In the mail I received a notification from The Monte Carlo Cash Express in Irvine, Calif., telling me I am eligible to win $22,000 or a Cadillac Coupe de Ville worth $24,000. In order to receive the "official word list" that includes all the winning words, all I needed to do was send the company $10.

I also had the option of sending for the official entry form that was not accompanied by the "official word list."I'm wondering what you think of this. - C.B., Farmington.

We think it stinks. Here's why.

The company's track record includes the signing of a consent agreement with the U.S. Postal Service on June 15, 1988. In it, without admitting wrong doing, it agreed to refrain from misrepresentation and to make a clear disclosure of facts in its mail solicitations. It also agreed to refund contestants' money on request.

On April 18, 1989, the company settled a suit brought against it by the California Attorney General's office alleging misrepresentation. The company agreed to pay a fine and as well as abide by an injunction barring it from further misrepresentation. The settlement was not an admission of wrong doing.

We wouldn't touch this offer. Whether you do, of course, is up to you. You stand to lose only $10.

Duty-free shopping

Frequent travelers are well acquainted with duty-free shops at airports. They are good for last-minute purchases but they aren't necessarily a bargain. A recent issue of CHANGING TIMES magazine quotes Suzy Gershman, co-author of a series of shopping books.

According to Gershman, savings at duty-free shops can amount to 11% to 18% off local prices. The savings come from two sources: The goods are imports and the stores don't pay customs duties on the goods it sells because they are not intended for consumption in that country. Second, you don't have to pay sales or value-added taxes.

Still, you often can do better shopping at discounters, especially in the U.S. That applies particularly to electronics, cameras, watches and perfume.

Best buys tend to be on such things as designer clothing and scarves, liquor and cigarettes.

Americans who bring more than $400 worth of goods into the U.S. must pay duty on the amount that exceeds the $400 exemption.

What are the best cities for duty-free shopping? Tokyo, Amsterdam and Shannon, Ireland, according to the magazine.