Photo of a coupon.
Can you live of Groupons for a year? CC by Bramus!/Flickr

For a year, Josh Stevens says he will live on nothing but Groupons. The Groupon challenge is a dare the online coupon company made earlier this year. Groupon challenged all members to see if they could live off nothing but unlimited free Groupons for 12 months. Stevens took them up on it. Traveling the country chasing Groupon deals for his basic needs, he’s about a one-quarter through living his life as the “Groupawn.” The necessities of life can include yoga classes, carriage rides and lots of food in Stevens’ Groupon world.

A year on coupons tracked in Groupawn blog

Former corporate auditor Stevens accepted the Groupon challenge in May and left his cubicle behind. In an interview with CNN, he said he hit the road wearing a paper suit made of Groupons and carried nothing but the shoes socks and underwear he wore. He also received a laptop, camera, internet card and phone from Groupon. Stevens is supplied with online coupons that can be traded for sleeping quarters, eating and shopping, but he’s not allowed to get his hands on money of any kind. He must travel solo, and only five visits from family or friends, lasting no more than a day, are allowed. As he barters his way across the country using Groupon coupons, his exploits can be reviewed in the Groupawn blog.

Groupawn guy gains popularity

Stevens wins $100,000 if he completes the challenge. Last weekend, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel caught up with Stevens. He showed up in the city as he went after another Groupon deal. The Sentinel said Stevens thought a lot more bartering on the street would be required as he traveled. However, he said that once people hear about what he’s up to, they want to help. A little more than three months into his Groupons quest, he arrived in Milwaukee after chasing deals in several other cities including in New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C.

How the Groupon business model works

Daily deals offered by local merchants are sold as Groupons on the company’s website. About 11 million people in 165 markets subscribe to the Groupon site in 22 countries. When a certain number of people buy, in the deal becomes valid. Offer holders are sent a link that prints out the Groupon when the quota is met. If the sales quota falls short, the offer is pulled. Buyers aren’t charged for canceled offers.

Groupon promotions can backfire

The Groupon business model has proven so lucrative that at least 500 copycat sites have emerged, according to the Chicago Tribune. But for a business seeking a windfall from Groupon coupons, the promotion can backfire. As reported in the Tribune, many Chicago merchants have been swamped by a tide of Groupon coupons. A Groupon promotion launched by a Chicago bagel company sold an $8 voucher for any menu item for $3. Groupon subscribers bought nearly 10,000 coupons. The bagel shop netted about $15,000 on food that would have sold at a regular price of about $80,000, after splitting the take with Groupon.

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