Qsl etiquette?????

Discussion in 'General Technical Questions and Answers' started by N8VM, Sep 15, 2008.

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  1. N8VM

    N8VM Ham Member QRZ Page

    What is the best way to send and receive QSL cards? Is it okay to send out a card by just putting a stamp on it and dropping it the mailbox? I have been sending mine out this way, but most reply cards I get are sent in envelopes. It costs a lot more money to send them that way, so why do most people do it like that?

    Also, now that I am working DX, what is the best way to handle cards to foreign countries?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. KB4QAA

    KB4QAA XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    Either way is fine, it's your stamps. Special event stations will often use envelopes so that the QSL or certificate stays pristine for display purposes. Personally, I think the postmarks and stamps add to the authenticity, character and validate the card.

    For DX direct QSL'ing again there is no requirement to use envelopes, though considering that it has to be handled by a foreign post office that may be confused, perhaps that might be better. If using the Bureau, most people will save up a stack of cards and send them together to save money.

    BTW, thanks for carrying on the QSL card tradition "The final courtesy".

  3. KR2D

    KR2D Ham Member QRZ Page

    The post office often (maybe always) prints a bar code on the card. Sometimes, they use a long, thin, bar code sticker. That will obliterate any info that happens to be under it, possibly rendering the card useless for awards purposes. It's annoying when they do that to QSLs. It was even more annoying when they ruined a hand drawn postcard that my daughter sent home from her camping trip this summer.
  4. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    There seem to be a few people who complain about receiving a QSL card postcard style. But generally, these same people don't complain if you don't send them any QSL card at all, so it doesn't quite seem rational.

    I actually prefer to receive them postcard style. The stamp and postmark lend more legitimacy, it seems to me.

    Partly, it boils down to what your motivation is. If you know the other station doesn't really need or want your card, and you are just sending it in order to request their card, then you really ought to send it in an envelope, with a self-addressed stamped envelope. This is particularly true if the other station gets a lot of requests.

    On the other hand, if you simply think the other guy would like your card, then by all means feel free to send it as a postcard.
  5. WA9SVD

    WA9SVD Ham Member QRZ Page

    While others may disagree:

    If you have any hope or receiving a QSL in return, or have any respect for the other station, DO NOT send a QSL card as a "post card," regardless of any agreement made on the air. TWO reasons:

    1. Such cards can and often do get mangled in the process
    2. Current Postal Service procedures often add routing barcodes and other printing that can obscure or even obliterate critical contact information or other aspects of your card on either side.
    If you ARE going to send a QSL Card in the first place, use an envelope and spend the few extra cents. You'll both appreciate it in the long run.

    For domestic contacts, since they are often "routine," many operators don't send QSL cards unless requested. (Few Amateurs need ANOTHER California or New York QSL card for any award...) If you want a QSL for a domestic contact (meaning within the 48 lower U.S. States; HI and AK are still considered DX by many, and in some respects, rightly so) it's best to ask about the response while on the air. Some Amateurs just do not send out QSL cards, but they will usually be quite ready to admit that, so while you may wish to send a card, don't expect a return.
    Other operators may say they will return a card if they receive one. Again, they fall into two (actually three... no four) categories:

    1. Those that will send a QSL when they receive yours.
    2. Those that will request a SASE (Self-Adressed, Stamped Envelope) along with your card. If you really want a card in return, you will be best advised to do as they say, and send the SASE.
    3. Those that request a SASE but will (perhaps begrudgingly) send a QSL card anyway.
    4. Those that will not respond no matter what they promise. (There's a certain amusement park in so. California that fits this category...)

    But those rules normally apply to individual stations.

    Keep in mind, that certain club and special event (SE) stations may respond differently. Special events can generate HUGE demands for QSL cards, and many club or SE stations do not have the funds to respond to hundreds, or thousands of QSL card requests, so they may quite frankly demand at least a SASE, and rightly so. it's not meant to be a personal insult or affront, but merely an attempt to keep the club or special event sponsor from going bankrupt.!

    For foreign contacts, look up the call on QRZ or elsewhere, to determine their preferred methed of QSL'ing. Failure to follow their procedure can easily
    result in rejection of your card request, long delays, or even failure of the proper contact person from even receiving your QSL card and request for a card in return.
    There are a few points:

    1. Follow specific instructions if they are on QRZ or elsewhere.

    2. If an IRC is requested for return, provide an IRC, Other "compensation" may not be honored. Provide a self-addressed envelope(SAE) with the card you send. (IRC=International Reply Coupon, which is SUPPOSED to be redeemable world-wide to cover First Class Postage. Unfortunately, one coupon is no longer sufficient to cover postage from some countries, so you have to check postal rates for DX .)
    3. If the station wants a "green stamp," or two, that's usually considered to be a picture of George Washington (aka a one dollar bill, or $1 USD.) Some countries may request more, as do some Special Event and DXpedition stations. Follow their rules: TWO important considerations:

    a.) When sending $USD (aka "cash") be sure to enclose it (usually in your SAE envelope) so that it's NOT visible from the outside of the envelope.

    b.) Do NOT in ANY WAY, (either by return address or original address)
    indicate that the mail is addressed to or from an Amateur Radio station, or indicate a callsign for foreign mail. In some countries, there are a few unscrupulous postal employees, and such mail can be a target for theft if cash or other valuable materials are enclosed. Amateur Radio callsigns are a type-off to that fact. So don't put them on any visible correspondence, either way. Just use names or abbreviations if there's no contact person at your QSL's destination.

    Others can better advise as to proper processes for using the buros for foreign contacts and QSL's.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2008
  6. N8VM

    N8VM Ham Member QRZ Page

    I just knew there must be more to the story. I have received many cards from stateside stations, usually after sending them one first. I do not get bent out of shape if I do not get a return, but I do like to get cards in the mail.Thanks for the input guys.

    BTW, my rural post office has no idea what an IRC is. :( How much do they cost? I have sent a few cards to DX stations, including a SASE and some greenbacks, but that is getting expensive real quick.
  7. KB3LIX

    KB3LIX Ham Member QRZ Page

    IRC's are $ 2 currently, and in some places are virtually impossible to purchase.

    I had to get a poster here on QRZ to send me some IRC's a few months ago so I could get a card from a Russian amateur. (Thanks again, Paul)

    Even my postmaster REFUSED to try to get IRC's for me. He INSISTED that he
    had received a notice from the PostMaster General that IRC's were no longer produced. Old stock could be sold, but there would be no future shipments on new IRC's.

    Of course, he is/was F.O.S.

    Stick with the 2 dollars (EXCEPT for cards coming/going to Germany)
    Last I heard, postage from Germany was something like $ 2.75 US, so $ 3 is more appropo.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2008
  8. N4KZ

    N4KZ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I refuse to let the postal service mangle my cards. I only send them in envelopes. I appreciate those who send SASEs and I respond promptly. I receive many unsolicited DX QSLs via the bureau but answer them all via GlobalQSL, which saves time and money. Check it out at GlobalQSL.com.
    73, N4KZ
  9. W4HAY

    W4HAY Ham Member QRZ Page

    If someone requests a card during the QSO or sends one, they'll get a reply. Unless the card they send is very special, it immediately goes into File 13. My profile states that I don't collect them.

    Domestics are sent as post cards or through the FISTS or SKCC Bureaus. DX goes through the ARRL Bureau or stateside QSL manager.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2008
  10. WA8UEG

    WA8UEG XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    First, good for you. I really enjoy receiving QSL cards and have thousands but still enjoy receiving them, after 40 plus years of hamming I still check the mail every day to see if another new country has arrived or if I have received a bunch from the bureau. If you are working toward an award then include a SASE for US stations. If you have not done so already get set up with the ARRL Bureau, it will take a while for you to receive the first bunch of cards but if you work DX on a constant basis after a year or so you will receive cards every month and sending the cards out is very resonable. If your in a hurry or work a country that you want to receive the card from in a timely manner then follow their instructions on QRZ.com, if there are no instructions then send a self addressed envelope with 2 bucks or an IRC. I also live in a very very small town, they had no idea and said I could not get them, that is until I had a sit down with the post master and TOLD him he COULD get them and to do it or I would call the post master general and find out why I could buy them anywhere but at his branch, I had them the following week. Also, if you are looking for awards get hooked up with LOTW.
  11. K7GQ

    K7GQ Ham Member QRZ Page


    I think that WA9SVD has covered the subject extremely well, with the small omission of using the best envelopes to obtain a QSL from a DX station. As I chase DX and their QSLs, I averaged a 80-85% success rate using both small and larger USA-size security envelopes. I've also tried the thin European airmail envelopes (size C6) with no greater success rate.

    All that changed when I ordered C6-size envelopes with a slightly smaller return envelope from "William J Plum". The envelopes appear European, but are not thin enough to suggest their content. My return rate has increased to the high 90's percent now, with only the "QSL Bandits" holding out (fortunately, there are not too many of these).

    Also, confirm each (QRZ.com) DX address from another source. I use www.IK3QAR.it/manager/ as many DX stations seem to prefer to keep this more current.

    Good luck!
  12. DL7GEM

    DL7GEM Ham Member QRZ Page

    Postage from Germany to non-European countries is EUR1.70, i.e. abt. USD2.40 at current exchange rates. This is for a standard airmail letter of 30g
    (slightly less than an ounce) or less.

    I send all direct QSLs in an envelope. Even if the other station is not really
    interested in my QSL, he still might need it. As other posters already said,
    just sending the QSL as a postcard might obliterate vital contact information.

    For special event stations and any stations who did not specify any QSL route, I
    start by looking up that station in qrz.com. If I find that the station has a large
    number of lookups and does not specify that QSL via the bureau is OK, I
    QSL direct enclosing an IRC and an SAE. If the number of lookups is small
    (below 1000 or so) and I cannot find any other reference to that station on
    the Web which tells me that he is a member of the bureau system, I QSL direct
    without enclosing an IRC. If I do care about getting a reply, I still enclose
    an IRC and SAE as a matter of courtesy. If had quite few cases where
    the other station sent a reply and actually returned the IRC.

    While you cannot buy IRCs at your local post office in Germany, they can
    still be ordered via the Web. Although it says on the IRC that the stamp
    of the issuing authority is optional (only in French, though), I have my
    IRCs stamped at my local post office. There are some countries and/or
    foreign post offices which do not accept IRCs without that stamp.

    Getting those nice green pictures of George Washington is somewhat
    difficult in Germany, since most banks only carry larger denominations in
    significant amounts.

    Marcus -- DL7GEM
  13. W4INF

    W4INF Ham Member QRZ Page

    I send all mine in CONUS postcard style, stamps are a lot cheaper.

  14. WA9SVD

    WA9SVD Ham Member QRZ Page

    And if the card is mangled or the contact information is covered by the routing bar code, most operators won't return a card. And some won't bother sending a card if they receive a postcard.
    Depends upon how much you want or need the other op's card, and what image of yourself and your station you wish to present to others.
  15. W4INF

    W4INF Ham Member QRZ Page

    And I loose sleep worrying about these things. I send a card and hope to get one back. 90% return rate is not bad, not even direct marketing can score that high. If I get one back, fine... I dont chase paper nor is ham radio a way of life for me, its a hobby and nothing more. Im here to have fun. If someone else wants to be anal about it... fine for them.

  16. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    When I've operated from DX locations, I have sent out QSL's to stateside stations when I got home, without waiting to receive their card. I sent these out postcard style.

    The prevailing wisdom seems to be that it would have been better for me not to send any card, because of the high likelihood that my cards would get mangled, or the dreaded bar codes would obliterate the card.

    I'm sure that in the history of postcards, there have been cases where the postcard was destroyed or obliterated in transit. But how common an occurrence is this? How many people have an example of a QSL that was rendered invalid due to the manner of mailing? I'm not asking whether or not this is a possibility, because I know it is. I'm asking how many times it has actually happened.

    As noted above, I prefer receiving them postcard style, since if anything, the presence of the stamp and the postmark (and the dreaded barcodes) add legitimacy.

    It boils down to what your intention is. If your intention is to request the other guy's card, then you should make it as easy as possible for him to satisfy your request. And that means that you should include an SASE, which means that you need to mail the whole package inside another envelope.

    But presumably, at least half of the QSL's that are sent are not sent in order to request a card--they are sent because you think the other guy wants your card. And if a card comes within that category, I don't think it's fair to impose extra burdens on the sender.

    I know a small number of hams apparently get offended when they receive a QSL postcard style. I've taken to not bothering to check the "PSE QSL" box on unsolicited cards that I send out. In the unlikely event that the recipient is offended by the fact that I took the time to send him an unsolicited card, then he can just throw it away, without feeling obligated to respond.
  17. W4INF

    W4INF Ham Member QRZ Page

    I kinda think the stamp and barcodes, and even a little dirt add character.

  18. WS4B

    WS4B Ham Member QRZ Page

    On DX QSLs instead of sending IRCs or two $1 bills, has anyone sent $2 bills? They are unusual here in the U.S., so how much more unusual therefore a nice suprise for a DX station. I'm just curious if anyone has tried that. I get $2 bills when I go to the bank. Sometimes they have as many as $20 worth or so, and the tellers know that that I collect them and they have a tendency to hold them for me.

  19. WA9SVD

    WA9SVD Ham Member QRZ Page

    Most cards I receive DO come in envelopes. Over the last two years, I've received (either personally, or while operating at our club) thirteen "postcard" QSL's. Of those, nine have QSL information either partially or totally oblitereted by barcodes, or were somehow damaged, making the information difficult or impossible to read.. Of course, the QSL card design matters also, since thos most susceptible are the cards with the QSL information along the bottom edge of the card. YMMV.
  20. W0IS

    W0IS Ham Member QRZ Page

    It's not considered good practice to answer your own question. :D But for the record, I got a QSL yesterday, and sure enough, the postmark covered up the date so badly that I couldn't make it out. First time for everything, I guess. :D

    I'll still send him a return card, though. So he's still 15 cents ahead of the game!
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