Saturday, January 26, 2008

Many happy returns

I thought that I'd do a follow-up on the QSLing post from last month. It's been just over four weeks since the big batch of cards went out, and I thought that it would be interesting to take a look at the return rate.

The cards all went out right around the 27th of December, and I sent out a total of 111 cards direct. (I'll ignore the bureau cards, since it's way too soon for any returns from them.) I was pleasantly surprised to get the first return back on January 2. (The station was in New Jersey, as am I, but that was still pretty quick). I got another card or two a day for the first week after sending, but on the 5th of January the flood started. On that day, I got 15 cards back (including one bad address), and on the following Monday (January 7), I got 11 cards back. One of the cards that came in on the 7th was TX5NK via DJ8NK, which proves, if nothing else, that the mail between the US and Germany is pretty efficient. By the end of the 2nd week after sending the cards, I'd received back 39, or around 35%.

For the next week after that, I'd get an average of around 2 per day back, but this week I got none until today, when I received one confirming UP0L (Kazahkstan), which confirmed my 277th all-time country. As of today, about 4 weeks after sending out the cards, I'm at about a 46% return rate.

Looking at the cards that came back, although I've received some of the DX cards back (those that were sent outside the US), I haven't received a significant portion, which doesn't surprise me. Despite the fast turnaround for that first card via DJ8NK, I expected that it will take a month or two for many of cards sent overseas to come back. Some of that is due to the mail, and some no doubt due to the time it takes the station on the other end to respond. As I've pointed out, although I personally make it a point to turn around any request that I get within a day, not everyone can do that, and I know that some of bigger stations and managers only do QSLing on a periodic basis.

I am a little disappointed that I haven't received more of the domestic cards back. I've gotten back 35 cards, but 29 are still outstanding. Hopefully those are from folks who just haven't gotten around to answering my card. Every one of the cards I sent out domestically was sent with a SASE, and all the non-US cards went out either with either an IRC or green stamps. (That's ham-speak for cash for return postage.) Actually, the US return rate is actually a bit worse than that: I checked to see how many of the DX cards went via a US route (usually a manager), and there are still a bunch of them outstanding. Some of those cards are going via well-known managers, and I'm positive that I will get them back, but I'm wondering what the final return rate will be?

I should say that although it sounds like I'm being impatient, I realize that for the most part, QSLing is not an instant gratification part of this hobby. Certainly it took me quite a while to get around to sending a lot of those cards, and I don't expect to see returns from the bureau cards for a year or more. I just hope that QSLing isn't on the way to becoming a lost art, especially when someone has made it so that all you need to do is to drop a card into the pre-addressed postage-paid envelope.

One final comment while on the topic of QSLing: I do like to get paper cards back, but I'm also a big fan of the ARRL's Logbook Of The World, as I have mentioned previously. For getting band or mode "fills", it's terrific, and I don't think that I'm losing anything by not having yet another piece of cardboard from a station that I've already worked on 4 other bands. As the cost of QSLing continues to rise, it's a great way to save money.

Although there are websites that give all kinds of statistics about who is using LoTW, I've posted a poll on my blog that asks if you use LoTW, and if not, why not. I listed a couple of common ones, but if you've answered "No (Other)", I'd appreciate it if you'd post a comment here telling why. Please note that if you receive this post via an RSS feed or from another website, you will need to visit my blog and scroll down a bit to see the poll on the right side.

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