I've never posted a thread here before, but my boyfriend and I are really not sure how to handle this, and he TOLD me I should ask eHell (he hears me talking all the time about issues discussed here), so here goes.
Last year I decided to buy a live Christmas tree. I live with my boyfriend, but I was paying for the tree, because Christmas is much more my thing than his. My boyfriend's dad and (college-age) brother happened to be working at a tree lot, so we went to that one. We found a nice tree, and his dad and brother tied it to my car, and then I asked his dad (with my wallet out) how much we owed him, and he said the tree was free! We were quite surprised, but he said he'd asked the lot owner how much to charge us, and the owner said to just give us the tree. Of course we appreciated that a lot and made sure to express that.
Side issue: While they were tying the tree on, I realized I had no idea whether I should offer my boyfriend's dad a tip, and my boyfriend had no idea either. I kinda think, then and now, that etiquette would dictate I shouldn't, but I didn't want to seem ungrateful. I was still wavering when his dad told us the tree was free, and then I did ask, "Can I at least give you a tip?" because it seemed more okay when I wasn't also paying for the tree. His dad said to give it to my boyfriend's brother for "school books", so I did that.
Here's our problem: this year, both the dad and brother, and possibly two younger siblings, will be working again at the same tree lot. I'd really like to go back there, because it's fun to see my boyfriend's family while buying our tree (and hey, it was a good tree we got last year). If it happened that they were able to give us any kind of deal, of course that'd be nice, but we'd show up assuming that we'd pay full price. But my boyfriend is concerned that his dad will think we're EXPECTING another free tree, and we certainly wouldn't want anyone to think that, nor would we want to put him in any kind of awkward position if the lot owner isn't so generous this year. Is there anything we can politely do to avoid the impression that we're expecting a deal, or otherwise help the situation?
Also, any advice on the tipping thing? Right now I'm thinking this year I would probably not offer to tip the dad, but if the brother or someone else were helping, I'd probably offer them the tip.
One more thing: In case this is relevant, my boyfriend and I are in a better place financially than his parents and other family members. And I think part of his concern is that, if there's a limited number of free trees or discounted trees that his dad could offer, then we shouldn't be "taking" one from anyone else, which I agree with.