QSLing – Is this in the spirit of Amateur Radio?

In April last year I made two QSOs with a group of people on a DXpedition to an African country, this was a new DXCC to me and after the trip I looked up the callsign on qrz.com where it listed a QSL manager.  I checked that callsign on qrz.com and it confirmed that he was the manager for the DXpedition but there was no mention of any costs.

This QSL manager is located in Belgium so I did what I always do, I sent my QSL card, a self addressed envelope and two dollar bills.

Today I’ve been going through my log and I realised that I’ve not received anything back so I emailed the QSL manager only to receive two replies, one from the DXpedition organiser and one from the QSL manager, both telling me that because I only sent $2, my card has been returned via the bureau.  There was some text quoted from the DXpedition website where it says that for direct QSLs, they require either 1 IRC or $3.  I hadn’t seen this before I sent my card. If I’d seen that, I’d have sent 1 IRC rather than the dollars.

Three dollars seems an awful lot for a QSL card from Belgium.  I know for a fact that I can send a card anywhere in the world for just two dollars and that includes the cost of postage, printing a full colour QSL card and buying an envelope!  Having said that, if there had been any mention of this cost on either of the two qrz.com pages I checked then I’d have sent the three dollars because I want the card.

I replied pointing this out and commenting that I’m a QSL manager for a small DXpedition (GP0PKT) and our costs are a maximum of $2 worldwide.  I also suggested that they must be making a lot of profit for their $3 charge.  My group only charge $1 for cards from within Europe so I still think the $3 charge is far too much but I would have paid that if it had been mentioned.

The reply told me that he does not believe I’m a QSL manager and finished “PLEAS NO MORE QSL FROM YOU TO ANY OF OR NEXT DX_PEDITIONS.”

They’re happy to keep my $2 though.

Is this in the spirit of amateur radio?  I really don’t think it is.  Neither their qrz.com page or their QSL managers qrz.com pages mention their QSL charge and that’s where my issue lies.

Here are the QSL requirements for GP0PKT, clearly stated on the qrz.com page for the callsign.

Please send cards either direct or via the Bureau. If sending direct from within the UK, please include an SASE. If sending from Europe, please include an SAE and $1. From the Rest of The World, please include an SAE and $2. Do not send stamps or any currency other than US$. Direct cards received without envelopes or the correct postage will be returned via the bureau. Please do not send IRCs.

I’ve received cards from the USA with only one dollar bill, I’ve received IRCs, I’ve received cards with dollar bills but no envelope.  All these people will receive their cards back direct.  The only ones who will go back via the bureau are those who just sent a card and nothing else (and there was only one of them).

The group I’m talking about are not operating in the spirit of amateur radio as far as I’m concerned.

I’ve worked one other station in this African country since and I’ll be sending him the $2 he’s asked for on his qrz.com page for a direct QSL.


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  1. This is a interesting one – and sometimes you have to apply some common-sense or just take a chance. I generally operate on the “you’ve sent me yours so I’ll send you mine” principle – I don’t ask for money/postage as I’m hardly a wanted Prefix/Square but if the other side has paid for a stamp then I’m happy to do likewise. If the station makes mention of postage/SAE then I’ll do that (yours does, so I did!).

    I guess, when it comes to sending out several hundred cards you have to get picky sometimes – especially if you’re “making up the difference” out of your own pocket. With the high volume of QSOs a DXpedition makes, I think the onus is on the “little guy” to ensure that there’s adequate return postage/donation if he wants the QSL.

    Making a profit on QSLs isn’t something I agree with, and if people don’t want a QSL or openly state that they don’t collect/send then that makes my life easier so far as the logbook+card-writing goes!

    How about $10 for a QSL? Saw EP3SMH getting some stick on the DX Cluster recently. It does make you wonder just how much it really costs some people.

    1. You dont realize how much the postage cost there..IT IS about that much so stop bitching

  2. I agree, common sense is the way to go forward. The problem in this situation is that neither the QRZ page for the actual DXpedition callsign or the QSL manager actually specify a figure which is why I sent two dollars.

    If either page had said how much they were charging, I would have grumbled about it to myself but then sent the money because I want the card.

    As far as I (the little guy) was concerned, I’ve done the right thing and sent what should be enough postage by sending $2.

    A quick check shows the international rates from Belgium are €1.03 for Europe or €1.24 for the world (when bought in packs of five) so I know for a fact that $2 is enough for worldwide postage from Belgium.

    My complaint is that they’ve not publicised their costs properly and aren’t prepared to shift an inch to help someone who clearly has gone to the effort of sending them a card direct. Even worse, they’ve told me not to request a QSL from them for any of their future DXpeditions!

  3. Hello Keith, I’m really getting sick of these kind of QSL reply behaviour. So that’s one of the reasons I started this blog: http://qslcodeofconduct.blogspot.nl/

    73, Bas

  4. It’s a great idea Bas, I read that blog a couple of weeks ago and I applaud you for it.

  5. Yes, really sad, but unfortunately not uncommon. Some DXpeditionner even clearly state QSLs are for financing their trips…


  6. The thing is, Yan – It’s not the actual cost that’s frustrated me so much. It’s the fact that they didn’t advertise how much they wanted on qrz.com which is the place that most people go to.

    That and the fact that they’re not prepared to shift an inch to help out a fellow amateur, DXer and (since GP0PKT) DXpeditioner.

    I repeat – It’s not the cost, I happily sent $3 yesterday for a card from XU1A for their recent DXpedition.

  7. My opinion is: no QSL is worth more than 1 IRC + SAE. OMs, who want more, are simply dollar hunters (by the way, I never send money, only IRCs). If someone makes a Dxpedition and has not enough money for printing QSL cards, should stay at home. Only the postage to send back the QSL is acceptable.
    And there is a worse thing: QSL managers who want 2 IRCs. One for the letter of the returning QSL and one to send it to the QSO partner. WTF? Why do they have it to send one by one?

    QSLing by paper is the business card of ham radio, so eQSL is not a solution (for me).
    I collect QSL not only for adding DXCCs to my log, but also to get the “business card” of the person and human being I spoke to.

    1. Unfortunately Bernd, you’re going to run into problems in the next few years because a number of countries are phasing out the IRC, they’re no longer sold in the UK and because of that, many UK stations and QSL managers based in the UK will no longer accept them.

      I stopped using eQSL some a while ago. I still upload to LoTW but nothing beats the feel of a real card in the hand.

    2. cards and postage cost…so stop bitching or dont send a qsl card..most managers do not care one way or the other

      1. Ron,

        You’re missing the point entirely.

        I worked the station involved, I went to their qrz.com site where it lists the QSL manager. There’s no mention of the cost on their qrz.com page.

        So I went to the QSL manager page. There’s no mention their either of any cost.

        So I sent what is generally accepted as the standard, 2 x $1 bills.

        When I hadn’t received anything, I emailed to ask and was flatly told that I hadn’t sent enough and so my card had been sent back through the bureau.

        I asked if they could do anything to help me out but my request was refused. Absolutely nothing, go away and don’t QSL us again. I really don’t consider that very good PR on behalf of the group.

        If it had been made clear on either the DXpedition qrz page or the QSL manager page that the request was for $3 or an IRC then that’s what I would have sent but that quite simply wasn’t made clear. I’ve just checked and it’s still the same.

        I’m the QSL manager for a small group, GP0PKT and I’ve returned cards direct that were sent with not enough postage, and in one extreme case, with no postage at all. I only rejected one direct request and that was when the card arrived with no cash and no envelope.

        I must repeat – If it had been made clear that the requirement was for $3, then I would have sent it, despite the fact that I know how much it costs to send a card from Belgium.

        For what it’s worth, I’ve now received the card via the bureau and have emailed the two people I was corresponding with to advise them of this.

        You’ll also notice that I’ve not mentioned which group was involved.

        73 Keith.

  8. Firstly, I agree that returning a direct card via the bureau without having publicised the expected donation is poor form. In the absence of guidance to the contrary, $2 should be enough to get you a direct return – if not, you should be clear up-front about this.

    However, I should say that $3 isn’t an unreasonable request for online QSL request services using PayPal. Here’s my breakdown of a $2 PayPal payment (taken from my posting to the CDXC list):

    PayPal fees account for $0.38, leaving $1.62 This becomes 97p after currency conversion, at the present rate.

    87p goes on a stamp, assuming it’s to overseas (most common)
    FDS QSL (random example of someone who had a price list online) charges 6.5p per card, assuming you buy 2000
    Envelopes are ~1p each
    Labels are ~1p each (one for the card, one for the envelope)
    Toner cost for printing labels is negligible but present
    = 96.5p… 0.5p “profit”!

    A slight swing in exchange rates, card printing costs, or postage (which I’m guessing will go up by at least a few pence in April) is enough to push this into a loss.

    If I’m talking about an occasional card I receive for M0VFC in a boring DXCC on a boring IOTA, I’ll just send a return card pretty much irrespective of how much postage is included. Life’s too short to worry. But if I’m dealing with thousands of cards for a DXpedition, even a small loss per card can add up to a significant cost.

    Now, being controversial: I don’t like the use of “spirit of amateur radio” being applied to “these people must do things the way I think they should be done”. It’s like saying it’s in the spirit of amateur radio that someone going to some rare DXCC must operate all of SSB, CW, RTTY, PSK, JT65 and so on, because there’s people who want to work them on all those modes.

    This is a wonderfully diverse hobby, and for everyone, there’s aspects they choose to participate in, and those they don’t – and they’re free to chose those aspects. Just as it’s quite acceptable for someone to decide they’re going to do a CW-only or SSB-only DXpedition, because that’s what they enjoy, it’s also quite acceptable for someone to decide they don’t want to handle QSL cards, because they don’t enjoy it.

    The absolutely critical bit, however, is to announce this, and do so up-front. It would be wrong to ask for sponsorship for a DXpedition from a RTTY special-interest group without telling them you won’t be doing any RTTY, and similarly, it’s wrong to ask for people to send you money for QSL cards if you have no intention of returning them.

    But a clearly stated, “I’m sorry, I don’t wish to send or receive QSLs” is quite acceptable.

    Rob, M0VFC

    1. Rob, I stress again, I’m not specifically complaining about the $3 charge. My point is that in good faith, I sent enough money to return a card. If I’d known they wanted the $3 then it’s what I would have sent.

      My “Spirit of amateur radio” comments are not me trying to impress my way of doing things on the entire hobby, more in the lines of being frustrated that a group won’t send me a card direct when I’ve actually given them enough money to do so in good faith.

      I won’t even try and defend the fact that they’ve told me not to request a QSL card from them for any of their future DXpeditions. That’s plain rude and totally uncalled for.

      1. Keith – I completely agree with you. If they say they will QSL direct, and don’t give instructions otherwise, then $2 should lead you to expect a card returned direct.

        I’m not certainly not defending the group in question here – and as you say, the first rule of everything in amateur radio should be to be civil to each other!

        The latter part of my comments were aimed towards the notion I’ve seen in various places (this post is very timely – both CDXC and Club Log lists have seen similar discussions of late) that all stations are required to QSL in whatever way the requesting station deems fit! (And that QSLing is, for some reason, part of amateur radio that everybody *must* participate in whether they like it or not, or say they’ll do it or not…)


  9. Hello Keith,

    It is very interesting to read your article on vital problem for real amateurs.

    And I would like to add some more.

    – the quality of QSL cards(I mean paper,design, IOTA number etc). I like IOTA program so I would like to have card with some view of the island as a primary thing and also all the necessary info not just callsign and photo of semi-drunk mob making it a ne”er-do-well QSL Besides I have to pay my money for this shit.

    – I returned to Ham radio after 39 years.In 1970 I did not know what was direct QSL.Now a lot of so-called Hams are just making money.I am not against direct QSLing completely but I think that it should be as an option.

    – QSL bureaux. In many countries they do not work properly.I will not tell you about E7, Z3o and some other bureaux work – I have no proper words to describe it.But let us take RSGB bureau.From 28Dec2009 till 27Nov2012 I have sent to RSGB bureau about 250 cards — received one( RSGB please thank Steve Sugihara M0WGI for one point).I still do hope that I will receive some other cards via bureau from G-lands.Yes, nearly all G-lands I have confirmed by direct QSLs( many from foreign Hams, except GI,-yes, I watch BBC TV and I do know that there are problems but I would like to ask 12 GI Hams I have worked with to find a few spare minutes to send me least one bureau or direct QSL,Thanks in anticipation).

    Thank you very much for your kind attention.

    Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

    73&DX de Anatoli(UT4UEG)

    1. Hi Anatoli, thanks for leaving a comment.

      It’s a shame your not in the log for our recent GP0PKT DXpedition because you’d like the QSL card I’ve designed as it’s pretty much exactly what you’ve described although it does have small insert pictures of all the operators using the radio.

      QSL cards through the bureau are really slow. I’ve only recently started receiving cards for my QSO365 project and that was 2011 so I know how slow things can be especially as I sent out nearly 3,000 QSL cards that year.

      I hope you start to receive cards from G stations soon. We’ve not worked (yet) but if we had, I’d be pleased to send you a card direct.

      Happy New Year to you and good DX.

  10. Thanks for the answer Keith,
    I do hope to receive cards this year from G-land( where I visited many places in the past – and must admit that British people are the best) but you must understand that waiting from 2 to 3 years for a bureau card it is too much for G-land(you are not in a remote place of the world).And I do not always blame G-Hams for this – just RSGB(we know they have had certain problems but it is their problems not mine).We receive bureau cards from Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Japan, Poland, Israel nearly every month.
    Certainly many countries have only incoming bureaux or do not have bureaux at all but this situation only in countries where there are a few active Hams or nobody(or in some countries for so-called Hams is better to receive only direct cards just to earn money,
    sometimes they even tell you that they have not received the card or send me the card and it was lost in the post, especially we should beware of the so-called Hams who do not give their e-mail address).And it have been very strange for me to get to know that some Hams never had(or have) any QSL(paper or virtual) at all(some save money, some use Ham radio instead of a satellite phone).
    Well, enough for today.
    Wishing you all the best and let us hope for a better future.
    73&Good DX de Anatoli(UT4UEG)

  11. Ooooh, this has got them writing in!

    Firstly as QRZ.com is the 1st place most people go to find info’ it would be nice if EVERYONE who uses it put their QSL info’ on it. At present there’s some that do, some that don’t, some that sort of do, but are ambiguous, and some others who aren’t on this planet.

    It’s about time there was a UNIVERSAL electronic QSL system, oh why not email a pic of your card and add the QSO details, simples. I know some of us like a real card, but the systems used are outdated now. Yes a card can be faked, but there are ways to get round that, watermarks etc. It’s also about time all societies accepted electronic cards for awards, it is the 21st century after all, 73.


  12. Hi Bob,
    Thanks for interesting comments about QRZ.com.Like you I also prefer paper cards to electronic analogues(but could change my attitude under certain circumstances – if I will have the possibility to print cards from eQSL and they are equal to cards received via bureau or direct).Now it is like a treasure hunting – it is ten times easier to have a QSO with a DX station(saying just a report and then checking if you are in the log) than receiving a card from him(or manager in most cases) for which you paid sometimes money for which many people on this planet could survive for a week.And a lot of interesting stories could be told – once I sent a card to South American Ham with 3usd
    and received from him a few cards – good one, couple of blank ones and one confirming my QSO with him from 70cm to 160m(?!!)May it was a joke.
    Yes, we now live in the 21st century and Ham radio should( or may be ought to) adapt to modern computerized life. It is for sure otherwise our hobby is finished.
    Thank you for your kind attention and patience.
    HNY, 73 and Good DX de Anatoli(UT4UEG)

  13. Hi Anatoli,

    I gave up with eQSL because most hams just dump there logs into it and it produced many many dupes, which I had to deal with in the inbox. A good system, but needs work on it.

    I’ve had cards from OM’s that I requested by email and they sent them ok, but didn’t put all the information on the card!! These are ones I waited for for a long time. So now I’m not so much bothered by cards, if they come ok, if not also ok, but it’s disappointing not to get them.

    73 Bob

    1. The point for me, Bob is that I want every country I’ve worked to be confirmed and I’m currently at 231/237 so those last few are important to me. eQSL is not accepted by the ARRL for DXCC awards and I did the same as you, gave up with it recently. For DXpeditions that don’t upload to LoTW (and that’s a whole new topic), it’s quite important to get the card.

      Luckily I’ve worked another station in this country since I worked these guys and so I’ll send him a card direct rather than wait two years for theirs to arrive via the bureau.

    2. Interesting comment about dupes, Bob. I use eQSL as my “primary” method because it’s simple for me to upload my ADIF (from PZTLog) and retrieve the card “images” back using the wonderful util from WD5EAE: http://wd5eae.org/Software.html#eQSLDownload I don’t get any “dupe” issues, I assume this is because the script checks the Date/Time/Call when uploading – and I’ve occasionally not marked some as “Sent” only to be told-off by eQSLs “Finished” page that xx QSOs were already in the system.

      Charlie – M0PZT

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