Groupawn tries to live on nothing but Groupon coupons for a year

scissor blades cutting coupon

Chicagoan Josh Stevens has taken up the Groupon challenge to wander the U.S. living off nothing but online coupons for a year. Think Stock photo.

Groupons are supporting the lifestyle of Josh Stevens for a year. Earlier this year the online coupon company threw down the gauntlet with the Groupon Challenge. Groupon dared someone to live off nothing but unlimited free Groupons for a year. Stevens went for it. Living life as the “Groupawn,” he’s about a quarter of the way through his year of traveling the country chasing Groupon deals for his basic needs. In Stevens’ Groupon universe, those basics can include carriage rides, yoga classes, boat cruises and lots of food.

Groupawn blog chronicles a year on coupons

Stevens, who used to be a corporate auditor, left his cubicle behind and accepted the Groupon challenge in May. He told CNN that he started with one pair of shoes, socks, underwear and a paper suit made of Groupons. Groupon gave him a laptop, camera, internet card and phone. Stevens can’t use or even touch money, but he’s supplied with online coupons that can be used for lodging, dining and shopping. He’s allowed only five visits from family and friends, with each visit lasting less than a day. He tracks his exploits in the Groupawn Blog as he barters using Groupon coupons for a place to crash, a ride  or plane ticket.

Groupawn guy gains a following

If Stevens completes the challenge, he wins $100,000. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught up with the Groupawn guy last weekend. He was passing through in pursuit of the next Groupon deal. Stevens told the Sentinel that he thought he would have to do a lot more bartering on the street. But when he talks about what he’s doing people want to become part of it. He arrived in Milwaukee more than three months into his Groupons tour, which has taken him to New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and several other cities so far

The Groupon business model

Groupons are daily deals offered by local merchants sold on the company’s website. The site offers Groupon deals in more than 165 markets in 22 countries to 11 million subscribers. The deal becomes valid when enough people buy in. If the quota is reached, buyers get links to print out their Groupons. If the deal doesn’t fly, the offer is canceled. Buyers aren’t charged for trying to cash in.

Groupons can bite the hand that feeds

The Groupon business model has been so successful that the Chicago Tribune said more than 500 Groupon clones have emerged online. But Groupon coupons can backfire for a business promoting its products and services. The Tribune reports that a growing list of local merchants have been overwhelmed by the Groupon response. A Chicago bagel company’s Groupon promotion cost $3 for an $8 voucher good for any menu item. Nearly 10,000 Groupons sold. After splitting 50 percent of the revenue with Groupon, the standard deal for most businesses, the bagel shop netted about $15,000 for giving up $80,000 worth of food.

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