Free Shipping Day approaches...and so do holiday shipping deadlines

There's a reason online shopping starts to drop off after the second week of December or so -- gifts you order won't necessarily get there in time for Christmas (or the other holidays you celebrate). Many retailers set holiday shipping deadline cut-offs of around December 15 this year for guaranteed arrival by December 24.

So what are desperate retailers to do in order to keep luring in shoppers to buy? Free shipping.

You'd think consumers would have a win-win situation in this equation, but there's a lot of fine print. Even the first annual execution of Free Shipping Day is complicated, and you could not come up with a more straight-forward and consumer-friendly concept unless you just simply started to give stuff away for free. Free Shipping Day this year is December 18. Sponsored (touted? hyped? promoted?) by the site freeshipping.org, the event is supposed to rally retailers and consumers to meet up online. Consumers buy last-minute gifts to be delivered free of charge by Dec. 24, retailers get a bump of last-ditch sales.

Oh, it sounds so simple.