number, asking consumers for their billing ZIP code, adding computer chips to more cards and monitoring for unusual purchasing activity.

But the cruelest reality of saying goodbye to our signatures is this: apparently they already have so little value there isn’t a sweeping rush to replace them with something new.

Pedialyte for a hangover? Company says yes

Did you party too much? If you have a hangover, Pedialyte wants you to turn to its drink for relief.

The hydration drink, usually targeted at infants and children, also aims to alleviate your nausea, dry mouth and pounding headache. 

The company says its drink is for both kids and adults for rehydration as part of its “see the lyte” campaign.

>> Read more trending news 

Dr. Robert Swift, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University told NBC News that hangovers are complicated, and no one cure fits all.

“The thing about Pedialyte, Gatorade and things like that, there is an optimal concentration to absorb glucose and electrolytes and fluid from the intestines,” he said. 

According to Nielsen research, adults are now a third of Pedialyte’s users, and adults have increased their use of Pedialyte 57 percent since 2012, NBC News reported.

John Schnatter stepping down as Papa John's CEO

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter is stepping down from his role as the pizza company’s CEO weeks after criticizing the NFL for its handling of the national anthem protests.

>> Read more trending news

Schnatter had blamed slow pizza sales on the national anthem protests by NFL players, saying in a Nov. 1 earnings call that “NFL leadership has hurt Papa John’s shareholders” and that the protests “should have been nipped in the bud a year and a half ago.”

His comments cost him $70 million in one day, according to multiple reports. He eventually apologized.

Papa John’s Chief Operating Officer Steve Ritchie, who will take over for Schnatter, declined to say if the November comments led to the move announced Thursday. Schnatter will still serve as chairman of the board for the company.

>> Related: Papa John's CEO apologizes for comments on NFL anthem protest controversy

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came to Schnatter’s defense, calling him “one of the great Americans” in this country, NBC Sports reported. Jones is a joint owner of 120 Papa John’s restaurants.

Advertisers have threatened to pull their advertising from the NFL in the wake of the politically charged national anthem protests, but none have taken as drastic a move as Papa John’s.

The company last month apologized for Schnatter’s comments in a statement, saying, “The statements made on our earnings call were describing the factors that impact our business and we sincerely apologize to anyone that thought they were divisive. That definitely was not our intention.”

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner” last year to protest police violence against minorities. The protest got mixed reactions, but other NFL players -- and players in other sports -- have since followed Kaepernick’s lead to protest inequality.

President Donald Trump in September suggested that NFL team owners should fire players who refuse to stand during the anthem, telling a crowd in Alabama that “that’s a total disrespect for our heritage.”

The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

Aldi, Kroger recalls some apples due to possible listeria contamination

Low-cost grocery store chain Aldi and supermarket Kroger have issued voluntary recalls of some of its apples.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, which posts voluntary recalls, Jack Brown Produce, Inc., based in Sparta, Michigan, is recalling Gala, Fuji, Honeycrisp and Golden Delicious apples because of listeria concerns.

>> Read more trending news 

“In cooperation with Jack Brown Produce Inc., and out of an abundance of caution, Aldi has voluntarily recalled an assortment of apples that were available for purchase in stores starting  on December 13, 2017, due to possible Listeria monocytogenes contamination,” Aldi said in a news release Tuesday.

The recall came after one of Jack Brown Produce’s suppliers, Nyblad Orchards Inc., notified the businesses of the affected products.

The affected products were sold at some Aldi stores in Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina and North Carolina. 

“To date, no illnesses related to these products have been reported. No other Aldi products are affected by this,” the company said.

Kroger said it recalled lunchbox-size Fuji and Galas sold between Dec. 12 and Tuesday, according to USA Today.

The products affected are sold under the brand name “Apple Ridge” and are as follows: 

  • Honeycrisp apples in 2-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Gala, Fuji, and Golden Delicious apples in 3-pound clear plastic bags;
  • Fuji and Gala apples in 5-pound red-netted mesh bags; and
  • Gala, Fuji and Honeycrisp apples that were tray-packed/individually sold.

Products that may be affected can be identified by the following lot numbers printed on the bag label or the bag-closure clip:

Fuji: NOI 163, 165, 167, 169, 174

Honeycrisp: NOI 159, 160, 173 Golden Delicious: NOI 168 Gala: NOI 164, 166 on either the product labels and/or bag-closure clip

Affected customers should immediately discard the products or return them to a local store for a full refund. Customers with questions can callJack Brown Produce Inc. at 616-887-9568, Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST.

How to avoid FedEx, UPS, USPS email scams targeting some customers

An email scam affecting FedEx, UPS and U.S. Postal Service customers is taking advantage of an increase in package shipments during the holiday season.

KMOV reported that the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center is warning consumers about a fraudulent email scam.

The emails claim to be from one of the three organizations and say that a package cannot be delivered. The messages contain a link that users are prompted to click in order to get an invoice to pick up the package, but the link is spoofed and goes to a website set up to steal the user’s information, according to FBI officials.

>> Read more trending news 

According to the FedEx Customer Protection Center, customers who get fraudulent emails or who come across suspicious websites should forward them to It also recommends immediately contacting your bank if interaction with fraudulent sites or emails have led of financial loss.

More information on how to report fraud to the company can be found on the FedEx website.

USPS customers can report a phishing attempt by not clicking on any links and forwarding the message to the CyberSecurity Operations Center at The suspicious message should be deleted right after.

Suspicious emails purporting to be from UPS should be deleted, according to the UPS website. Customers should not follow any links or click any attachments.

“If you’ve accidentally selected a link, you should run a virus scan immediately,” the site said.

Examples of suspicious UPS emails are available on the UPS website.

UPS apologizes after driver caught throwing packages in video

Shipping company UPS is investigating after a woman said she recorded video of a UPS driver throwing packages onto her lawn from the back of a U-Haul truck.

>> Read more trending news

Sandy Bast told KMOV that she started to record the video Monday after she heard a loud crash outside her home. In the video, a person can be seen throwing packages from the back of a U-Haul truck.

Company officials told KMOV that UPS drivers sometimes use U-Haul trucks when things get busy during the holiday season. In a statement obtained by the news station, UPS officials said Monday’s incident was under investigation.

“Mishandling packages is not tolerated,” the statement said. “We will investigate the situation and take appropriate action.”

Bast told KMOV she could tell the man, who she didn’t realize was a UPS driver at the time, was angry.

“To be honest, I was scared to death because I don’t like angry men outside my door,” she told the news station.

As she watched, Bast said she saw the man throw more than two dozen packages to the ground from the U-Haul truck.

“I saw plenty (packages) that bounced off the ground, and, you know, people work hard to pay for shipping, and then to watch it (get) thrown out and bouncing on your driveway is rather discouraging,” Bast told KMOV.

She said that UPS officials later contacted her to apologize for the incident.

“It’s sad because they usually do a good job,” Bast told KMOV. “But one person can really mess up a lot of things for a lot of people.”

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