DX Stories by Paul M. Dunphy, VE1DX

The Cost of QSLing!


One of the Legion of Handwringers stopped by the other day. "DXers and QSL managers sure aren't what they used to be.", he said, "Not at all." "Why do you say that?", we said, hoping this was something we could duck out of in short order. "It's the QSLing these days", the Handwringer replied, "why, most of the major DXpeditions and even some of the run-of-the-mill DX stations are asking us to QSL direct . . . they don't want us to send buro cards anymore. Seems to me they've turned DXing into a business rather than a hobby. This isn't the way amateur radio is supposed to be. No-siree. When I got into the hobby, we all used the buro and that was that. The only ones who sent direct QSLs were those who couldn't wait for the buro. Now, the newly minted QRPers are at the mercy of these QSL managers who demand direct cards. Some of them want two greens stamps for a card. This isn't HAM radio at all."

We'd heard this particular Handwringer had given the same speech at the DX club last week and all the locals were upset, sure that HAM radio had taken a turn for the worse since they'd got licensed. "Are you sure things are that much different that when we were new at the game?", we asked, getting the feeling that the pot had been stirred too much already. "Heck yes", the Handwringer replied, "it's way worse and besides, no QSL card is worth paying a whole dollar for . . . or maybe even two. Not on your life. I sure wouldn't waste my money on that."

Son of a Gun! This was way out of our league, so we took the Handwringer up the hill to see the Old Timer. He repeated his story to the Old Timer, this time even putting a more hopeless spin on it, ending with "So, you see, a new DXer will end up paying tons of money making QSL managers rich, being forced to buy his DXCC!" The Old Timer set aside the plate choke he was winding, then turned to ask the Handwringer, "You've got them all worked, haven't you? Number one Honor Roll in QST, as I recall." The Handwringer replied, "Yes, and it took me years of hard work to do it. Sure is nice to be at the top." "And you never QSLed any of them direct?", the Old Timer asked. "Well, I had to send direct for a few.", the Handwringer replied, "but I always waited to see how the others were doing. A lot of times the QSLs would dribble in by the buro. If not, I'd find out the minimum I could get away with. By the time I sent, I knew the most economical way . . . I wasn't going to send any more than I had to, that's for sure."

The Old Timer was silent for a moment, then seemed to shift gears. "You always do well in the pileups, don't you?", he asked carefully, "What are you running?" The Handwringer looked a bit confused at the change of topic, but was quite willing to tell us about his station. "It's the best." he replied, "5-element monobanders for all bands above 40, each on it's own 70-foot tower. Phased verticals for 160, 80 and 40. Three new rigs, top of the line, and two Alpha amplifiers in case one breaks. Each rig has an outboard DSP unit too. Cost me a bundle, but I wanted to make sure I got the DX in the log. And it works too. I can't remember when I didn't work a DX station on the first or second call. When it comes to DXing, there's nothing cheap about me. Money is no object when it comes to working DX, that's my motto." And with that, the Handwringer bid us a good day, off to the local HAM shop to look at the latest line of amplifiers.

We just looked at the Old Timer and scratched our head. "What do you make of that?", we asked. The Old Timer stared back at us for a second and then said, "With some people, the means justify the end; with others, the end justifies the meanness." And with that he turned back to winding his plate choke. We thought this one over for a moment, then asked, "What you are saying is that the Handwringer is a cheapskate, right?" The Old Timer just smiled and reached for his grid dip meter. Son of a Gun! Sometimes the true meaning of DX IS is buried deep within the Mysteries of the Ages. This time it seemed to have a selective price tag!

Best Regards, Paul

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