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Direct QSL Hints

Successfully Navigating the Maze of Overseas QSLing

Introduction This is not a definitive 'how-to' guide, but rather a work-in-progress compiled with the help of fellow DXers. These pages will grow as others contribute their ideas and experience. If you would like to add new information, your input is welcome- and requested. Please email your comments.

The Problem Mail theft is widespread in certain areas around the world, such as some of the CIS and South American countries. It is a major challenge to directly mail QSLs to hams in these places. Mail is routinely pilfered for valuables such as US dollars, which are a popular way of sending return postage for QSLs. Many hams do not appreciate just how valuable dollars are in some depressed, overseas economies, and how tempting they are in the mails.

Some Solutions There are 3 basic ways of mailing postage overseas: IRCs (International Reply Coupons), US dollars, or SASEs (self-addressed stamped envelopes with stamps from the country you are sending to.)
There are 2 basic strategies for getting your envelope safely delivered:
concealment or openness.
(Another QSL strategy not covered here is to use couriers, managers, or agents. If you happen to have ham friends who travel or live in a country of interest, that may be the best means to get a card in some cases.)

Concealment If your strategy is to hide the contents of your mailer envelope, any of the 3 payment methods can work. Survey results varied greatly- some got no returns at all while others who used certain concealment and/or disguise methods claimed good return rates. Nobody had 100% returns.
The best of the bunch uses this method: #10 business-size, security-lined envelope with pre-printed business return address ; a slightly smaller #9 security return envelope that fits inside without folding; crisp, new $1 or $2 bills (flat- no wrinkles); and filler sheets cut up from scrap computer printouts to confuse anyone who tries to 'candle' the envelope to see what is inside. High return rate is claimed.
Disadvantages: Return rates may fall off if too many hams start using this method. More to the point, if the name and address of the DX operator become known to the mail thieves, few concealment methods will work, no matter how clever.

Openness If your strategy is to create the impression that there is nothing of value in your envelope, then SASEs are your best choice. IRCs may also work in this mode- they are less recognizable than dollars, and are much less desirable.
The best of the bunch uses this method: European-size mailer and slightly smaller return envelope, privacy-lined, red/blue airmail border; SASE return envelope with postage of the destination country; mailer envelope flap tucked in, not sealed ! High return rate is claimed. The presumption is that mail thieves will look in the envelope, see the SASE, and let it continue on its way. (Thieves attracted to a sealed envelope will divert it and later destroy everything after opening to avoid leaving any evidence.)
Disadvantages: > Unsealed envelope flaps can self-seal in wet, humid climates. It is best to slip some wax paper behind any unsealed flap. This increases the mailer envelope thickness, however, attracting more attention. > SASEs might have value to some thieves- they could be sold for some small fraction of a dollar and reused by putting an address label over the original address. > IRCs can not be redeemed for postage in some countries like Russia. They are sometimes traded as ham currency, however. SASEs are much more easy for the DX operator to use.

Opinion and Recommendations It is dollars that the mail thieves are after, not SASEs. While it is true that a dollar is sometimes a little cheaper than the postage stamps for an SASE, what is the true cost of QSLing to everyone when so many mailings go astray? I suspect some of my SASE mailings fell prey to dollar hunters. If we all sent only SASEs (or IRCs) to the problem countries, we might eventually retrain the thieves to think of ham QSL mailings as having "nothing of value". Perhaps they would even seek more profitable employment elsewhere. :-)

MORE Direct QSL Hints- PAGE 2 More important details- please read

The Direct QSL Survey Help others- share your QSL experiences

Foreign Postage Stamps/Envelopes Sources Some good US sources
Other QSL Methods Sites and Resources More QSLing details plus an alternative method

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