Conceptualizing how customers construe online negative word-of-mouth (nWOM) following failure experiences remains unsettled, leaving providers with inconclusive recovery strategy programmes. This empirical study recognizes online nWOM as a co-created encounter between the complainant (i.e., the initiator of the online nWOM) and the recipient (i.e., the consumer who engages with the online nWOM), examining their idiosyncrasies to discern their understanding of the experience. It introduces frustration–aggression theory to online WOM literature, recognizing that it can support a higher-order understanding of phenomena. Through phenomenological hermeneutics, interviews and focus groups, data were collected from millennials in Albania and Kosovo that provided accounts of nuanced and distinctive online nWOM realities. The emerged insights extended extant theory to a three-fold online nWOM typology (i.e., lenient online nWOM, moderate online nWOM and severe online nWOM) recognizing the negative impact customers have on a provider, which is controlled by frustration–aggression tags. Frustration–aggression variations across online nWOM led to the construct of three types of customers that engage in online nWOM, namely tolerable online nWOM customers, rigorous online nWOM customers and confrontational online nWOM customers. Findings culminated with satisfactory recovery strategies aligned to customer inferences regardless of the nWOM context.