Successfully Redeeming IRCs

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio News' started by K6XX, Dec 19, 2017.

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  1. K6XX

    K6XX Ham Member QRZ Page

    As 2017 comes to a close, many of us scramble to redeem our International Reply Coupons (IRCs) before they expire at the end of the month. Although exchanging these coupons for airmail stamps seems to be a simple task, it has been rumored to be near impossible within our US Postal System. This year was the first time I ever undertook the grueling task, but found a method to the madness through trial and error. Hopefully my efforts (and failures) assist you in your IRC redemption.

    _______________________________________________________________________________

    The Problem:

    I had a stack of 49 IRCs to exchange. They may be redeemed from foreign senders, valued at “the current maximum First-Class Mail International 1-ounce, letter-size price, per coupon, irrespective of the country where they were purchased”*. Today, that is worth $1.15 per IRC, so letting nearly fifty of them expire was out of the question—even if it meant spending hours at the post office.

    Knowing of other hams’ struggles with USPS denying IRCs, I went to my closest branch in Scotts Valley, CA, several hours before it closed. Unfortunately, I did not realize that I had already made a grave mistake by choosing this location (mistake #1). To put it lightly, the clerks’ lack of motivation rivals that of the DMV. Here, I was astounded to have been mocked and lied to by Brad (my dad always says that anyone can work for the government, but they really scraped the bottom of the barrel with this one).

    When I approached Brad, explaining that I had come to exchange my coupons (mistake #2), he looked at me as if I were speaking a different language. He scoffed, fanning himself with my coupons, and told me he had never heard of such a thing as IRCs. Since I insisted on their existence, he took my bundle of coupons and went to the back to refer them to his supervisor (mistake #3). Upon returning, he claimed that they didn’t exchange IRCs and hadn’t for “a long time” (which was a lie because I know a ham who traded his IRCs at this branch the previous year). After I informed him of an entire section of the USPS website dedicated to the exchange of IRCs, he simply told me that the Scotts Valley branch had run out of airmail stamps and that I should try the Downtown Santa Cruz branch. I don’t know how a post office runs out of stamps, but I was tired of Brad’s shenanigans and drove to the next town over.

    Recounting my mistakes, I had a new game plan for the next post office.

    _________________________________________________________________________________

    How to succeed:

    1) Prepare to wait for 20~40 minutes (perhaps an hour at peak).

    2) When called to the counter, politely ask whether they have 50 airmail stamps (vary your order to match your IRC count).
    This is vital to your success. The post office clerks are used to selling stamps, so they will ring up your order without a fuss.

    3) Upon payment, bring out your IRCs.
    Since there is already a transaction in process, they are less likely to turn you away.

    4) Only hand one IRC as reference.
    At the first branch, Brad took ALL of my IRCs. Had he dropped or misplaced them, I would have lost everything. Don’t chance it—keep your IRCs until it’s time to pay.

    5) Speak directly to a supervisor.
    At the Santa Cruz branch, Tifani is a seasoned manager who has experience exchanging IRCs and will ensure that you get your stamps. Ask whether your branch has anyone familiar with IRCs (most of the time, supervisors are the only ones with experience). If no one is available, they should refer you to someone who does (perhaps at another branch).

    6) Know the USPS’ process of exchanging IRCs:
    ....a) IRCs are viewed as credit—they are scanned at the beginning of the transaction and take off the price of one stamp per coupon.
    ....b) IRCs are programmed into every USPS teller’s machine.
    ....Although I do not remember the exact terminology, it is along the lines of “international coupon” and is located on the upper-middle left side of their computer screen (I don’t know if this information will help you if you encounter a Brad, but hopefully it will help your teller locate the computer discount code).
    ....c) Each IRC nulls the purchase of a stamp.
    ....Your teller must remove the amount of stamps equal to your IRC count before the transaction can be completed (it is tedious, so I would ask for a supervisor). Each IRC is tallied at the end of the day and accounts for “missing postage,” which are stamps that had not been paid for in dollars.
    ....d) Clerks must stamp and void each IRC.

    BONUS) Apple Pay does not work at this time. Bring multiple forms of payment.

    Although this second visit was a success, there are things I could have done to make the process go smoother.

    ______________________________________________________________________

    What I would fix for next time:

    1) Make a purchase.
    This IRC process takes up a lot of time (and brain power) from your postal service person - make it worth their while by buying a few stamps and giving their branch a little money.

    2) Purchase in sheets of ten.
    Keep in mind that airmail stamps come in sheets of ten, so keeping your exchange to round numbers will make the clerk’s life easier (and your experience less exhausting).

    3) Do it before December.
    Don’t be like me and wait until the last month before your IRCs expire.

    4) Check expiration dates.
    Some have very short lifespans and expire on December 31. Post offices will NOT redeem expired coupons.

    5) Redeem little by little.
    Since your clerk must stamp each IRC, give them a break - don't be like me and bombard them with nearly 50 sheets!

    6) IRCs are not obsolete - YET.
    47 out of my 49 IRCs expire this year. However, the last two expire in 2021. Although these coupons are being phased out, expect to receive them throughout the coming years.



    Good luck trading those coupons! 73, KJ6GKF

    __________________________________________________________

    References:
    https://pe.usps.com/text/imm/immc3_020.htm
     

    Attached Files:

    KK6JKC, NU4R, XE1GOX and 4 others like this.
  2. N1ZZZ

    N1ZZZ Ham Member QRZ Page

    They may try to give you domestic postage forever stamps, so be careful of that as well.

    73
    Jeremy
     
  3. GW6CZE

    GW6CZE Ham Member QRZ Page

    Seems there as dull as our UK post office staff to.I cannot get the local one to exchange them i have to go into town to the main post office,even then it depends on which moron at the counter serves you.Have to stand your ground and tell them to go and ask a supervisor.After all that you only get about half the price of a stamp and not the price of an airmail,which now costs us £1.17 for europe and £1.40 for the rest of the world .
     
  4. AA7EJ

    AA7EJ Ham Member QRZ Page

    My daughter has an answer for you - she calls it "$15 an hour (wage)" syndrome.
    Ever since this movement to pay UNQUALIFIED labor minimum wage of $15 started - Brads alike are coming out of the woodwork.

    Me - please - two hamburgers , one order of fries and NO drinks
    $15 an hour wage candidate - that will be $16.
    Me - wait a minute - one hamburger , fries and drink - item #x _ costs eight bucks
    So - twice #x should set me back sixteen bucks AND you are charging me SAME for my order?
    Repeat the above about four times....
    Went home with TWO soggy hamburgers , TWO orders of fries and TWO small drinks
    TOTAL DAMAGE $16
    I cannot wait when this burger joint replace $15 minimum wage robots with real robots.

    Back to OP - I went thru same dance about three years ago "cashing in " ONE IRC !
    Actually - I do no understand why USPS has "international air mail stamps".
    What's is wrong with face value of the stamp?
    And does anybody expect the international mail to go via sail boat ?
    But that is OT.

    73 Shirley
     
    PU2LXN and NU4R like this.
  5. K7JOE

    K7JOE Ham Member QRZ Page

    When those guys get off of work, they must meet up on 7200 khz.... waiting for Brad to join them, no doubt....
     
    NU4R, AJ4XM and (deleted member) like this.
  6. W0VTT

    W0VTT Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    Thanks for posting this; you reminded me to trade in my IRCs. Fortunately, Brad doesn't work at our small town PO.
     
    KE8EC, NU4R and N0TZU like this.
  7. KA4AQM

    KA4AQM Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    K6XX-

    EXCELLENT instructions! I would suggest anyone going to post off, print off your instructions and carry them when exchanging the IRCs. Any help you can provide the clerk removes some of the hostility/misunderstanding that may occur during the transaction. Not to mention the line it will cause when there is only one clerk working the window, especially at this time of year. If you can, wait till after the Christmas to deal with the IRCs. The sound of crickets will permeate most POs after the rush. I worked the window for 18 years and as a ham, I used every opportunity to educate my co-workers when an IRC came across the window. First class rates for domestic letters will most likely go up in January and that means international rates may follow suit. So if you deal a lot with domestic mail and international, stock up on domestic Forever stamps and international Forever ( yes, they make them now too!) stamps. And while you are there, get some stamps for just plain postcards or qsl cards. The postcard stamps will not say Forever, they will just say POSTCARD with no rate depicted.

    And unfortunately, there are "Brads" in every occupation, not just the post office!

    Randy
    KA4AQM
     
    KE8EC, NU4R and N0TZU like this.
  8. N0TZU

    N0TZU Platinum Subscriber Platinum Subscriber QRZ Page

    The small town USPS folks around here are also very friendly and helpful. They even figure out mis-addressed mail and deliver it to us.
     
  9. N4RMK

    N4RMK XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    How would I go about getting my hands on an IRC? Wouldn't mind having one for a keepsake.
     
    K2HAT and N0TZU like this.
  10. KD2NOM

    KD2NOM XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I was just thinking the same thing.
     
    N4RMK likes this.

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