NOTE: This post is long overdue. I started working on it back on 12/26/04 (when we got the phone) but forgot about it.
I hate scams. Cell phones (and cellular service) are scams. The whole experience is unsavory. Cell phone stores rank right up there on the list of unpleasantries with used car lots.
We had done a bit of research prior to entering the shop, determined that the decision was between T-mobile and Cingular, and walked out to compare prices. Less than half a block away we were quoted a slightly better price, so we took that information back to the first place. In the end we got a free Siemens CF62T phone and the $29.99 plan (300 minutes, free weekends) from T-mobile, with a $75 rebate (from the store, after 6 months of service).
T-Mobile has some useful (though relatively unpublished) features:
Check your remaining minutes: #MIN# (#646#)
Check your balance: #BAL# (#225)
Call customer care: 611 (or 800-937-8997)
Check your voicemail without using minutes: Dial your T-Mobile phone number and press the [*] key when you hear your greeting. If you do not hear the voice prompts asking for your password, disconnect and redial your T-Mobile phone number and press the [#] key when you hear your greeting.
I recently (late January) received my first piece of mail from T-mobile, a pamphlet describing my plan. To my surprise, it listed the price of the plan at $39.99. I double checked the contract, which listed the $29.99 price. I called to complain, then to check my balance/minutes used. To my surprise, despite having been using the phone for nearly a month, they only showed 7 used minutes and no bill. As near as I can tell, their system seems to think that we just started using the phone sometime in late January.
Finally, if and when you get a new phone (cellular or not), don't test it out by calling 9-1-1.