A reader phoned us to inquire about a notice he received in the mail from a company called IMOCO Inc., in Irving, Tex., advertising a 21-piece set of VISIONS cookware for $49.95 plus shipping. The advertisement was accompanied by a coupon for $100 good toward the purchase of the cookware.

He and his wife were in the market for some VISIONS cookware and they wondered if it was a legitimate offer.We admit we were skeptical. But after calling the Better Business Bureau in Dallas, which says the company has a satisfactory business record, Corning Glass Works in Corning, N.Y., and the company itself, we concluded that IMOCO is indeed selling VISIONS, not a cheap imitation.

According to a spokesman for IMOCO, which is a discount mail-order house, the VISIONS cookware offered through this promotion is like VISIONS cookware you'd find at any department store or other retail outlet. A spokeswoman for Corning Glass Works confirmed that. "Yes, he does buy directly from us."

IMOCO, however, uses this VISIONS promotion to attract new customers who will, it hopes, buy other items from the company in the future. The spokesman did not say it was a loss leader. He said "We make less profit on it than most other people."

The company sells a variety of products including Singer sewing machines, luggage, Oster kitchen items and electronics equipment.

The $149.95 at which the company values the 21-piece set is what you'd pay if you bought the items open stock, as replacement parts, from Corning Glass Works. It sells things at the suggested retail price. The $100 coupon is a gimmick to impress upon the customer the savings.

Not all retailers sell Corning products at the suggested retail price, however. Many of them undercut that price. Corning says retailers can sell its products at any price they choose.

That means it's important to comparison shop before you make your decision. Also, make sure the sizes of the pans in the set you're considering are what you want.

We don't have a copy of the IMOCO ad. Therefore we can't make a meaningful price comparision because we don't know what items are part of that particular set. We nevertheless made a few phone calls to local retailers and found that VISIONS comes in a variety of sizes and a variety of sets.

Prices ranged from $32 for a five-piece set of small pots and pans; to $68 for a five-piece set of largers pots and pans; to $69.99 for a nine-piece set; to $99.99 for a 13-piece set.

Pet seat belts?

According to U.S. News & World Report, dogs and cats may have to buckle up if local animal rights activists persuade their legislatures to mandate restraints for pets in cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration already encourages pet owners to comply voluntarily because pets act like missiles in accidents and can endanger themselves as well as people in the car.

The Pet Love Belt, which straps around an animal's belly and shoulders, attaches to the passenger seat belt through through a ring at the back of the harness. It is available in four sizes and costs $19.95. Call 1-800-637-5683.