There’s been some hot debate recently within the Delta-Alfa Facebook group regarding the issue of sending QSL confirmation cards ‘direct’ to rare stations and bypassing the respective QSL Manager.  “What’s all the fuss about?” you might say.

Pros & Cons:

Firstly, sending QSL cards direct to rare stations poses many potential problems – the most common being a ‘non-return’ of QSL package by the receiving station.  History has proven that sending cards direct to a station knowing they deal through a nominated QSL Manager is fraught with danger – even if you have included standard contribution and a courtesy SAE to facilitate the return.

As has been pointed out on the forums, this non-return could have occurred for many reasons…

One explanation is that due to problems with postal organisations/infrastructure in small island nations or poor third world countries, the QSL package has gone missing or been stripped off contribution, resealed and then resent.

Remember this was a MAJOR problem experienced by operators in the Central Pacific region (e.g. 224, 265, 172 Divisions etc.) for many years until they became represented by QSL Managers in more ‘developed’ regions of the world.

Another potential problem with sending QSL cards direct is that the receiving station may not be in possession of QSL cards for his particular activation.  Obviously, a station cannot return a confirmation package if he does not have any special cards to confirm it with.

Then comes the notion of permission and whether or not an operator has asked for authorisation to send cards direct or simply taken it upon himself to locate the operator’s personal coordinates off the internet and send off a package in the hope it will be returned.

Some operators I know do not take kindly to QSL correspondence turning up on their island doorstep without consent and a likely to strip the contents and contribution and toss the SAE straight in the trash can!

Some might argue that if you choose to skip the QSL Manager and send ‘direct’ to a rare station without permission, then you run the risk of having your QSL cards ignored and losing your US dollars.  It’s a valid point too but I’m sure one which is understood by most DX’ers who do decide to send direct.

“So why do some operators continue to send direct when they know a QSL Manager exists?” some argue.  “Why don’t they follow correct protocol like everyone else?” 

The simple answer is that, although hazardous, sending ‘direct’ can be advantageous.

One of the reasons why QSL cards are posted straight to an operator is that it is thought cards returned via a QSL Manager will take much longer to arrive in the PO Box.  Operators who strive for DX awards, IOTA championship points etc. may require immediate confirmation and as such be desperate to obtain the card as soon as possible.

While most QSL Managers are diligent in their return of QSL cards, let’s face it, occasionally we hear reports of cards taking up to 2 years to arrive in the PO Box and for some this is simply not acceptable.  It’s a fact, then, that sending ‘direct’ will sometimes save time!

How else can sending ‘direct’ be beneficial?  In my experience, the stations most likely to send QSL cards direct are the ‘Island Chasers’ and in the Dx Adventure Radio Club we have plenty of those.  It is common knowledge that a postcard from a small island to accompany a special QSL card is worth its weight in gold to any fair dinkum IOTA Hunter.

When I was living in OC-138 only a couple of hundred kilometres off the shores of 101 Division, for example, I received many QSL packages direct to my island from operators who had elected to bypass my QSL manager 26SD029 Tim and try their luck with me personally. 

Many of these stations had asked for my permission to send direct and I always obliged them with a few postcards and photographs of my island and IOTA setup to add to their collection.

While I was prepared to deal with stations direct, that’s not to say that others are willing to do the same.  One of the grounds for having a QSL Manager in the first place is to lessen the burden on the rare DX station, allowing the operator to spend more time on the radio rather than writing out and sending enormous numbers of QSL cards.

Some DX’ers, understandably though, are reluctant to go through the hassles.  QSL Managers, too, are usually elected by their group headquarters because they are honest and reliable, with a proven track record in administrative DX Group duties.  For this reason alone, going through a Manager significantly reduces the chance of your QSL package mysteriously disappearing in the mail!


The habit of sending direct then has its positives and negatives.  Provided you ask for permission to send ‘direct’ and that permission is granted by the operator in question, then I can see no reason why it shouldn’t be viewed as a viable way of obtaining confirmation.

As fas as I’m concerned, if permission has been granted and the QSL card isn’t returned, then the operator in question should be treated as any other everyday DXer and blacklisted so that it does not happen again; regardless of how rare his DXCC…