Is there really any difference between the “name brand” chemicals and those available at discount stores?

Absolutely. Not all chemicals are the same and not all chlorine is the same. There are some excellent products on the market that are not “expensive” but dissolve quickly, perform as required, do not add contaminants, and are “fresh”. Quite often the very inexpensive products one sees are also “cheap” or old. Be aware that sometimes you do get what you pay for. We have seen it countless times where clients come to us (phone or in our store) with “unsolvable problems” that are associated with poor quality chemicals they used. So, it may seem like a bargain but it may cost you more in the long run.