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Make sure that you have set the formatting to "Text" in Excel. Tableau uses the cell number format as a strong indicator of how to interpret the data. I tried 3 different variations of this approach ("Text" format on entire column with Excel Table, "Text" format on entire column with vanilla range, "Text" format on just the table cells in an Excel Table), and in all 3 cases, Tableau correctly surmised that it should use a String data type and not interpret the text in any way.
If you want to attach a copy of your Excel book and a packaged workbook illustrating how it was brought into Tableau, we can take a closer look at what's going on. Thanks.
Thanks, I was hoping to make the adjustment in Tableau, but I will have the users change excel formatting instead.