Stop sending me QSL cards!

Stop sending me QSL cards! Stop sending me SWL cards!

For years I’ve been haunted by the view of shoe boxes full of unanswered incoming buro cards. Hiding them from view doesn’t help. The mere thought alone that they’re there… I have a love-hate relationship with QSL cards. Actually all the love is gone (so sing a lonely song… was the phrase that sprung to mind). Right now I just hate those paper things. And instead of processing them I’m going to write about them. Because that seems a more satisfying waste of time. And because lamenting is another hobby of mine.

At first I QSLed each and every contact. Just like you probably. My first 1000 cards were hand written. Crazy: a whole weekend of writing QSL cards! The second batch was labeled. Sticking 2000 labels in a row is no fun either.

Just like any fresh DXer I was enchanted by those cards dripping in. My first USA card! Oh look: the first card from Japan. One night at a club meeting somewhere in 2001-2002, I was proud to hold my very first QSL card from the land of the rising sun. I believe it was ON5YR who grinned: ‘wait until you have a shoe box full of JA cards…’. Today is that day.

This DXer grew into a contester. I couldn’t care less about the commercial DXCC program. Although I still like to work DX. A lot. The magic of radio ever ceases to amaze me.

Then my activities moved to 99% contesting with a high volume of contacts being logged (statistics). That generated huge numbers of incoming QSL. At the same time we bought a house, had to run a household, then there were kids. Free time became scarce and inversely proportional with the stack of unprocessed QSL cards.

Once in a while I would force myself to work my way through a batch of incoming cards. A few evenings in a row for a few hours. But the satisfaction is gone. A pure sense of duty. The cost of these stupid cards is only one factor and not even my biggest beef. It’s the hours of free hobby time that it takes. And for what? Haven’t you worked Belgium before? Sure you have because it’s already the THIRD card you sent me for 40 SSB or 20 CW! So I have sent you at least two cards before. And admit it: my card I sent you is somewhere in a carton box or plastic container among thousands of other cards that you haven’t touched after letting it slide into the box…

Sometimes I consider to stop replying to paper buro cards alltogether. Not that I prefer direct QSL cards, but the volume is much lower. In recent years, after making a note on my space, people would send me an email requesting a buro card. I then mark that contact in my log to be QSLed. But it still takes a long time until I think I have enough contacts flagged to send out through GlobalQSL. Sure: I can use GlobalQSL for a single card too, but I’m just too lazy for that.

I remember a decade ago, maybe longer, when Scott W4PA was an active blogger. One day he told the world that he took all of his QSL cards to the recycling bin. I was shocked. I guess he had reached the stage where I am now. But he had the balls to do it. Actually I don’t want to throw away the QSL cards I have. I just want to stop the flow of new ones coming in.

My main problem is that I feel the duty to reply because QSL cards are a deeply rooted tradition in our hobby. I like (some) traditions and I like the classic old school ham radio where operating skills and good manners are key. And not replying to a QSL card is just rude.

Yesterday I processed a 5cm stack of cards. That’s just a small fraction of what’s waiting, a drop on the proverbial hot plate. Every other card I asked myself: why? Then I had visions of hams all over the world, growling at me:

So we’re good enough to call you and increment your sacred rate meter but you don’t even reply to our card?

Then my Nightmare on HF Street scenario continued:

Don’t think we’re ever gonna call you again the next contest! That’ll teach ya.

And so I dutifully plough my way through a handful of cards, knowing there’s hundred handfuls more waiting. That’s just here in my house. And then there’s ON4BHQ who always tells me that he has another stack of incoming cards he took home from a meeting I didn’t attend. And one year and a half ago, I got a phone call from the guy who used to be the QSL manager for the club I used to go to before moving to here. He did a big cleanup himself after a house makeover and found a shoe box full of incoming QSL cards just for me. I guess those cards have been at his place for almost five years now. So it’ll probably be for contacts from a decade ago. I think I’m going to just throw these into my own plastic container (one of three already – remember?).

So I really would like to know how to stop the buro QSL volcano from erupting without offending anyone and more importantly: without much time spent on my side.

  • Ignore incoming cards?
  • Just do what I do now: let the pile grow and spend many hours every so many years trying to come clean with my ham radio conscience?
  • Could OQRS be an option?
  • What else?

I came up with an idea: what if I process a bunch of cards every day? Not too much, just a few – say 15 minutes tops? Could I clean the table by the end of 2018?

Philosophical contemplation:

Those FT8 people having their PC suck the ether dry and log every mW or µV of RF 24/7, do they send out paper QSL for each and every QSO? If so the QSL printing business has a bright future ahead.

Anecdote – true story. During the early 2000’s there was an SWL in my club who sat down behind the packet cluster screen and just handwritten copied the cluster data onto his SWL card. No RX, no antenna needed. That’s a fact. The following needs to be confirmed: I seem to remember he got one of his alleged SWL cards back, with a note: ‘Station not worked, just spotted on the cluster’. Karma’s a bitch.

This guy is what I always think of when I get SWL cards. BTW the number of SWL cards seems to be on the rise?

Finally a non-exhaustive list of things that drive me mad when processing incoming QSL cards simply because it lowers the processing rate (yes this too is about rate):

  • NIL!
  • Timestamp way off (say by a few years?).
  • The call says JA1*** but my log says JA1***/8.
  • No callsign on the backside so I need to flip the card.
  • QSL card for several calls with a checkbox, but no box is checked.
  • Send a QSL for a QSO from 2005 when my log says I already sent you my card in 2006. Why?
  • For US cards: state is in fine print or county not indicated. Yes I keep track of that. But why?

Bottom line: Stop sending me QSL cards! I’m on LotW, eQSL and Clublog. I like my communications’ mode antiquated but my QSLing 21st century style. A case of having the cake and eating it too.

9 replies on “Stop sending me QSL cards!”

I really don’t understand why there are still so many paper QSLs sent these days. Everything can be digital with systems like LoTW and eQSL. Much faster and better for the environment. And it can be automated, I finally have everything right for that this year. But paper cards….well it costs money to get them printed and you need to print labels or write everything with your bare hands. It costs time that I rather want to spend for something else. But I’m still a serious (anwering) QSLer because it’s a rule. “The final courtesy of a QSO is a QSL”. Anyway, I was a fanatic QSLer back in my CB time and got all those QSL cards in maps. That was the time postage was reasonable and CB had no QSL bureau of course. These days you have to pay a lot of money if you want a direct paper QSL from some DXpeditions and DX stations. I don’t want that at all and only answering QSL. I actually never send a QSL out first. Good luck with processing, 73, Bas

YouDon’t know the old days of ham radio and the spirit of the qsl card. Machines are cold and have no feelings, so ifyou enjoy communicating with machine plese do so. Back when we had call books with names and addresses and tge fcc spot checked to make sure you were a licensed fcc station qsl cards were a way to verify a licsenced station. Seem that since may things have changed I guess the qsl card will go away too. It was nice and special to meet another ham on the air when there was only telephone to talk on to eachb other. So I guess wewere special back in the day. Even CB radio was special anf CB’er sent out cards too. like A christmas post card whicg are also gone. Fast- Fast- Faster and so on, not and never will be the same as the old days of ham radio. I’m so happy that I lived in those days, because it was very special to send and receive QSL cards.
Vincent wb2pdw

Hello Franky,

Very judicious analysis, we are in the 21st century and we must adopt modern methods such as LOTW, eQSL, Clublog, etc., no matter what paper card collectors may think.
It has already been a few years since I adopted this policy, unfortunately many paper maps still come to me, to believe that some retrograde OMs prefer to continue to destroy forests.
73 Jean-Pierre ON5JT

Ah, yes, but that cards is for my special collection HI.
Looking forward to checking those contacts off in the log.
TNX for the note Ron. 73!

I agree its the 21st century, and LOTW etc is better and faster for the world, BUT LOTW,eqsl,club log etc.. are not all the same.. ATM I have qsl’s on eqsl that are not in LOTW… so yes will continue the old tradition to sending qsl’s first unless they are in LOTW already as confirmed. Just a thought..
73 Chris KB7EEG

Hi Chris

I admit it can be messy: LotW + eQSL + Clublog. I really need to keep track of what has been uploaded where.

I try to do this for all platforms at the same time for a bunch of logs.

I have no problem with a paper QSL for a first contact as it is part of our tradition and I think we mustn’t forget where we come from. We are more than communicators and adopters of new technology. Maybe legacy is too strong a word?

But I make thousands of contest QSO each year and there are guys that have sent me cards for each and every QSO since 2001. Kidz you not!


I like paper QSL’ s from Broadcasting station but I don’t give a dam for Ham QSLs. When eBay started the were piles of cards for sale for a few euros. They are really worthless. When there’s plenty of it the value drops exponentially.

Areal Amateur radio operator always sends a qsl. Also, those stupid contesters are wasting time ,they never know who there really talking too! 5/9 good bye! Just like onr of those robot telephone machines- not at my desk, leave a message and will call you back ! hahahaaha ! Thank You mister machine- do you remember the words Mister Machine tv comm. His name is Mister Machine. Let it all keep going and soon you all will be just like Mister Machine and a G-knome chip will be inn your brain and you won’t have to do a thing. The chip wi do it all! Mister Flex Radio! Oh! And don’t forget to where your mask like all the chinese do.
Thank You! HA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.