I Am a Pioneer in the Glorious Future of Online Cheese Shopping

It’s an ambient real-time experience not unlike some of the best live streams.

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Sep 28 2017, 6:00pm

Arie Kaan cuts the cheese. Image: Kaan's Stream Store

I spent my morning watching a family of Dutch cheese mongers work in front of a live-streaming camera, going about their daily cheese-business, taking orders for internet cheese and talking to me directly, nearly in real-time.

Jan Kaan, a second-generation cheese vendor with two Kaan's Kaashandel stores in the Netherlands, is hosting five days of live streaming from one of his shops. It's sponsored by Abn Amro Bank, and claims to be the first live-streamed store. Kaan told DairyReporter.com it's an effort to boost sales for their relatively obscure shops, and for the bank to show off an "omni-channel approach."

But hey, I'm just here for the cheese.

The first thing I notice is that the streaming quality is better than it has any right to be. It's like you're in the room with them. Jan wanders in and out, hustling to find a tool or weigh an order. His sons, Arie and Klass, do most of the interaction with the camera. This is day three, and they all seem incredibly comfortable with being watched by people around the world while they work.

Rolling my mouse over each cheese in the background brings up descriptions and pricing. A chat box is available for interacting with the cheese mongers directly—they check the questions coming in on a tablet next to the scales. I asked them if they found it difficult to work while people were watching. There's a lag in the answers, because they're working and the cheese comes first.

Occasionally, a customer in real-life wanders into the shot and stands in front of the camera, seemingly unaware, despite signs that say LIVE and "Kaan's Stream Shop" that a live stream was happening. Over the course of the 30 minutes I was tuned in, the little shop was bustling. It was around 5 PM there, and people are just getting off work and getting cheesed-up for the evening.

It's an ambient experience not unlike some of the best live streams: chill enough to have on in the background, engaging enough that it's mentally stimulating. Watching someone handle and slice huge cheese wheels is oddly mesmerizing. Sometimes, pleasant bells ring in the background for no reason. They're mostly speaking in Dutch, with some scattered English. It's all incredibly endearing and wholesome.

If I could do all of my shopping this way, I would. Some people enjoy the experience of going to a brick-and-mortar store. I am not one of them. I went to a Whole Foods at rush hour recently and almost had an anxiety attack. Give me an interactive live stream to do my shopping and I'd never go to a grocery store IRL again. I like watching my items prepared in front of me (a layer of reality that putting photos of things into an Amazon cart doesn't offer), but I don't like having to deal with other customers.

I ordered the Boer'n Trots, a special 100th anniversary clover cheese that's supposed to be "very tasty" in cube form. Having ordered our $9.43 cheese and $32.41 shipping to the States, I navigated back to the shop to see if they'd gotten around to my question about whether it's difficult to work while people watch you. I was just in time.

Arie, the monger manning the tablet at the time, read my question aloud and paused. After a moment of reflection, he looked me in the camera-eyes and stated flatly, "No. Not difficult." I got cheese chills.

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