June 23, 2003

Emory inks cell phone deal with Verizon Wireless

By Eric Rangus

Emory has signed an agreement that will mean a 20 percent discount for faculty and staff on both new and existing cellular telephone accounts.

The agreement is with Verizon Wireless, the largest provider of wireless communications in the United States.

“This is the most aggressive deal Verizon has ever offered,” said purchasing’s Bernie Joy, who negotiated the contract. Verizon services more than 33 million customers, and the company generated $67.6 billion in revenues globally in 2002.

According to Jo Raquel Gifford, Verizon’s team leader for the Emory account, this is the largest contract the company has signed with a university or health care provider ever and one of the largest in its history.

Under the terms of the new agreement, Emory employees will receive a 20 percent discount on cellular phone plans with Verizon. The discount for Emory students is 10 percent—this is the first time Verizon has included college students in a discount plan. Faculty, staff and students are eligible for a 25 percent discount on accessories as well.

Emory employees who are already Verizon customers will receive a 20 percent discount on their current plans, or they can change their plans if they can find one cheaper. If a new user signs up at a promotional rate, he or she would receive 20 percent off that rate, rather than the normal rate. There is no limit to the number of phones an employee can put in his or her name. Currently, around 2,000 Emory employees have taken advantage of the discounts, and half of those have signed on in the last three months.

The generous terms of the agreement were a triumph of negotiation. Joy first met with representatives from the cell phone provider in spring 2001. Verizon’s initial offer was a 7 percent discount for corporate users—Emory employees using phones for business purposes—and that discount eventually rose to 20 percent, but Joy held out for the inclusion of phones for personal use. He got it, even though the process took two years.

“Usually we can negotiate contracts in a much shorter time, but the bigger the deal, the longer it takes,” Joy said. Upon the announcement of the agreement at an April 1 reception at the Emory Conference Center, Joy compared his excitement and relief to that of “a woman giving birth.”

“I think the most important thing is that this agreement addresses not only institutional needs, but the needs of staff members, their families and of students,” said Rex Hardaway, director of purchasing. “On this particular agreement, I think we hit a home run.”

Emory is not the only institution that could benefit from this agreement. The terms of have been extended to the other 19 members of the Atlanta Regional Consortium of Higher Education for approval by each individual institution.

Integrating Verizon phones with Emory’s existing communications system will be an ongoing project. The latest feature is the ability to dial an on-campus number from a cell phone using only the last five digits, similar to campus land line.

To purchase cellular lines, Emory corporate users can pay using a P-Card or valid FAS account. Payment for personal phones is the responsibility of the individual employee.

Emory’s purchasing department, under which the work to secure the contract was performed, is a section of the Procurement and Materials Services Division and is responsible for procuring goods and services for the University. The Emory Employee Discount Program, under which the new cellular phone discount falls, is a section of the purchasing department that offers dozens of bargains to Emory employees for goods and services ranging from automobile rental to skin treatments.

In order to take advantage of the new cellular phone plan discount, visit www.verizonwireless.com/b2b/emoryu, or call Verizon’s business support center at 1-800-330-4287, or contact Gifford at 678-339-6376. The 1-800 number is set up specifically for the Emory contract. Verizon staffs a kiosk in the Dobbs Center 40 hours a week (three days a week over the summer) as well. Service can be started, calling plans changed, billing issues address or equipment turned in for repair at the location.