Saturday, September 24, 2011

Advice on QSLing

Advice on QSLing

1. Check the time in UTC/date/Call on your card is correct.
2. Enclose a self addressed envelope with your address in full, including your country,
3. Enclose IRC's/$$ (SASE for domestic) to cover return postage costs.
4. Use only the route given by the operator. If the operator tells you to QSL direct only or via his manager, do just that. There is no point in flooding the QSL Bureau with cards if he is not a member,
5. Use security tinted envelopes for your outgoing and return envelopes. Ensure that your return envelope is big enough. The miniature 5.5x3.5 envelopes so many US hams are fond of using is too small and many cards will have to be chopped , folded, or thrown away. Do not use a return envelope that has to be folded inside the outgoing envelope. Lumpy envelopes invite curiosity. I have used Number 10 business envelopes with security tinting for all outgoing cards for years with excellent results. I have an "Air Mail" stamp from the office supply store I use on the foreign envelopes. For return envelopes, we have manufactured a security tinted 3 7/8" x 7 1/2" white 22lb reply envelope that we sell in a pack of 25 for $3.00 plus $2.000 s/h. We also have them in a pack of 100 for $10.00 plus $5.00 s/h. This envelopes works great for Asian, European and Domestic replies.
6. Don't write the date backward. 02-11-98 is 2 November 1998. Many DX stations are not on computer and you will get a "not in log" reply.
7. If your QSL is double sided, is your call printed on both sides? If the call is on one side and the information is on the other, it makes for errors when large numbers of cards are processed.
8. Imagine you do not speak the native language. Is your address clear on your card? Many cards are designed with the operator name in one place, the address in another, and the city and state in still another.
9. Is your county on your card? Many recipients of your card are county hunters. How about grid squares and IOTA?
10. Enclose an extra $ or IRC with your card. There is no profit in QSLing for the DX station or manager. They are providing you with a service, and they probably don't need another "W" card for their collection.
11. Avoid dealing with postage stamp dealers. Most times you will save money by sending IRC's or $$, and chances are the stamps are obsolete or postage rates have changed by the time they receive your card.

I think all of us become "QSL managers" the day we decide to buy ham gear and get on the air. As many other DXers/Contesters, I'm very active and make many thousands of QSOs per year, have been on several DXpeditions, and receive tons of cards (and reply to ALL) via the burro.
We could all go on forever on what is the "ham thing" to do, and what a QSL manager "should do". I also have my own gripes about a few QSL managers,but rather than being negative, I'll post some tips on reducing the "financial burden" of QSLing. These tips are really geared towards people who handle large quantities of cards, but could be used by anybody.

QSL cards themselves are a part of the cost equation of QSLing. The cost of 1000 QSLs can range anywhere from $30 (or less) for "plain" cards to over $100 for really nice color photo glossy cards. I personally use color photo cards because I think it increases the "thrill" of receiving a card. But if you are looking to lower your QSLing costs, use the plain inexpensive cards. They all count the same towards DXCC, WAZ, etc.
When ordering QSLs, use a design that will allow you to put information for more than one QSO on a card. It's cheaper to send one card confirming say three QSOs instead of sending three separate cards.
If you are a member of a DX Club and go on a DXpedition, ask the club if they will sponsor the QSL cards. A bunch of us from the Southern California DX Club went on a DXpedition for last years CQWW contest. The club very generously sponsored 8000 color picture QSLs. In return, we put the club logo and web page address on the card. Clubs love to get their name out there and it can also help attract new members. We also gave a slide show presentation on our DXpedition at a club meeting (which hopefully also has the benefit of getting other members more interested in going on their own DXpeditions!).
If you are a QSL manager for one or more DX stations, consider going the route of W3HC and establishing a "QSL fund" (see Mac seems to be very successful with this method. While many people mail in donations for the big DXpeditions, many people are also happy to chip in ten bucks or whatever to help provide QSLs for a foreign ham that maybe can't afford cards but wants to help his fellow hams with a QSL for a new country. Your call gets printed on the QSL card as a sponsor.

Burro card sorters are some of the nicest guys you'll ever meet! If you live in a large population area and belong to a DX Club, there is a good chance that your letter sorter may also a member of the club, or that there is somebody in the club that is friends with your letter sorter. See if it is possible for the sorter or one of his friends who attends club meetings to deliver the cards to you at a club meeting instead of mailing them. (the letter sorter for my old callsign hand delivered ONE CARD to me at field day last weekend, what service!).
Many letter sorters keep "books" that an IRS agent couldn't even find problems with! Heck, the W5 bureau even has a web page telling you how many cards and envelopes people have on file! Many sorters keep track of silent keys, postage, dates of mailings and other notifications, etc. They are usually very detailed and try to optimize everything. (by the way, many sorters also pay money out of their own pockets to send notices, pay for supplies, etc.) I would be really surprised if a letter sorter would not consider mailing a large quantity of cards to somebody using something other than a standard mail rate. Without my asking, I have received burro cards using priority mail (only $3.20 for two pounds!). If you receive a lot of cards using "standard postal rates", send a letter to your sorter to see if they can make an exception and use priority mail or something cheaper. (I was a letter sorter at one time).

Folks, the ARRL isn't the only show in town. Consider making direct mailings to the DX bureaus. You already have to separate all of the cards by country to use the ARRL outgoing burro anyway! If you have say 70 cards going to Japan, Germany, Russia, etc... set the cards for each country aside and mail them directly to that countries incoming QSL bureau. A list of all QSL bureau addresses can be found at YOU DO NOT HAVE TO USE EXPENSIVE AIR MAIL! I just called the local post office, and it only costs $2.48 to mail 8 ounces of cards (about 70 QSLs) via surface mail to Japan (versus $4.85 for air mail). There may be even cheaper postal rates that I'm not aware of. Not only will you avoid the $6 per pound fee of the ARRL outgoing bureau (plus postage to Newington), but your cards will be received much faster. You can easily save four dollars per pound or more using this method.
There are some clubs that will mail your cards to the ARRL outgoing bureau as a "membership benefit". You still have to pay the $6 per pound, but the club bundles everybody's cards together (you bring them to a club meeting) and mails them in one big box. This will save you the postage of mailing the cards. Check with your club to see if they have such a service.
I have also seen pictures and notes in a few magazines where some QSL bureau people have setup booths at various hamfests where people can drop-off and pick up cards.

One other note on QSLing. One of the best bargains for DX QSLing is theWF5E DX QSL Service. You can find details at The bottom line is that for one dollar per five cards, Les will send them direct to the QSL manager or DX station, and return them to you via the incoming bureau. Faster than using the bureau, and cheaper than sending direct!

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