Posted by: GW7AAV | May 24, 2010

The Post Office at the End of the Universe

QSL cards are innocuous enough items, one would think, but get a group of radio amateurs together and there are issues that could quickly turn the air blue. Turning aside the issues of QSL cards sent by the bureau that seem to live outside of time and tend to arrive ten years after the intended recipient has gone to that big field day in the sky, the cost of postage and that guy that has not sent you a card from that last QRP moonbounce contact with Outer Mongolia there are the issues I wish to address.

Occasionally I get a contact with someone who asks specifically for a card and when you get their information up on QRZ there is a demand for money with menaces. No Dollars, No QSL!!! or No IRC, No QSL!!! Well if that is what you want then shove it where the sun doesn’t shine because I couldn’t give a damn. QSL cards are nice to send and nice to receive but I have never been that desperate that I would pay to have someones cards. It is one reason I don’t collect awards or certificates.
Mainly, I don’t collect awards because if I know I have worked 100 countries, squares or windmills then that is good enough for me, I don’t need pieces of paper or gold stickers to tell me how good I am. It is probably due to my childhood overblown sense of self-importance and deluded knowledge that I was so much better than my peers that as a result I have never sort approval from anyone. It is probably a good job I enjoyed the examination process otherwise I would never have had any qualifications, because my attitude was one that shunned any form of cataloguing, grading or judgement based on academic achievement. Unfortunately I had to grow up and went through that depressing realisation that I am probably as unimportant as the next guy and that in the grand scheme of things none of us matter. Stars explode and worlds die but time and space go on.
Every now and then I get a QSL sent direct and sometimes these contain a Dollar or two. Now personally I don’t want your dollars or IRCs but I appreciate that other people want their awards and their QSL cards so I do not take issue with those who send such things. As someone in a fairly prosperous country with a well paid job I can afford to pay my own return postage but I am aware that even amongst my friends down at the radio club there are those who cannot really afford to waste money on posting cards out every week, so not an issue.
What I have an issue with is IRCs. About a week ago I received a card direct from a station in the US and it contained two IRCs. I wrote out a card and walked over to my local post office. I expected then to either exchange the IRCs for enough stamps or frank my air mail letter containing a QSL card. “What is this?” said one teller. The other shrugged her shoulders “Dunno, never seen those” she said. I explained what they were for and pointed out the wording on the reverse. “The Royal Mail website says I can buy them at my local post office” I said. “They cost one pound forty pence and can be exchanged for 67 pence worth of stamps” I explained. The teller then scanned the bar code on my IRCs and said “They’re not on our system”. As I turned shaking my head at their lack of interest one called “Try a main post office, such as Mold or Chester”. I swore silently to myself as I walked home. I jumped in the car and drove around trying the other local post offices and got similar reactions. Suddenly, as I wondered if I should head for Mold or Chester, I realised that in my anger I had driven so far as to negate the value of the IRCs in what I had spent on petrol and I turned for home.
I still have not posted the QSL card and I have no idea if I will ever get to cash the IRCs before they expire. That is right they have an expiry date on them, something that was made illegal in the UK for gift coupons, but Royal Mail always was a law to themselves. Something about the Royal bit makes them exempt to what everyone else has to do, like the way they do not seem to have to pay out on the insurance when they break or lose your valuables parcels.
I suppose it is just another example of why post offices in the UK are closing. If they cannot even recognise the services they are meant to be supplying how can they sell them and make a profit. What we have in Royal Mail is an aging dinosaur run by under achievers and particularly those in rural communities are paying the price for their incompetence. Before someone (probably my wife or Graham GW0HUS) says it; As an under achiever and aging dinosaur myself I feel I am infinitely well qualified to comment. Stars explode and worlds die but time as space finally come to an end that QSL card you need has still not arrived from the bureau.

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