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 QRZ.com 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.

4 Responses to 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

  • 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

  • Oh and I just sent you a card too..C8T on it’s way to you hi

    73 Ron ON1DX

    • 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!

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