The top thread will always feel tighter than the bobbin thread because it is going through a lot more places than the bobbin thread. You will only feel slight resistance from the bobbin thread when you pull it out. When you actuate the knee lift or raise the foot manually, it releases the tension disks on the upper tension to allow you to pull thread out easier. Don't try to pull thread through the machine without doing one of those two things. Yeah, the guy sounds like he hosed you on the check-up.
You can replace the clutch motor that is on the machine now with a servo motor and do it yourself, but you may need a slightly different belt. My recommendation is the Sew Quiet 5000, which sells for around $200 with free shipping.
No one lives forever, the trick is creating something that will.