The simplest reason why SOME of the tool suppliers don’t have prices
printed directly in the catalog is that they are simply distributors
for a third party tool company. The tool company (e.g., Grobet)
manufactures generic catalogs without prices, and supplies their many
suppliers with a list of wholesale prices. Each supplier then
generates their own “price to the trade” and/or "price to the public"
catalog inserts, which keys their prices to the item numbers in the
catalog. Another advantage to the practice is that if a price
changes, you don’t have to re-print catalogs – just the
black-and-white paper inserts.
You’re right, it is very irritating to deal with, and I find it more
trouble than it’s worth. To me, it’s also sign that I’m dealing with
a 3rd party, so I would tend more to look to the source if possible
to buy from – more knowledgeable sales folks and theoretically less
markup. In some cases, you could also be dealing with unscrupulous
dealers (as in the case you cite), but I haven’t run into that
I most frequently end up with the tool vendors who don’t do that –
Rio, Frei and Borel, Swest, and Enco being a few.