I suspect that this all has more to do with smartphone sales growth in general starting to level off. Verizon might have negotiated the carriage deal with Apple on the assumption that smartphone sales growth would continue its exponential trajectory at least through next year. They simply overprojected how the segment as a whole would perform. Everyone knows that smartphone sales growth was going to slow down at some point, it was always a matter of when. That's why the analysts are all in a panic state about Apple and now Samsung -- they would rather cry wolf when the fundamentals are still healthy, than keep recommending stock buys after the market expansion actually stops.
With the sales staff, I know that most of the CE giants are very active with incentive programs for their retail partners, especially Samsung. Everything from spiffs (cash and/or products) for sales reps, to "rent" payments for end cap placement or other favorable display space, co-advertising support (often in return for "minimum advertised price" guarantees), and in-store promotions with company reps. This stuff is all behind-the-scenes and has no material impact on the customer, except in how it influences the sales process and product placement.
Apple has has generally avoided (at least since Jobs' return) these long-standing practices, and that has the effect of pushing them down the totem pole with retail employees and store managers. That was the primary reasoning for Apple opening their own retail stores -- they gain full control over the messaging and product placement, as well as the retail profit margin.
Even if retail store staffers aren't officially told to favor other brands over Apple, they know that competing companies can often offer more incentives and favorable returns. Apple is going to generate floor traffic, because they produce high demand, high quality products. Sales reps won't say no to a customer that comes into the store looking to buy an Apple product -- that's an easy sale, and with phones, the sales reps also receive commissions on the two-year contracts. But, if a customer is more undecided, or needs to take more of a sales rep's time, the employee in that situation would have more incentive to favor a competing product. From what I've heard, retail employees tend to like Apple products more than they like Apple the company.