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Q THIS IS ABOUT principle, not money, but I'd appreciate a response.

I bought a raffle ticket for the Mount St. Mary Medieval Faire and received a letter from them dated Oct. 20, informing me that I was the second-prize winner. First prize was a trip for two to Europe and the second prize was a "prestigious" Kittinger footstool. Third prize was a tapestry.

When I called to arrange to pick up the prize I was told that the stool was worth $500. I was overjoyed, but when I picked the prize up I found it was only a bare, unfinished wood frame with no lacquer on the legs, one leg filled in with wood filler to cover up holes and it was totally unupholstered.

I also received a $50 check and told to use that to have the stool finished and upholstered. This is a complete joke. I went to the Kittinger company -- which wanted nothing to do with the problem because they weren't involved with the raffle -- and they admitted it would cost about $200 to completely finish the stool.

All of the written and verbal estimates I've received to have the work done were about $200 or more. They also gave me a small Kittinger brass name tag that was corroded on the back and had scratches on the front. That was in the envelope with the $50 check. I've been told that the stool frame, in the condition I received it, is worth about $50 and all you can do for $50 to finish it would be to nail a board across the top and cover it with burlap. I feel their second-place prize was misrepresented and can only wonder what the first- and third-prize winners thought of their prizes.

-- C.C., Kenmore
A THEY'RE APPARENTLY happier than you are.

You should keep in mind that raffles in general, for whatever the cause, are operated for the purpose of raising money to support that cause. Often, the merchandise or services offered as prizes are donated to the organization or provided at a reduced price to assist in the moneymaking effort. The actual value of the prizes must often be a subjective estimation on the part of the organization. While a pretty accurate dollar figure can be estimated for a trip for two to Europe, an opinion of the value of a piece of unfinished furniture or a tapestry may well vary greatly between one person and another.

In this case, Sister Mary Eileen Quinn, principal of Mount St. Mary, explains:

"We sponsored a Medieval Faire in October and we had a raffle with three prizes: first, a trip for two to Europe; second, a Kittinger foot stool, and third, a needlepoint copy of a Medieval tapestry. The winning tickets were drawn publicly at the Faire. The first- and third-prize winners were very pleased with their prizes.

"The Kittinger stool was an unfinished piece. We felt that given the nature of Kittinger furniture, it was more appropriate to allow the winner to refinish the piece in a manner that suited his/her taste and home decor. Anyone who knows the significance of the Kittinger name knows that nothing that bears the Kittinger name comes cheap.

"I did not quote a value to this person. Obviously, the value depends on many factors including how the piece is finished and upholstered. We included in the prize (as an extra gesture, since it was not indicated as part of the prize) $50 toward the refinishing. It is the winner's choice how much he will spend for this process. Since the refinishing seemed so problematic for this winner, I did offer to take the stool and the $50 and have it refinished in a color of his choice. I am sure I could do better than to 'nail a wood board on top and cover it in burlap,' as he claimes. He refused that offer.

"We choose prizes which we feel are in keeping with the theme and the authentic atmosphere we hoped to create at our Medieval Faire. A Kittinger piece was chosen for two reasons. First, it is a gift that will retain its value for a lifetime and beyond. Because of its lasting value many people who attended the Faire expressed the desire to win second prize even over the first prize. Second, at the time it looked like Kittinger might close. This gave an added value to any piece produced by this company with its long and unique tradition of quality."

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