If you’ve ever used the iPhone app for Groupon — or enviously watched the app get used by a friend who owns an iPhone, as was the case for me — then you may have wondered why all coupons and gift certificates can’t be redeemed this way. Instead of dealing with losable plastic or paper gift cards, I should just be able to pull up a code on my phone for my discount or freebie!

Giiv logoThat’s the idea behind Giiv.com, which lets you send a friend everything from a dozen donuts to a yoga class via text message to redeem at his or her leisure. Unfortunately, while Giiv.com’s idea is certain one for which the time has come, Giiv.com doesn’t actually make waste-free giving giving easy.

First of all, most of Giiv.com’s gift certificate options are for e-tailers, not brick-and-mortar establishments. If your friend has to go online to shop anyway, doesn’t it make more sense to send an e-gift certificate by email that lets the recipient click directly to the e-tailer’s site? This feature’s especially odd for the Amazon.com gift certificates; buying and sending one via text message not only forces your friend to manually copy the gift certificate code from the text message on a phone to Amazon’s website, it also forces you to pay more because Giiv.com tacks on a 99-cent “convenience fee.”

Giiv.com gifts

But I had high hopes for Giiv.com’s gift certificates for brick-and-mortar establishments. Giiv.com sent me a gift certificate for an Exhale Spa Yoga class to try out — the top photo’s what the text message looks like — so last weekend I got on my bike and wheeled down to Venice’s Exhale studio. There I handed over my Blackberry to the nice guy at check in, who said he’d never gotten a gift certificate “in this format” before, but seemed up to the challenge of helping me use it.

And help me he did — by entering in the code to find that Giiv.com’s gift of a free yoga class at Exhale was actually a $17.85 credit to spend at Exhale. Guess how much yoga classes cost at Exhale Venice? That would be $22. The check-in guy even checked with another Exhale employee to see if anything could be done about the situation — but nothing could.

Now, the Exhale experience itself was great. Once I paid the difference, I got to take a fantastic yoga class. And certainly, I can’t complain about paying $4.15 for the 1.5 hour-long experience.

But if you’d paid the $20.99 — which is what it costs to send your friend a gift certificate for a free Exhale Spa Yoga class on Giiv.com, you probably would be kind of pissed to get a “Thanks for the ‘free’ class” text from her later. Okay — Your friends are probably not that passive-aggressive, but you get my point.

So I can’t recommend Giiv — at least not now, while the site’s still in beta and clearly has kinks to work out — but I do hope more stores and companies will start offering text message versions of gift certificates and coupons for people to use. Have you tried Giiv.com and had a better experience than I did? If so, share what happened in the comments.

Screenshot and logo from Giiv.com