This qualitative research study explores shoplifting by means of the self-reported delinquency of 6 offenders who were recruited neither through the medical nor legislative system. The methods of research involved problem-focussed semi-structured interviews (Witzel 1989), qualitative analysis of textual data (Mayring 1988) and the concept of anomie (Opp 1974). The result is a model of cognitive and emotional processes explaining the decision to steal. Control of negative emotions, ability to categorise one’s own behaviour in accordance with a positive self-image and effects of fear conditioning prove to be determining shoplifting. Eagerness to consume proves to be a significant driving force for this behaviour. Shoplifters experienced predominantly non-material motives for consumption. The detailed hierarchic system of categories provides a basis for further quantitative research in the possible form of a questionnaire. This model also serves to conclude preventative or therapeutic interventions against shoplifting. The concept of 'kleptomania', otherwise known as 'pathological stealing', is discussed in view of the results.