As many of my 9 loyal readers know, my main scope is a Celestron NexStar 127SLT – a five-inch Mak. I’ve previously described the SLT mount as being “not the best”, to be polite. It’s not a POS either, not even close to being a bad, awful, or poor mount, but it definitely leaves something to be desired. Well, more than a few somethings, actually.
I’ve had problems with both the tripod and the mount in the past. A brief recount:
- The mount has had bad tracking problems, on two separate mounts, and they were the same exact bad tracking problems both times;
- The original mount I had also just started slowly drooping down for no apparent reason;
- On my second mount, the plastic leg spreaders broke off from where they attach on the tripod;
- As a result of the leg spreaders not being attached, the metal tripod legs have nothing preventing them from spreading outwards – which they did. Oops!
The tracking and drooping problems were so bad that I had to return the first SLT Mak I had bought back to Amazon. That was three years ago. Amazon customer service was stellar. Before I had even boxed up the old scope to send back to them, they had a new one on my doorstep the second day after I called about the return.
The second mount had the same tracking problems as the first one. Specfically, one of the problems was that it would take 11 seconds for the mount to respond to pressing a button on the handset. Want to center that object in the field of view? Press the right arrow button. Keep pressing it for 11 seconds. Finally, the motors engage, the scope moves, and because it was so unexpected after all that time, now you’ve overshot your target. Now press the left arrow button for 11 seconds to get it back. Lather, rinse, repeat. Since there is no option to use the mount manually, your only option is to use the handset, and this made the mount unusable. Centering objects was a chore and a half.
This tracking problem was the exact same on both mounts. By the time it reoccurred on the second mount, the Amazon return period had expired, and I had to send the mount in to Celestron to get it repaired under their 2-year warranty. You can read all about that horrorshow here.
In the course of using the scope, in opening and closing the tripod legs for packing it up and travelling with it – well, closing it, really – I broke the plastic leg spreaders off of where they connect to the tripod. You gotta close those legs slowly and carefully. Not by pushing the tripod legs together, but by pushing up on the leg spreaders from underneath. Otherwise, CRACK! Oops.
At first it was just one leg. You’d think that I’d learn from that, that I’d be more careful. But noooooooo! I broke a second leg, too. Wotta maroon. And when two legs are broken, the leg spreaders – which also work to keep the legs from spreading out too far – can’t do their job. Place the scope on a slick surface, like the polished hardwood floors of historic Chamberlin Observatory, in front of an audience looking to hear from me about the advantages of Maks, and down goes Frazier! The legs slipped out from under the scope like Mary Lou Retton doing a split. Kerplunk.
Fortunately, the “fall” was in semi-slow motion, and knowing this might happen, I kept the tripod legs as short as they would go, so the distance to go down was only about three feet. No damage done, but it was clear that I could no longer ignore this problem. I had to do something about this.
Now, I don’t blame Celestron for that – either the breaking of the leg spreaders in the first place, or for the fall. Not one bit. This was my own fault. I’m just not all that patient of a guy. Which explains my anathema for doing astrophotography, among other things. I tried reattaching the broken leg spreaders with JB Weld, an epoxy, but that only held for a few months before giving out again.
Well, Celestron has come through, to help me overcome my own stupidity. To solve my leg spreader problem, I emailed Celestron, asking them how much they sold new leg spreaders for. They responded quickly, telling me that they don’t sell them, but that they’d be happy to ship ’em out to me – for free. Wow! Impressive, most impressive.
But my stupidity had struck yet again. It wasn’t the leg spreaders I needed. No, upon further review, my leg spreaders were just fine. It was the clamps on each tripod leg that the leg spreaders attach to. Those were what were broken, er, what I broke. Oopsy daisy!
Back I went to Celestron, sheepishly apologizing for my mistake. Could you guys possibly instead send me out a coupla clamps? “Sure we will!” Wow. Wowie wow wow wow!
Pretty nice of Celestron, don’tcha think? I am impressed. Kinda makes me havta rethink all the nasty things I said about them a coupla years ago. Unless – is it possible? – that with this blog and with all my posting on the Facebook astronomy pages, that I’ve somehow become such a powerful force in the astronomical community, that Celestron is giving me free stuff precisely to change my mind on their customer service and write this article lauding their praises? Could it be? Have I become the Siskel and Ebert of the astronomy world?
What are your experiences with customer service from the various astronomy brands and vendors? I’d love to hear about them. Write a comment below and let me know!