O.B. Quest: Is It Getting Better? One Writer's Tale

Writer Robin Rouse's o.b. stash, thanks to her daughter
Writer Robin Rouse's o.b. stash, thanks to her daughter

The latest on the epic quest for o.b. tampons: I just checked in with Johnson & Johnson, the tampons' maker, and they offer the following update. (Readers, what's your experience? Are you finding them back on the shelves?)

We are pleased to confirm that o.b.® tampons are increasingly in-stock at more stores nationwide as well as through on-line retailers such as:,, Please note that o.b.® Ultra tampons have been discontinued.

Supply may continue to vary in your area, however retailers who have received product include:
Acme, Albertsons, CVS, Cub, Duane Reade, Fred Meyer, Giant Eagle, Giant Food Stores, HE Butt, Jewel-Osco, Kroger, Lucky, Meijer, Publix, Rite Aid, Safeway, Sav-a-Lot, Shaw’s/Star Markets, Shoppers, Shoprite, Inc., Stop & Shop, Target, Walgreens, Wal-Mart, Wegman’s and other regional retailers.

In recent days, accounts of failed searches have continued to roll in to us here at CommonHealth. One of the best o.b. quest tales came from local writer Robin Rouse, who describes a case of true filial devotion:

Apparently, o.b. Tampons are the crack cocaine of menstruation. I came to that conclusion the same way I realize all my addictions: when I am without. For reasons that I will spare you, these are the only brand of tampons I can use. And while I've watched my particular size and style disappear off the shelves over the years, it never occurred to me the whole brand could just — poof - disappear.

It really took me quite a while to catch on. I didn't panic when the first store was out. I figured they were just really bad at restocking. I calmly drove to the next store, and then the next, and then the next. By my sixth store, I was breaking out in a cold sweat and starting to suspect some kind of conspiracy.

My immediate reaction: Go home and Google it! Sure enough, there they were - the cold hard facts that eluded me before my fruitless pursuit: the company had temporarily stopped production. There really was a shortage! And the worst of it was women were hoarding. But because I had missed the story, I had missed out on the hoarding window! I was completely unprepared for o.b. tampon Armageddon.

Now my mission was clear - somewhere, there must be a secret cache, and I needed to find it. Perhaps a small store off the beaten path that had been missed by the throngs of desperate women and now, the like legendary treasure found at a weekend flea market, I would find it and have my fix.

No matter where I traveled, any city, any business trip, I always worked in a small detour to the local drugstore, department store, or grocery store, in search of my holy grail. But for months I came up empty. Feeling completely desperate, like any addict in denial, I'd even circle back occasionally to my usual supplier, only to find the shelves still bare. Then, I had a brainstorm.

Writer Robin Rouse
Writer Robin Rouse

I wanted the mission to be as unobtrusive for her as possible, but she and her boyfriend took my plight seriously. That weekend they set out to explore the outer reaches of their greater metropolitan area and mapped out a route that took them by every Walgreens, CVS, Target and Walmart within a 25 mile radius. And lo and behold, before I knew it, I had a text message with a picture of what I can only describe as a still-life that brought a tear to my eye. Not only had they found my precious OBs, but they purchased enough to qualify me within the top ranks of the hoarders.

So, even though the company has said it will be stocking the shelves again soon, and even though menopause is right around the corner and I may never even get to use my abundant supply, like all addicts and hoarders, I am sleeping much better at night knowing my stash is safely tucked away in my bathroom cabinet, there for me, whenever I need a fix.

This program aired on February 4, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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Carey Goldberg Editor, CommonHealth
Carey Goldberg is the editor of WBUR's CommonHealth section.



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