That's entirely possible. I found tons of Starships at many stores that had the droid removed from the packaging. Some were replaced with something else, others were just simply missing, even with the packaging torn away.
Lame move on anyone's part if you ask me, but Hasbro BEGS for these things to happen with the shoddy packaging idea displaying the droid on that, not to mention the fact they made a figure exclusive to an $80+ toy... They may as well put a sign on it with instructions how to rip the store off with all that incentive.
I think had the Sandcrawler been a regular release item that was all over the place like that, and not something most people simply ordered online, then we'd have seen the same thing occur there pretty frequently.
They packed the Silver Death Star Droid in an outrageously overpriced vehicle, screwing many die-hard collectors over who just didn't wanna plunk $60 or whatever down for a FIGURE.
I got mine because a buddy was getting the crawler for Miniatures gaming... I lucked out that he simply gave me his Death Star Droid and Jawas from the SC then.