by Gordon Koppang
Sinner Bikes has consistently provided the worst customer service I have ever encountered. I can’t say that communication with Sinner “broke down”. For communication to break down it must first be established. I have not had an exchange of emails with Sinner that added up to communication. Most of my emails got no reply at all. I tried repeatedly to find out from Sinner whether my Rohloff hub could be adapted for use in their trike. Not one of those emails was answered. I sent an email asking whether the different seats used on the Sinner Comfort were interchangeable. No answer. I tried the office email and the garage email. I received no reply. I tried posting my questions to Sinner’s Facebook page. They responded with, “Please email us.” I became so frustrated that I turned all communication with Sinner over to the Dutch-speaking importer who arranged to get my trike from Holland to Canada. By the end of the process, he too was frustrated and fed-up.
Unfortunately, my experience with Sinner is not unique. Writing under the heading, “sinner bikes.......what gives?”, ckaudio complained: “3 emails to them and so far no response......” John Lewis replied to that post with, “Yes I found similar difficulties.”
Much of the blame for this poor service falls on Sinner employee Arjen Van Dam. One of my Facebook friends is a fellow from Australia who bought a velomobile from Sinner. Paul wrote, “The email correspondence could be improved a lot!” He added, “I agree, Arjen is mostly hopeless, emails disappear into the Sinner black hole!!”
The importer who brought my trike into Canada travels regularly to Holland on business. During one of those trips he stopped by Sinner’s office to order my trike in person! The quote for my trike was discussed face-to-face and in Dutch, but Arjen still managed to screw it up. The Sinner trike comes with either a hard shell seat, or a mesh-back seat. I didn’t know which one would work better for me, so I ordered both. When it came time to build my trike, Arjen complained that he didn’t understand that I wanted both seats and that the price he had quoted would have to be adjusted. I was willing to pay more, but the importer, Mr. Bylsma, insisted that Arjen honor his original quote.
When my trike was packed up and sent to the port in Rotterdam, we discovered that Arjen had neglected to install the hitch I ordered. My trike left Holland in June. I did not receive the hitch from Sinner until the middle of September. Arjen’s work habits can best be described as careless and inattentive. Each time the importer, Mr. Bylsma, called to ask whether the hitch had been sent, Arjen was evasive: “Oh… I don’t know… I think my co-worker might have….” I became so frustrated that I sent an email to the founder and owner of Sinner Bikes, Jan de Vries. I wrote, “Please discipline your employee.” The next day I got an email from Arjen! It wasn’t an apology – it was a snarling complaint that I had treated him badly!
The hitch arrived without fasteners and without illustrations or instructions. A hitch on a delta trike mimics a quick release front hub. The “axle” in the hitch was not centred. There was a setscrew, but the axle appeared to have been painted or powder coated in place. I removed the setscrew but could not get the axle to move side-to-side. Before I beat the crap out of it, I thought I’d better seek clarification from Mr. de Vries. I sent another email to the founder asking about the axle and the setscrew. I should have known better. Mr. de Vries forwarded my email to Arjen who – in his careless and inattentive way – sent useless pictures, but not a word of instruction about the axle or the setscrew. Believing I had nothing to lose, I sent another email to Mr. de Vries pointing out that neither he nor Arjen had answered my question. Weeks have passed. Mr. de Vries has not replied.
During the many months that I struggled to get answers from Sinner, I thought, “To hell with it! I should buy a Kettwiesel instead.” Hostel Shoppe (in Stevens Point, Wisconsin) provides great customer service. Unfortunately, a Kettweisel from Wisconsin would have cost about $2.000.00 more than I paid for the Sinner (and the Kettwiesel doesn’t have suspension or a cargo rack). Customer service from Sinner has been atrocious, and I’m disappointed that the trike is 12 pounds heavier than Sinner claims. On the other hand, I admire many of the Sinner’s design features – especially the highly adaptable mid-drive layout and the full-time two-wheel drive. I can’t quite say, “To hell with Sinner Bikes!” – but it is just plain wrong to hand over thousands of dollars to a business that couldn’t care less. The problems at Sinner run deeper than the difficulties of English-to-Dutch translation. I can’t send a simple email – “What model of Rohloff hub do you use in your trike?” – and get a simple answer. That fact will probably irritate me for as long as I own the trike.