A QSL card is the final courtesy of a QSO - or is it?
QSLing was the norm when I came into the Hobby in the late 1960s. In those days I was A3699, a short wave receiving station Member of the RSGB. I remember getting some cards printed by A B looe,in Cornwall, paid for by my father. I wish I had one left but they have all gone.
In those days QSLing direct was the only for something like Heard Island or similar and 99% of all QSL cards went via the bureau. We had our own bureau in Scotland at that time run by GM3ITN and I used to wait with great anticipation for an envelope.
DX seemed more plentiful in those days. For example, most of the islands in the Pacific were still manned by US military personnel and many were amateurs. Very few islands were deemed out of bounds and Scarborough Reef had not yet surfaced.
Ah, those were the days. Life and amateur radio was simple – no computers,log books were carefully written up, QSL cards were shown off at the local club.
What difference a few decades make. Computers – you either love them or loath them – are now standing in most shacks. We have automated and semi automated stations, computers making QSOs with other computers(WSJT etc) and many QSOs achieved. Is the QSL card exchange still relevant? And why do we QSL today? With up to 400 watts (depending on your licence) along with multi element Yagis, we can make several thousand QSOs in the 48 hour period of the CQ World Wide contest for example. Do we really need to follow that up with a written postcard confirmation?
QSL card production and printing is now much less expensive that is used to be and, after the contest, a few button presses and, hey presto, a whole box full of labels just ready to be stuck on the cards and sent to the bureau.
For my sins, I am a volunteer sub manager for the RSGB QSL Bureau. I have slowly come to realise that QSL card can be a wasteful activity. I am now privy to that waste every quarter when I consign about 30-40% of all cards in my box to my recycling bin. The only people making a profit from all this is the QSL card printers.
There appears to be a fair number of Scottish stations(I can't speak for the rest of the UK) who are still sending out a card for each and every QSO they make. This is especially so for special event stations who, on occasion, go to extreme and probably expensive lengths to produce a colourful QSL card. How do I know this? Simply because of the number of cards I see going through the bureau marked “undeliverable – not a member of... (whatever Society is applicable)”.
In every box I get from the bureau there could be up to a hundred cards for G or GW stations who have come up to Scotland either to operate vacation style, or portable or even mobile. They make many QSOs using the GM prefix, but never think to send an SASE to the bureau. I do my best to chase them up, but many are “name and address withheld”. Several clubs come to Scotland each year to activate an island or take part in a contest. Through continuous budgeting, most of these now have appropriate measures for QSL cards in place.
Back in the old days, you had to be a member of your National Society to send cards out via the bureau but you did not have to be a member to receive cards via the bureau. All you had to do was keep the bureau with sufficient self addressed and stamped envelopes. This was changed and here in the UK you need to be an RSGB Member to receive cards or pay an annual fee.
Postage is expensive and bureaux are shipping these cards backwards and forwards, eventually to be destroyed as the recipient isn't a Society Member.
For me herein lies an anomaly in the process. Every bureau has its own set of rules for delivering and returning cards, some return only “silent key” cards, some perhaps do not return any cards and they are destroyed at source. I find this last example unhelpful as it just encourages second and third tries for a QSL card. However I do appreciate that to re-ship what is really thousands of unwanted cards is an expensive business and somebody has to pay. That “somebody” is us the Members of the RSGB in our case.
Please review our QSLing policy. Do you need to send cards for a contest contact? Even if you do, does it have to be one for each band? Special event stations often put 'no return card required' on their outgoing card, but if the recipient is not a member of a National Society, the card will not be deliveredin the first place.
It is much too easy to just print QSL labels in bulk, or to tick OQRS in Club Log or whatever.Do you honestly want the card and do you have the means in place for it to be delivered.
Please think before you ink!
THE QSL BUREAU REPLIES
Tom's unsolicited letter is extremely interesting and his experience is repeated throughout the network of 70 QSL volunteers. Tom rightfully points out that unwanted and uncollected cards cost every member of the Society, including non-QSLers. It's extremely disheartening for out band of QSL volunteers (without whom the system cannot operate and who give of their time to help other Members) to see some 50% of cards go to recycling.
Like Tom, the daily evidence at the RSGB QSL Bureau is that 100% outgoing QSLing is wasteful and introduces unnecessary delays. There other 21st century options available.
Tom Wylie GM4FDM
RadCom September 2015
Αξίζει ο κόπος και το κόστος του να στέλνει κάποιος QSL κάρτες.
συγκαλυμμένα ο Αρθρογράφος αλλά και ο "Μπύραρχος" λένε πως όχι!
Σε γενικές γραμμές!
Μεγάλο κόστος, μεγάλος φόρτος εργασίας, συναινούν στην αλλαγή των συνηθισμένων χάρτινων με ηλεκτρονικών καρτών!