I walked into a Sprint store today to check out the Palm Pixi. AT&T has been bad enough lately that, while I’m not ready to chuck the iPhone, I’m at least growing curious. Unfortunately “walking in” is about all I could do.

Every smartphone in the Sprint store was locked under glass cabinets. The untouchable phone displays were covered in fake screenshot stickers. Two weary looking gentlemen in polo shirts manned the back counter and a queue of six customers (shoppers?) aimlessly paced the floor, waiting for something to happen.

It took about 30 seconds to realize there was nothing to gain from my store visit. After a quick round to be sure I didn’t miss a demo unit somewhere, I turned back to the street. Is this typical of Sprint stores?

Compare this experience to the Apple store. iPhones and iPods are less than six feet away from the entrance door. All you have to do is reach out and grab one. Salespeople meander around you, instead of you around them. A total Apple newbie can go from curious to salivating in about 90 seconds in that environment.

Can you imagine if Apple locked their products under glass cabinets? Or put stickers with screenshots over their displays? Who makes these decisions?