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Introduction to the Bureau

Introduction

club-qsl-card-small.gif All of our Bureau volunteers are capable of receiving and sending e-mail. Your Letter-Manager is your best source of information about your account. The first letter in the suffix of your call sign determines who your Letter-Manager will be. Thus, if the first letter after the number 2 in your call is "A," then the A-Manager will be handling your cards. To contact him or her, send e-mail to "letter-?@njdxa.org." Leave out the quotes and substitute the first letter of the suffix of your call for the question mark. Your Letter-Manager will respond to your e-mail within a few days.

If you have general questions about the Bureau, look at our FAQ Page. If you can't find an answer to your question, you may contact the Bureau Manager at w2en@njdxa.org

Background

Part of the enjoyment of contacting other amateurs throughout the world is the final courtesy of the QSO - the QSL card. In addition to the necessity of verification of contacts for awards, many amateurs enjoy collecting QSL cards. The Bureau system was initiated to help keep the costs of exchanging cards at a reasonable level. Although you may think that the United States postage rates are high, we enjoy the least costly and most reliable postal service in the world. Thus, the Bureaus play an important role in the worldwide distribution of QSLs.

The ARRL Second District QSL Bureau has been operated by the North Jersey DX Association since 1957. Methods and policies have been refined and modified over the years in response to an increasing volume of cards. Further changes were made when computerization became a necessity. Today, with 43 volunteer workers, the NJDXA sorts and distributes approximately one million QSL cards per year.

For a more detailed history of the ARRL Second District QSL Bureau, go to the QSL Bureau History link on the left side of this page.

How the Bureau System Works

post-office.jpg This is the Morris Plains, New Jersey Post Office.

In each country where a QSL Bureau is established, local amateurs have organized the operation in a businesslike fashion. Cards are sorted by the prefix of the stations to which they are addressed. They are then shipped in bulk packages to the Bureaus of the countries to which these cards have been directed. Unfortunately, there are many countries that do not have organized QSL Bureaus. QSL cards for these countries must be sent by direct mail. Periodically, "QST" publishes a list of those countries served by the ARRL Outgoing QSL Service, i.e., the countries that have a Bureau. This service is restricted to ARRL members. Get the latest on this service by connecting to the ARRL web site at http://www.arrl.org You can also get this information by sending a s.a.s.e. to QSL Bureau Manager, ARRL, 225 East Main St., Newington, CT 06111. The ARRL DX QSL Bureaus (in-coming) have no such restriction. They are open to all amateurs and serve as distribution centers for foreign cards addressed to stateside amateurs. At the present time, there are 14 District Bureaus and one for incoming SWL cards. Let's see what is involved in the operation of a District QSL Bureau, specifically, the Second District Bureau.

QSL cards are shipped to us directly from foreign Bureaus, from foreign amateurs, and from the ARRL. Mail is picked up by the Bureau Manager at the local post office at least twice a week. The first-class mail is separated from the packages of cards. This first-class mail includes subscriptions to the Bureau, requests for information, change of address notifications, and personal letters directed to either the Bureau Manager or to one of the Bureau volunteers. Our Bureau sells postage credits at the current rate of ten credits for $6.00. This rate is subject to change according to postage rates. A postage credit includes the envelope and the postage for a one ounce mailing. Each additional ounce in the envelope costs another postage credit. For subscribers who receive many cards, we will use Priority Mail which will allow us to send two or three pounds of cards for a very reasonable fee and the Postal Service will deliver the package in two days. This can save a considerable amount in terms of postage credits for our subscribers. The small difference between our charges for postage credits and the actual cost of a stamp and an envelope goes toward administrative expenses such as rubber bands, paper clips, stationery, envelopes, printing costs, telephone, and bank charges. As a result, we are classified as a non-profit organization [501 (c) 7] by the Internal Revenue Service.

Our Bureau has one Bureau Manager, two Assistant Bureau Managers, 14 Primary Sorters, and 26 Letter-Managers. Each person has a specific responsibility. The Bureau Managers collect the mail, enter credits in the subscribers files in our computer database, prepare monthly reports, re-sort and redistribute missorted cards, reply to inquiries, respond to complaints and other correspondence, distribute newly purchased credits, and transact all other business which pertains to the management of the Bureau. After the newly purchased credits have been entered in the computer, the number of postage credits is also written on the outside of the envelope in which they were received. Notes and address changes are also placed in their original envelopes and marked accordingly. These envelopes are filed alphabetically in a sorting rack until they are taken to the monthly meeting for distribution to the individual Letter-Managers.

The 14 Primary Sorters receive at least one full grocery bag of cards each month which they must sort twice. They sort first by the first suffix letter and again by the second suffix letter. The sorted cards are then rubber-banded and labeled, brought by the Primary Sorter to the next meeting of the organization, and then placed in the proper Letter-Managers' bags. The Newly purchased credits and other mail along with computer reports are also distributed to the Letter-Managers at the monthly meeting. The Letter-Managers have the responsibility of updating their subscriber files with this information. They then do a final sort of the cards in their bag, stuff and address envelopes, apply the necessary postage, and finally mail the cards to the subscribers.

Requirements

bureaumail.jpg There are a few requirements that our Bureau has set forth for subscribers. The first is to allow at least two months for the processing and distribution of newly purchased credits. One of the most common complaints we receive is from a subscriber who had recently sent money only to receive a shipment of cards a few days later with a note stating that the credit balance is somewhat less than the subscriber thinks it should be. This only means that the mailing was done before the Letter-Manager had received the new postage credits for that subscriber. If we receive a subscription (or renewal) one day after our meeting, those credits will not be in the hands of the Letter Manager for one whole month. Furthermore, the Letter-Manager may not have the time to update his file for a week or two or even longer. With family obligations, illness, vacations, work schedules or other priorities, the Bureau work is often delayed even further. Therefore we ask our subscribers to be patient and to allow a minimum of two months for credits to be added to the subscriber's account. Another common problem is failure to enclose a self-addressed and stamped envelope when requesting information. This is a courtesy and should be extended to any non-profit organization from which you expect a response. Subscribers should also be aware that their Letter-Manager may ask them for a supply of address labels. Computer-generated labels are best. The tiny ones that arrive in the mail have a poor quality glue and frequently fall off the envelopes. If you send us labels, make sure they are big enough and of reasonable quality. The District Bureaus do not handle US-to-US (contiguous 48 states) QSL cards. Most Bureaus will, however, distribute US cards addressed to a DX station via a US QSL Manager. We will handle cards originating from a US station and addressed to a US station serving as a QSL manager for a DX station.
The photo above will give you some idea of how we receive foreign QSL cards. The "load" represents one visit to the Morris Plains Post Office. Generally, mail is retrieved at least twice a week.

All too often, enthusiastic DXers will send us a packet of outgoing QSL cards. These are cards addressed to a foreign station or to a foreign QSL Bureau. We cannot distribute these cards. The ARRL provides an Outgoing QSL Service. This service is available at a reasonable fee. Please click on the following link for more information on outgoing cards:
ARRL Outgoing QSL Service

Conclusion

home.gif We make every effort to be conservative of our subscribers' postage credits. In that regard, we will rarely mail one or two cards. In general, we hold cards for weight so that the subscribers get the most value for their postage dollars. We usually hold cards for at least 6 months after notification that a subscription has expired. After that time, we will destroy unclaimed cards. Finally, exchanging QSL cards via the Bureau System is a very slow process. We frequently see cards which were for contacts made more than a year ago. In fact, some cards are for contacts that are several years old. The key word in dealing with any Bureau is patience. If subscribers realize that the work is being done by volunteers and that these people are entitled to have some time for their own enjoyment of this hobby, then the delays in the receipt of cards would be more easily explained. Cooperation between the subscriber and the Bureau is most important.
Each District Bureau establishes its own policies and management style. Depending upon how the volunteers are organized, monthly meetings may not be a convenient method of distributing the workload. Some Bureaus meet at a central location and all Bureau work is accomplished in one place. Others prefer to mail cards to the volunteers who do the sorting and final mailing from their homes. In another case, the Bureau Manager personally delivers cards to the volunteers every week. The Second District Bureau has developed a system that works for us.