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Fix up of Meade LX-10 Telescope

04 Mar 2015


Table of Contents

1. Intro
2. Meade Service is Bad

1. Intro

I'm in the process of fixing up a used LX-10. I will add details later. In the meantime, I want everyone to know about Meade's service.

2. Meade Service is Bad

This section describes the 2 month struggle I had with Meade for them to ship me a $52 part. Every day in that time I looked on my doorstep, hoping my package had arrived.

The problem was that the wedge on the scope was missing some parts.

  • The elevation stop and adjuster:

    The wedge had an adjuster on only one side. I thought the wedge should be symmetrical, even though I expect Meade thought one was good enough. This was not available from Meade. I would have to buy a new wedge.

    I was not too upset; the Meade design required use of tools in the dark, in a difficult to access position. Requiring tools for routine adjustments is bad design. You would need a flashlight/torch to do the job, not something you want to have to use on an observing field. I made my own (see below).

  • The azimuth stop and adjuster:

    I assume the wedge never had one. Why Meade supplied the wedge with an elevation adjuster, but not an azimuth adjuster was beyond me. This piece was available from Meade.

Meade is loath to sell parts for their scopes. If you loose or break something, you're supposed to buy a new scope or whole subunit. I expect that parts should be available as long as the scope is in service. If it's a scope worth its money, this should be multiple decades, possibly the lifetime of the purchaser. I don't mind paying the cost of decades long storage for parts; storage costs money. They don't have to make gratuitous design changes. The same parts should be usuable over much of the range of telescopes. In the case of a wedge, or parts of the scope that break or can get lost in the dark, you shouldn't have to buy a new wedge to replace a stop. Car manufacturers would be quickly out of business using Meade's model for customer service.

Here's the history of the order for the azimuth adjuster ($52.00). I spoke to Sal or Lew about it each time. On 28 Jan 2015, I spoke to John Piper, the manager for customer relations.

  • 10 Dec 2014: Order Day.

    They had to figure out whether they would sell me the elevation stop. Apparently this required a business decision. They took my number and said they'd call back. They didn't. I called back a couple of hours later and said that I hadn't heard back from them. The reaction was "so?". They would sell me the azimuth adjuster. I asked if the package had both the adjusting screws and the tooth that the screws engaged. It did. I had assumed from the way he was talkng, that he had the package in his hands and that in the time between our phone calls, he'd retrieved it off the shelf to make sure they had one in stock. He wouldn't sell me the elevation adjuster. Presumably they wanted to keep the elevation adjusters for themselves. I placed the order with a credit card; it would go out the next day. Having got an order number, I assumed that they'd accepted the order; he'd run the card and would soon be popping the package into a box and slapping a shipping label on it. Nothing was further from the truth, but it would take 4 weeks to find out.

    The item would go out the next morning.

Expecting the azimuth adjuster would arrive in two weeks, I used a mill and lathe to make up a more robust elevation adjuster than the original Meade design. The one I built had a leadscrew and handle, based on the Milburn wedge ( (photos later).

I had a Milburn wedge on an LX-200 I'd fixed up (in 2014) and which I didn't bother to write about, since I didn't do anything new. I had just followed everyone else's instructions. I used George Dudash's autostar upgrade. I initially was going to fit it with a Meade wedge, but all the dealers were out of stock. All the dealers said that Meade was accepting orders for the wedge and they'd be happy to order one for me. At High Point Scientific, they told me not to expect the wedge any time soon; as far as they knew, Meade wasn't in a position to deliver anything despite accepting orders and as far as they knew, Meade had no plans to resume making wedges. All the other dealers would have had this information too, but didn't think it relevant to our business relationship. They'd discharged their duty to their customer, by accepting an order that would never be filled. (Guess who I buy my stuff from now.)

If I'd known it would take 2 months to get the azimuth adjuster, I would have made that too.

  • 22 Dec 2014: The item hadn't arrived. I called.

    They said part was going to ship tomorrow; it had just arrived. I replied that it was going to ship tomorrow two weeks ago. They reacted like "that's life. There was nothing they could do about it, the part had just arrived yesterday". Their attitude felt like "so?".

    The item would go out the next morning.

  • 8 Jan 2015: The item hadn't arrived. I called.

    They said that item hadn't shipped on 22 Dec because my credit card was declined. I said that I'd called on 22 Dec and there wasn't a problem with my credit card when I called. They had my phone number; if there was a problem they should have called me straight away. They'd given me an order number. That indicated to me that the order was completed.

    They said that they had a record of a phone call on 22 Dec, which must have been from them about the credit card and they had no record of any call back from me. I replied that the only phone call between us on the 22 Dec was the one when I asked why the item hadn't arrived. Sal/Lew said "that's all the information I have Sir". (Meade admitted no possibility that I was right.)

    My credit card was valid on the day they accepted the order. I told them that Meade had taken so long to fill, that in the meantime, my bank had issued me a new card. I gave them the new card number.

    The item would go out the next morning.

  • 23 Jan 2015: The item hadn't arrived. I called.

    They said that item would ship tomorrow. No explanation as to why it hadn't shipped. This time I wasn't going to wait two weeks to find out that it hadn't shipped. I asked for a tracking number. They couldn't give me one. Didn't they have a pile of labels right there with the tracking numbers on them? No the shipping department was a different department. It was friday. The next shipping day was monday. Since the shipping went out in the afternoon, they wouldn't have the tracking number till tues.

    The item would go out the next morning.

  • Tues 27 Jan 2015: I called to ask for the tracking number.

    They said that item hadn't gone out. No explanation.

    The item would go out today.

  • Wed 28 Jan 2015: I called for the tracking number.

    The item hadn't gone out. They had no idea what had happened. Presumably the computer in front of him had no information.

    I was put on hold for about 10mins. It turns out that my credit card had been declined and they didn't think it their business to call me about it this time either. On checking my credit card account, I found that they hadn't attempted to charge my card. Were they lying? Had they not attempted to put my card through or had they put in the wrong number? He read me back the number off his computer. It was the correct one. Had the computer sent the wrong card number? I didn't think so. I assumed they were lying and hadn't attempted to charge my credit card. I assumed that the 10mins on hold was used for a quick confab concocting a reason why I was at fault for the item not being shipped. I asked to talk to the supervisor. Sal said he would switch me through to John Piper. Instead he switched me through to John Piper's message machine.

    I called back and this time was switched through to John Piper, the manager for customer relations. I didn't find him appropriately conciliatory for the run-around I'd been given. I got the idea that he regarded my service as perfectly acceptable and SOP for Meade. The most he was prepared to do was offer a cursory apology for problems, which didn't fix anything. He wasn't prepared to do any more than Sal/Lew had done. All he was prepared to do was to take the correct credit card number, as if it were my fault they had the wrong information. I said that after waiting for almost 2 months, that I'd like the item shipped overnight. He told me that this was expensive and he couldn't authorise it. I told him that it wasn't expensive compared to waiting 2 months. As far as I'm concerned, the delay in shipping happened on his watch. If he wants his job, he can reach into his pocket and pay for overnight shipping with his personal credit card. He is authorised to do that. This guy is completely ineffective. I would have fired him on the spot.

    I asked to talk to his supervisor. He wouldn't do that. He said that there was no-one above him (or something that sounded like that). He must think he's God. I didn't believe him. I asked if he owned the company. No he didn't. The owners were in China. So he's not the top at all.

    Did he think I would believe he was the top person at Meade-US? Well he expected me to accept that I'd given Meade a bad credit card number. Why not try it again? Well are you the top person in Meade-US then? He said the buck stops here as far as customer relations are concerned. I told him that wasn't a straight answer and he was using weasel words. He said if I didn't want to give him my credit card number, he would terminate the phone call. I told him I would write this up on my webpage. He humg up.

    I called Sal back and said to use the same credit card number again. I asked if he could put the card through infront of me, before I hung up, in case there were problems. No, it had to go through the accounting department and this would take 2hrs. Why can't the person who takes the orders put the credit card through like they do in every other business? If I wanted to know if it went through, I should call back in 2hrs. That's the way it is in Meade.

    A little bit later, much to my surprise, Sal called me back. (Amazing, first time they ever called back. How did they find my phone number this time?). My card had gone through. Sal sounded as if I should be pleasantly surprised. I told him that Meade hadn't attempted to charge my card the previous day. He said "that's all the information I have Sir". I asked about a tracking number. It wouldn't be available till friday (two days from now). Why not? Apparently the shipping department is in Mexico. Meade won't know that the item has shipped till it enters the US (or something like that). Is that why you didn't know that the item was out of stock when I first ordered it? The item is actually in Mexico? Yes. It took 6 weeks to find this out. It must be a big secret.

    Sal sounds like a nice enough young guy. Presumably he has hopes of a wife, house and family sometime. I suggested that he think about getting another job. I asked if he really wants to hitch his wagon to Meade. I got an answer that sounded like "that's all the information I have Sir".

    I little while later that day, Sal called with a tracking number. It turns out that you can get tracking numbers if you want. Who would have thought such a thing was possible in this day and age? The tracking number wouldn't be valid on the UPS website, until UPS picked up the package (or as they previously told me, it entered the US). That sounds reasonable, but I punched the number into the computer anyhow and a day later it was valid with UPS.

  • 2 Feb 2015: the item arrived, one day short of 8 weeks since ordering.

It would appear that Meade in the US is a Potempkin Village ( There are two guys Sal and Lew taking orders. There is John Piper, the manager for customer relations, who isn't authorised to handle customer relations and it seems he will be damned if he's going to use his own intitiative to do so. His only job is to shield his anonymous supervisor from disgruntled customers. There is John Piper's supervisor, who as far as I call tell, does nothing to further the business of Meade. Maybe he only plays golf. Maybe he doesn't exist and John Piper is in charge of Meade-US, but Meade doesn't want anyone to know. They've succeeded; I can't tell that anyone's running Meade-US.

No-one at Meade-US is authorised to do anything to get my order out the door. They have to consult with someone and call back, but never do. It's worse than talking to a used car salesman.

The stock and shipping department is in Mexico. No-one I talked to at Meade-US has any information on the status of orders there. Presumably Meade is saving a packet by spreading operations around the world, so that nothing works.

Turn around time for accounting updates to Sal's computer is 2 hours. This puts the accounting department computers somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn.

Sal and Lew's computer has no information about the state of my order. It must not be connected to the computers in Mexico. Sal's computer doesn't even have my phone number (or it's in a place Sal can't find). Meade-US sounds like 3 guys in a trailer somewhere in the Pacific Time Zone; no stock, no accounting department, no shipping labels, no networking, just a computer with my name, order number and item. And three guys, who have a confab each time a costomer calls, to figure out a reason he can't have what he wants.

John Piper is not doing his job, making sure the company has good relations with its customers. Otherwise he would be tracking delivery times on orders, and would have noticed a month earlier, that my package hadn't arrived and start asking questions. Instead he's busy telling me that it's my fault for giving them a bad credit card number. What is John Piper's supervisor doing? Nothing apparently. He doesn't care either. Where are the people at Meade who love astronomy and telescopes and who can't imagine a better thing to do with their time than spend all night out observing the sky? They aren't at Meade-US.

Business requires trust. You cherish your vendors and your customers. You can write contracts all you want, but they're only incase trust is broken. You hope never to have to force delivery on a contract. In the case of Meade, your customer will be your customer for the life of your scope. You better be prepared to treat them with respect. Does Meade want to be a partner in my astronomy like High Point Scientific or do they want to be Microsoft? It would appear that Meade couldn't care less.

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