Normally on a good site, there will be a short message stating that you need to open an account to view the better prices..Some sites will have a heading link, Normally 'wholesale' some where at the top of the page. Usually when you click on that it will have a bit more information on setting up an account, or an application to fill out and then you can see the other prices..
It just usually depends on the company and how they have their site set up. In my experience it seems that they want you to set up an account and call and speak with one of their reps. Normally a real wholesale company will assign you a sales rep once you have filled opened an account with them..There are several reasons for this, from what I've been told, the sales reps sometimes work on commission, so they have a bit of leaway on what prices they can use to move the merchandise, too, requiring a person to open an account kinda weeds out the real buyers from just the shoppers..also being able to provide a tax id an business name makes it more believable that you are indeed intending to resale and not buying for personal consumption..
Most companies are in the busniness to move stock and they want long term customers, so once you prove to them that you are a serious buyer, most will be happy to cut deals with you. I actually know a guy who sells weed eaters that are made in china and shipped to the U.S. for sale, If I remember his first purchase was about 50 units. They went pretty well at a local flee market and moved pretty fast too. He upped his 2nd order and moved them quickly too..Then he talked to his sales rep and asked if they could set him up for a set minimum purchase every month. His sales rep dropped his price by 5% and told him he would make sure that they had a continuing supply for him..
And most people would say, 'well that sure was a nice sales rep'. But the truth is that by cutting the price a bit, and making sure that they had a constant supply for Jake, the rep increased the money he was making off of the commissions, and Jake made more from the price discount. So it was actually good for both buyer and seller...
You are very right about the middlemen posing as wholesalers, and it's hard to tell sometimes. It's very important to take a good hard look at all of them before doing business with any of them..
Probably an overlooked avenue of search is the B2B yellow pages. Your local library should have a copy. You can find the real guys in there. Also if you are around or in a large city you can use the library to search through the buyers guide of the thomas register. It's been around for about 95 years and contains any and all of the information on any product and manufactor in the u.s. and canada. As of the last printing, volumn24, there were about 200,000 manufacturors listed. Each business will have specifics such as sourcing, buying guides, specs.. and all kind of info about the company and products..It's kind of hard to use but normally one of the library clerks can point you in the right direction...You'll only find the real deal in that book...But don't try to buy one, as they are about $400.00.
Another thing that you might want to look into depending on what you are looking to sell is visit one of the national Merchandise Marts. Most of the major cities have one. I go to the Atlanta Mart since its only a few hours away. It's 13 floors and houses over 600 wholesale vendors...You will need a tax id and business name to gain entrance. A business card helps too..Not open to the general public at any rate..
One more thing, if you like to travel a bit, you might want to consider visiting one of the 6 major close out auction houses. Try contacting them and getting on their notification list, so in case they are putting something up you might be interested in you will know when the auction is taking place for what items.....