You'll find other sources along the way in your franchise evaluation. The Internet is a surprisingly good source of gripes and complaints, some of them actually enjoying a basis in fact. See what you can find, but verify any Internet information with the company and with the franchisees you meet.
The Better Business Bureau (you can find it in the Yellow Pages) is a reliable source of information about businesses and their standing in your community. Check out whether any negative reports have been on the franchisor.
State consumer protection agencies and/or your state's attorney general's office can be helpful. If you live in one of the 14 franchise registration states, check with authorities to make sure the company is registered to offer franchises in your state. If the franchisor is slow to deliver a UFOC, you may be able to get a copy from your state agency. The franchise registration states generally make all registered documents available to the public. Those states are California, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan (filing state only; no UFOCs on file), Minnesota, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Finally, the FTC provides some information about investing in a franchise and reports of enforcement activity against errant franchisors on its Web site (http://www.ftc.gov).
If your pursuit of happiness includes owning a business, by all means look into investing in a franchise. Once you have found the right business for your interests, marshaled your financial resources and investigated the opportunity, you'll be well on your way to a real declaration of independence.
For more information on franchising, log on to http://www.entrepreneur.com